Before we know it, the holidays are here and gone again. As much as we adore decking the halls, the “un-decorating” part isn’t something we let ourselves think about until we have to. But when that “fresh” Christmas tree in the corner is on its last leg, it’s time to think about taking that Christmas tree down for another year. Instead of dumping your tree in the landfill, why not take a conservationist approach and put it to good use instead!
How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree
Once your holiday tree has fulfilled its original purpose, repurpose it into something new! Here are six great ways to recycle your Christmas tree this year:
Lay it outside for the wildlife. Since deciduous trees and shrubs are bare, evergreens are often the sole source of shelter for local wildlife in the winter. The easiest thing you can do with your Christmas tree is to just prop it up outside in your backyard, which will attract birds to your garden. You can even keep it in its stand so that it stays upright and blends in with the rest of your landscape. Or, you can leave it on its side, where larger animals, like rabbits, might use it as a hiding place.
Use it for firewood. If you’ve got a wood stove or a fireplace, why not chop up your tree and use it to bring some heat into your home over the cold winter months? Or, if you love to entertain family and friends around the fire pit in the summer, get a head start on your firewood pile.
Protect your perennials. Prune away the evergreen’s branches and lay them over your perennials to protect your plants from frost and wind. This is especially useful for young plants or those with questionable hardiness that may not make it through a rugged winter.
Use it for mulch. Shake and pull all the needles off of your evergreen (this should be pretty easy after it has dried out), and use it as mulch. The easiest way to do this is to put the remaining branches and logs through a chipper, but if you don’t have one, you can use loppers to cut branches up into small, one- to two-inch pieces. Use this to mulch pathways, garden beds, or around your plants.
Use it for arts and crafts. Slice up the trunk and branches to use for making some beautiful wood art. You can use the pieces to edge your garden beds or walkways, adding a natural, rustic vibe to your landscape. Or, if you’re really crafty, you can turn it into beautiful wooden decor, such as signs or coasters. Just make sure you sand the surfaces down and seal with wood sealer so your finished product lasts long and looks great.
Take advantage of recycling programs. If you have no personal use for your evergreen, Alexandria/Arlington County and Lothian/Anne Arundel County offer free curbside tree pickup during the first few weeks of January. Most often, trees will be chipped into mulch that the city will then make available to the public. Make sure there’s a recycling area in your neighborhood before dropping your tree at the curb! If not, look for other local tree recycling programs instead. Always make sure all the ornaments, lights, wire, tinsel, and any other materials are taken off before leaving your tree for collection.
A Guilt-Free Christmas Tree
You might be thinking, “if I wanted to be environmentally friendly, should I have put up a real evergreen at all?” If you’re considering going artificial, let us tell you why a real tree is actually better for the environment.
While it’s true that artificial trees come with their own advantages—they’re easier, and they’re reusable—you’d have to keep the same one for a very (very) long time to outweigh the environmental impact of producing it. The energy that goes into manufacturing artificial trees and transporting them overseas, combined with all that plastic material that will eventually end up in a landfill, far outweighs the impact of using real evergreens each year.
In the grand scheme of things, using a fresh tree is just a drop in the ocean compared to the other things we do during a holiday that’s largely focused on consumerism. Plus, tree farms are established for a reason! These trees are specifically grown, just like any other crop, to end up in your home for the holidays. When you buy from a tree farm, you’re also offering support to a local business that relies on customers like you to make a living.
When you dispose of your tree in a green way, you’re either putting it right back into the environment it came from, or giving it a brand new purpose—much better than sending it to a landfill! So enjoy that fresh, fragrant tree for the holidays, and when the time comes, the natural world will be happy to have it back!