Everywhere people are taking down their Christmas decorations and storing them for another year. But what do you do with that slightly dried-out Christmas tree in the corner of your living room? Certainly you do NOT shove it in your garbage dumpster! Your tree does NOT belong in a landfill–there are plenty of environmentally responsible ways to recycle or even extend the life of that tree.
1. Let your municipality recycle it. Most towns, cities or counties will pick up Christmas trees curbside for free. They’ll chip and mulch that tree just like they do with other types of yard waste they collect throughout the year. Those chipped and mulched trees become a free supply to gardeners or get spread around city and county parks. If you’re not sure whether your municipality offers this service, call your town hall or check online at Earth911.com. Generally these programs are in effect the first two weeks of January.
2. If you have room in your yard, drag your Christmas tree to a corner or prop it in your garden to provide cover for wintering birds and other backyard wildlife. You can make your tree more appealing by leaving bird feeders or stringing it with popped corn. Whether lying on its side or pounded to a stake to stand upright, your tree will weather out the winter just fine and add to the backyard habitat for birds and other winter creatures.
3. Enviro Girl drags her tree to a garden bed where it can both decompose a little and provide good cover for more tender plantings. When the weather gets warmer, she’ll drag that tree into the woods and use it as the foundation for a “rabbitat” (a pile of brush and branches favored by rabbits). The old boughs and needles also provide excellent mulch if shaken or cut off and left in a garden.
4. In Enviro Girl’s area many people donate their old Christmas trees to be used as markers on frozen lakes and rivers to indicate safe places for ice fishermen and snowmobilers to drive across the ice. As the ice breaks up in the spring, the trees sink and provide fish shelters as they decompose over time. Christmas trees are used all over the Great Lakes for this purpose, and on many smaller lakes and ponds, too.
5. Saved until summertime, a Christmas tree will dry out and become quite flammable. If you need a fire starter for a fire pit, those tree limbs and trunk are incredibly useful! Enviro Girl has also sat near a fire pit where her husband set fire to last winter’s tree and she assures you that’s a spectacle to witness–at a safe distance!
6. In some areas, like Louisiana, old trees are collected to serve as erosion barriers by rivers, streams and mountains.
7. If you or a neighbor has a wood chipper, you can make a pile of mulch out of a neighborhood’s worth of Christmas trees in just a couple of hours.
If it comes from the earth, you can return it to the earth. A Christmas tree is no exception–recycle it back into the ecosystem responsibly!