Christmas Trees Forest ∗ Mexico

Christmas Trees Forest
Bosque de los Árboles de Navidad 

Forest conservation and rehabilitation, education for sustainability, culture, etc.
Amecameca, Estado de Mexico, Mexico

The Christmas Trees Forest cultivates and sells Christmas trees sustainably. It also promotes conservation and ecological awareness, environmental education and socioeconomic development of its surrounding communities.

The Christmas Trees Forest was founded in 1960. Its business is complemented by a group of programs that promote awareness and ecological conservation, environmental education, and local socio-economic development. This has won it several awards for its contribution to sustainable development.

Governed by a board of trustees, the Christmas Trees Forest has rehabilitated 400 hectares of forest with approximately half a million trees on land previously devastated by the uncontrolled consumption of firewood for cooking by the local population.

About 280 hectares produce compost to fertilize the remaining 120 hectares, which produce Christmas trees, though in some years there is a shortfall and they have to buy it. Trees are sold wholesale and retail to customers throughout the country and abroad.

The company formally employs 70 workers, and temporarily employs around 400 locals who work during the high season, as cleaners, loggers, forest rangers, guides, etc.

They have achieved 100% self-sustainability in water supply in a region known for its scarcity thanks to the design of a hydraulic engineering system that allows its maximum use and the installation of a rainwater collection system that is sufficient to supply the bathrooms, the water to drink, and the irrigation of all the land: “We could sell remnants but we do not,” they told us.

To prevent threats to the project, measures have been designed that include:

•  firebreaks;

•  training of all personnel to fight fires;

•  mixed tree crops that would prevent the plague on one type of tree from affecting the others and prevent the wear of the soil;

•  hiring a staff of experts – biologists, engineers and technicians

•  a team of forest rangers that protect against the potential felling and theft of trees.

The project ensures the sustainability of the forest by selling only 50 thousand of the 350 thousand trees that it produces per year and by planting Viking trees, whose trunks have the capacity to regenerate after their felling. They have also produced patents for some tree combinations.

To help sell trees, they promote two types of collaboration that ensure the comprehensive character of the project and with it, its greater projection and attractiveness, without the need to invest extra resources:

 Close collaboration of mutual benefit with other Public Limited Companies:

•  One offers integration tours, retreats and customized talks for companies – Coca Cola, El Metro, Coppel, etc. – this helps the Christmas Trees Forest to obtain extra resources and advertising.

•  Another, Hacienda Panoaya, offers (since 1999):

•  lodging

•  cultural visits to the Museum of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and the Museum of the Volcanoes,

•  the English labyrinth,

•  the deer park,

•  the eagles and the caressing snakes;

•  extreme sports facilities such as the zip line.

Several of these are freely available to the Christmas Trees Forest’s customers. In addition, the Hacienda sends its clients to the latter in daily visits in exchange for which it gives them small trees, gives discount coupons for the purchase of Christmas trees, offers talks on sustainable forest management and walks through the nursery and the forest.

•  Another organizes school visits recognized by the Ministry of Education, designed in such a way as to reinforce the teaching of subjects in the curriculum such as science, environmental education (garbage management, use of rainwater, etc), civics. The visits are co-organized by them and by the Hacienda Panoaya in a very close collaboration scheme.

The composite visit includes environmental, cultural and entertainment education — all in a day. The fees for these visits are extra income for the Christmas Trees Forest (they receive around 20 schools per day), who in turn give away discount coupons on Christmas trees for each student, a small tree from the nursery, and a certificate of participation. Although this collaboration is profitable to Christmas Tree Forest in financial terms and advertising, a challenge that it must overcome to ensure a greater impact of its objective of environmental awareness is the significant apathy that seems to characterize many of the students and teachers who visit it.

Collaborations of mutual benefit with the local population:

•  The initiative hosts a Christmas Bazaar that allows local merchants to sell their products —selected to guarantee diversity of produce and with it, the greatest attractiveness of the bazaar. Although the income is only enough for maintenance it helps to make the sale of trees more attractive to people from other parts of the country.

•  The same happens with the Christmas food market, in which the salesmen do not pay rent, since most of them are local.

•  The Christmas Trees Forest gives permission to local waste pickers to collect and take advantage of its trash, which in turn helps keep their facilities clean.

•  It also gives local shepherds permission to bring their sheep to graze, which the Christmas Trees Forest uses to cut the grass and fertilize it.

In addition to these collaborations that help multiply the impact of the project in creating environmental awareness within different sectors of the population (businesses, schools, families), the Christmas Trees Forest promotes and scales its model through technical training courses for the installation and maintenance of nurseries, rainwater collection systems. This is free to farmers and other national and foreign organizations that visit them. They also offer environmental awareness talks.

The land also has a section called “Sacred Forest“ where visitors are allowed to deposit the ashes of their deceased.