Recycle your Christmas Tree
Creative Ways to Recycle your Christmas Tree
Each year, 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. Most live Christmas trees are grown on farms, like crops, for the specific purpose of being harvested as Christmas trees. Every time a Christmas tree is purchased, a new one is replanted on the farm. Very few Christmas trees are removed from federal forests, and those that are, are strictly regulated by the U.S. Forest Service.
Live trees are more sustainable because they are biodegradable, unlike plastic trees which fill landfills and cause more harm than good to the environment. Plus, Christmas tree farms provide many of the same benefits as community trees and forests — cleaning the air and water, removing carbon, stabilizing soil, and more.
One of the other benefits of a live Christmas tree is the different ways you can recycle it at the end of the season. Many communities offer free Christmas tree recycling and make mulch, compost, and wood chips from the trees.
Here are some suggestions for how you can reuse your Christmas tree long after the season is over.
Because most evergreens are heavy sap trees, they work best for firewood when used outdoors. The sap is flammable and creosote build-up can pose a threat when used indoors. Evergreens tend to burn hot and fast, making them ideal for bonfires.
Note: Trees with sap should be dried out a few months before cutting or burning to avoid a mess and an unruly fire.
Ash for Your Garden
After you’ve burned the wood from your tree, gather the ashes and spread them in your garden. Wood ash contains potassium and lime (among other nutrients), which help plants thrive, or mix the ashes into a compost. The ashes are also useful in keeping insects away. Don’t confuse wood ash with coal ash, coal ash does not offer the same benefits.
The most common use for your tree is to make mulch or compost out of it. Whether it’s with wood chips or needles, mulch is a great way to keep your yard trees healthy and moist during the cold winter season. Rent a chipper (get a few neighbors together to split the cost) and feed the tree through it. Next spring, spread the wood chips under shrubs; they’ll suppress weeds and, as they decompose, add nutrients to the soil. Pine needles are full of nutrients that enhance the PH of your soil if it’s more alkaline and allows your soil to breathe without becoming dense and compacted. Be sure to douse your pine needles with water and mix them well in your compost pile.
Edge Your Borders with the Trunk
Cut the trunk into 2-inch discs and set them into the soil to edge flower beds or walkways.
Set a Stage for Containers with the Trunk
Saw the trunk into different lengths and use the pieces as flowerpot risers for a dramatic group display.
Stake Your Plants with Smaller Branches
Strip small branches and use the remaining twigs to support indoor potted plants or stake leggy seedlings.
Insulate your Garden
Cut off the branches of your tree and lay them on your garden bed, the boughs will protect your plants from winter freezes and spring thaws. By laying them in your garden, you’re giving your plants a steady temperature for the cold months. The limbs also work well as a garden edge.
If the needles on your tree are still green, strip the tree and store the needles in paper bags or sachets to use as fresheners. The needles will retain their scent and freshen your home year-round.
Coasters and Trivets
You don’t have to be a craftsman to cut the trunk into one-inch wood coasters. They’re attractive and practical, and protect your wood tables from water damage. Be sure to let the tree completely dry before cutting (or the wood will split) and varnish the coasters before use.
The tree doesn’t have to be living for wildlife to take over. Fill bird feeders and hang them from the boughs or drape the tree with a swag of pinecones coated with peanut butter to attract birds and watch your tree evolve into a bird sanctuary. Other critters will soon follow as they nest in the branches of the tree.
When trees are dropped and left in water, they become a thriving reserve for fish. The weight of the tree acts as an anchor, and as time passes, algae start to form on the tree, feeding fish and protecting them from predators. Check with local officials and see if you can drop your tree in a nearby lake or pond.
Now that presents have been opened and Santa Claus has retreated to the North Pole, the only thing that remains is that Christmas tree. You cut it down, brought it home, and decorated it with shiny ornaments and twinkling lights. But now that tree has lost its piney scent, the New Year is upon us and it has got to go. Before you haul that evergreen out to the curb, think twice, and check with local farmers, Christmas trees are used as food for goats!
If you have no need for recycling your living tree for home use, then search for a local recycling program that will recycle your tree. Many communities have recycling/reuse programs and offer curbside pickup. Living trees are biodegradable, so no matter how it is used after the holidays, it is sure to benefit the environment.