On Sunday, Martin Ethier and his seven-year-old son, Etienne, pulled into Muddy York Brewery in East York, carrying a truckload of tiny, potted holiday trees.
They had travelled all the way from Montreal on a mission to make Christmas “green” this year, with the help of their tree adoption service, Titi Sapin or “Tiny Trees” — making the brewery one of only two Toronto distribution spots they hit up last weekend on their very first GTHA pop-up tour.
“We were looking for something in the Wintertime to stay busy,” said Ethier, an organic hops producer and owner of Houblons Franklin hops farm in Franklin, Que.
“So we thought that we could offer smaller trees, and they could eventually be planted,” Ethier said. “For us, it’s important that it is an ecological solution.”
Grown and harvested from the Ethier’s farm, there is a range of trees customers can choose from, including 18-inch balsam firs. Customers can then adopt a tree for a small fee: $19.99 plus a $20 deposit. Order five trees or more, and that base price drops to $14.99.
According to Houblons Franklin’s website, once the tree is adopted, families can choose to decorate their potted trees and place them at the front door of their homes to welcome visitors. They can give the tree a name, write it on the small wooden stick provided to them and if the customer chooses, once the holidays are over, they can return their tree to the distribution place where Ethier will be there to pick them up and return the $20 deposit.
“We come back to all of our distribution places in January, we take them back to Tiny Tree Land, take care of the tiny trees for the families and the people who adopted them,” Ethier told Global News.
Then, he and his son will bring back the same tree to the families next Christmas, and year over year, families can watch their little Christmas tree grow.
As for specific dates when Martin and Etienne will be back to retrieve these trees, the company’s website says:
“In January, bring it back to ONE OF OUR DISTRIBUTION POINTS ACCORDING TO THE DATES THAT WILL BE ANNOUNCED at the beginning of the year on our Facebook page. WE GIVE YOU $20 BACK if you bring us back the tree in good condition (KEPT OUTSIDE ALL THE TIME) with its pot and the stickers.”
The alternative, Ethier says, is families can keep their tiny tree in exchange for the deposit, and plant it outdoors in the spring for a forever Christmas tree.
“It can live in a pot (outdoors) for five, six, seven years … or they could also decide to plant it … and if (a customer) brings us back the big pot, we’ll give them back $10 for the pot,” said Ethier who, in the spirit of being eco-friendly, will re-use the pots.
The whole idea, Ethier says, is creating sustainability with these trees — an eco-friendly alternative to the regular cut Christmas trees. A seven-foot-tall one, he says, takes about 15 years to grow before they’re cut down to sell and after the holidays, they’re easily discarded.
“There is way less energy in a tiny tree like this than one that is 15 years old,” Ethier explains.
“Less water, less fertilizer, less energy overall involved in a smaller tree.”
The environmental benefits of Titi Sapin don’t stop at the adoption program, but extend to reforestation.
“For every new adoption, we plant an extra tree,” Ethier says. “We’re always looking for public places, so people can write to us to suggest new places to plant.”
For Tiny Tree customer Kellie Nijmeh, the deal was too good to pass up.
“We try to do our part, we care about the environment … you know, less waste. At least with this tree, you get to decorate,” said Nijmeh, who heard about Tiny Trees pop-up through a posting on Muddy York Brewery’s website.
“And I like the idea of watching this little baby tree grow. I think it’s really cool.”
The tiny trees are a limited-time offer, and 2020 sales are nearly complete. Pop-ups were held in Toronto at Junction Craft Brewery and Muddy York Brewing Company only on Nov. 29. The day before, Martin and Etienne had been in Hamilton at Collective Arts Brewing.
However, Martin told Global News he and his son will definitely be back next Christmas.