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10 Ways to Recycle Christmas Trees

10 Ways to Recycle Christmas Trees

In the late 1800s, when decorating a tree for the holidays became popular, evergreens were bedecked with such Earth-friendly decorations as strings of popcorn, gilded nuts and luminous candles. Today, millions of people carry on this tradition by bringing Christmas trees into their homes, adding an element of splendor and festivity to their own celebrations — but also an element of waste.

After the parties are over and the season has passed, the once-splendid tree transforms into a browning living-room behemoth, and the job of disrobing it of its trimmings and tossing it carelessly outside becomes just one more household chore. Before you follow this unfortunate holiday tradition, take heed: There are several ways to recycle your Christmas tree, giving new life to both it and your New Year’s resolutions to live lighter on our planet.

1. Living Christmas trees that come with their roots intact can, of course, be planted and enjoyed for many years. Pack the earth ball containing the roots in a bucket with sawdust, potting soil or other mulch. Keep the soil continually moist. Plant outdoors as soon as possible after Christmas.

2. A whole Christmas tree makes an excellent bird feeder for your backyard. Stick the tree in the ground or leave it in its stand. A wide variety of birds will be attracted by suet, cranberry and popcorn strings, stale bread and dried, chopped fruit in mesh bags. If you grow sunflower seeds, simply hang the whole sunflower head on the tree. Your family will discover that chickadees, song sparrows, cardinals and a host of other birds come for the food and stay for the shelter.

3. Cut off all the branches and use the trunk to edge a garden. The trunk can also be strategically placed in your garden as a resting spot for birds, squirrels and other little critters. Learn more in Extend the Life of Your Christmas Tree.

4. Place whole evergreen boughs on perennial beds or nursery rows to protect them from winter freezes and spring thaws. The boughs provide the steady temperatures that most plants need. Or, just use the boughs as post-Christmas house decorations.

5. Many communities throughout the country have tree-recycling programs, in which trees are collected from residents and then chopped up and used as mulch for plants in community parks and gardens. To find out if such a program exists near you, call city hall. Or, have your tree chipped at a local garden center and use it yourself for ground cover or mulch. (Or promise the gardener in your life this belated gift!)

6. The trunk can be sawed into logs and burned in your fireplace. Note: Don’t burn the branches, since they can send off sparks. This article offers excellent firewood splitting tips.

7. Both trunk and branches can be used by woodworking hobbyists to make any number of items, such as Christmas reindeer, birdhouses, candlesticks or paperweights. Feeling boldly confident? Try whittling your family portrait!

8. Use the needles to make aromatic potpourris and sachets to enjoy year-round. After removing the decorations, strip branches of their needles, which will retain their pungency indefinitely in brown paper bags.

9. If you still have your Christmas tree out in the yard when warm weather appears, there’s still a use for it. If permitted in your community, burn the branches and spread the ashes in your garden. The branches contain valuable nutrients and minerals that can enrich the soil and help yield better flowers and vegetables.

10. Last but not least: You can have a tree for the holidays without spending money or needlessly destroying an evergreen if you make your own! (OK, so this isn’t exactly recycling.) You may have plenty of evergreens in your yard in need of pruning. Simply bundle a few large, pruned branches together and arrange, tree-like, in a watertight container. Get more details in Make Your Own Christmas Tree.

Christmas is still a week away, but with all these great ideas for re-purposing this piney tradition, you’ll be happy to have this extra time to plan which great ways you want to use to carry the splendor of the yuletide season well into spring.

Related Care2 posts:

Photo from Fotolia

Read more: Conservation, Eco-friendly tips, Green, Green Home Decor, Holidays & Gifts, Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, , , ,

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Shelley Stonebrook

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in organic gardening, small-scale, local food production, waste reduction, food preservation and cooking. In her spare time, she posts in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.

132 comments

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6:18AM PDT on Jul 2, 2015

Sorry...Christmas!!! Bloody auto correct

4:41PM PDT on Jul 1, 2015

Thanks. I'll remember this come January .... maybe.

5:51AM PDT on Jun 29, 2015

Mind you... Christine is closer than you think... Seems like yesterday that we put away the decorations 🎄

5:49AM PDT on Jun 29, 2015

Thanks

2:02PM PDT on Jun 9, 2015

Charities can make great use of collected postage stamps from all over the world, common and rare, to fundraise, by selling them on to philatelists and collectors.
Please, visit our website today to find a charity that you would like to support. The website is updated monthly, and new charities are welcome to be added to the list as well. http://usedstampsforcharity.weebly.com/
Each charity is listed with the address to send donations to, and the date that they last confirmed their details, so that you know how up to date the listing is.
We are a free, volunteer run directory. We make no money or profit from doing this.
To add your charity, please send us the name of the charity, a postal address for donations to be sent to, and a few words about what your charity does. Don't forget to re-confirm with us monthly so that your charity appears near the top of the list. englishgirl2009-sunshine@yahoo.co.uk

11:05AM PDT on Apr 6, 2015

thank you for the useful article.

6:29PM PDT on Mar 19, 2015

Playing devil's advocate: some of the best birding/ wildlife areas are in/around Christmas tree farms. These trees are a crop, cared for and replanted in low impact manner instead of being an open field or strip mall, housing; it is a field of breathing trees. Charity and organizations sell and collect trees to make money. The only wasted tree is one sprayed with flocking/fire retardant/tinsel shot . To the dump it goes. Tree in a pot is "cruel" as most pots are too small to accommodate healthy root structure and are not fed proper nutrients. Its a living being; if you can't put it in the ground right after the holidays, leave off. Please don't give me the tree murder routine: you wipe your arse on paper, scribble notes, receive worthless messages/hallmark greetings and let your kids do crappy art project in the name of education all on paper which kills more trees than a holiday sacrifice. Fake trees: you want to go down the toxic lane and pollution created while manufacturing the artificial tree ... Point being, really, which is the better choice? There isn't really one, is there? Is it really a race about who is better? Who is in the 'wrong'? Slamming and shaming another's culture or choice because only your way is the right way ... think about it... done being devil's advocate >:)

7:40PM PST on Feb 9, 2015

My grandson gave his to his 2 goats in their pen. They still love it, and it's Feb!

6:56AM PST on Feb 8, 2015

Another thought... maybe you can find a park or common area where you will be allowed to plant the living tree, donating it to the community or to a nonprofit.

6:55AM PST on Feb 8, 2015

Did the living tree. One is now ...well, very large... and it makes a GREAT shelter for birds who come to my feeder, as well as providing a great memory and conversation piece. People comment on it, and I tell them it started as a little tabletop tree that my daughter and I trudged out in the snow to plant after Christmas. Why that location? It's about as far as I wanted to trudge. It's a focal point in our front yard.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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