5 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News Associate Editor
December/January 2006
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For many of us, decorating a Christmas tree is our favorite part of the holiday season. If you're one of the more than 30 million people who put up a live tree this year, you might want to consider extending its usefulness once the season ends. Instead of tossing your perfectly shaped pine or fir into the garbage where it will only end up in a landfill, try one of these creative recycling avenues:

1. Throw it in the water. Christmas trees make great habitat for fish. Just toss it in your pond or stream. If you don't happen to have a fishin' hole on your property, contact local conservation groups. In many areas, they'll pick up the tree and toss it into an appropriate pond or stream for you.

2. Keep it on your land. Trees can provide lodging for all kinds of critters besides fish. If you have a suitable place on your property to let a tree decompose, it can become a nursery to insects, fungi and possibly even amphibians and reptiles. Or consider keeping it in its stand and placing it out of doors as a bird sanctuary; it will provide our feathered friends much-needed protection from wind and cold. You can even enjoy a second round of decorating by adorning the tree with enticing bird food:

  • Suet smeared in the branches

  • Pine cones coated with peanut butter and bird seed, then hung from branches

  • Strings of popcorn, cranberries or raisins wrapped around the tree

  • Hanging fruit slices

3. Use it in the garden. Trim branches off and place them over perennial beds to reduce frost heaving caused by freezing and thawing. Then use the trunks to create sturdy, homemade trellises or tomato stakes.

4. Toss it in the stove. Use a few dry branches as kindling to start your fires.

5. Keep it in your community. Many communities have tree recycling programs that turn everyone's old trees into valuable mulch. If you are unable to try any of the above ideas, contact your Public Works Department to find out if they will collect trees curbside or from a central drop-off location. Or visit Earth911.org to find a local tree recycler.

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