Recycling a Christmas Tree
Every year in the United States, people purchase approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees. Come January 1, these trees don’t have to go in the trash. Instead, discover how to recycle a Christmas tree to keep it from rotting in a landfill and damaging our environment.
Related: Real vs. Artificial: Which Christmas Tree Is More Eco-Friendly?
1. Plant a Living Tree
If you were able to purchase a Christmas tree with a root ball, you don’t have to throw away your tree. Instead, you can plant it in your yard to let it continue removing carbon from the atmosphere and providing a home to birds and animals.
If you live in a colder climate, it’s a good idea to dig the hole for your tree in the late fall while the soil is still soft and then cover it with mulch. Immediately after Christmas, you can plant the tree in the hole.
Related: Genius Ways to Recycle Christmas Cards After the Holidays
2. Local Options to Recycle a Christmas Tree
Many communities across the country have recycling options for real Christmas trees. Some areas offer curbside Christmas tree recycling programs during the first few weeks after Christmas. You can also check with your local department of public works to see if they have a Christmas tree recycling or mulching program.
If these options aren’t available, find out if your county has a drop-off location for recycling a live Christmas tree. Typically, these programs will allow you to leave up to two trees at no charge.
Another option is to see if you have a local organization that picks up trees. For example, some Boy Scout troops will take trees for a small donation to the troop.
Once communities pick up Christmas trees for recycling, they often turn them into mulch to use in parks, community gardens, and other public spaces in the area. Some communities also use Christmas trees to make soil and sand erosion barriers.
Related: How to Have a Sustainable Christmas Without Even Trying
You can recycle a Christmas tree by using it to create compost or mulch for own property. Pine needles are full of nutrients and can help increase the pH of alkaline soil.
Related: How to Start a Garden for Beginners (No Green Thumb Required!)
Mulch created by woodchips and needles is a great way to keep your trees and bushes healthy and moist during the winter. You can even spread the mulch on pathways in your garden to naturally prevent weeds. As an added bonus, your path will smell amazing when you walk on it!
If you want to use a mulched Christmas tree in your compost, make sure you soak it well with water and mix it in thoroughly in your compost pile.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About How to Compost
You don’t have to be a master woodworker to turn a Christmas tree trunk into beautiful and natural coasters.
Simply let the tree completely dry out before cutting the trunk into one-inch slices. (If the wood is too wet, it will split when you try to cut it.) Apply a coat of varnish on the coasters, and they’re ready to use!
These coasters make lovely gifts for friends and family, or you can keep them for yourself. If you have your own homestead — or even an urban homestead — selling homemade coasters is a fantastic way to make some money.
5. DIY Air Fresheners
Coasters aren’t the only things you can make with your old Christmas tree. If the needles are still green, strip them off the tree and store them in a paper bag or a small burlap bag to use as air fresheners.
The needles will hold onto their fragrance and give your home that fresh forest scent throughout the year!
Related: How to Make a Non-Toxic DIY Air Freshener
Cutting a Christmas tree into firewood is an obvious way to recycle it, but you have to make sure you do it properly.
If you’ve ever been involved in the process of cutting down a Christmas tree, you know evergreens are full of sap. Sap is highly flammable, so you should really only use evergreen firewood for outdoor fire pits and never burn it inside. Additionally, evergreens tend to burn fast and hot.
It’s best to let your Christmas tree dry out for a few months before you cut it or burn it. This can help you avoid a mess and an uncontrollable fire.
7. Garden Ash
After you burn your Christmas tree, you can gather up the ashes and spread them in your garden. In addition to other nutrients, wood ash contains high amounts of lime and potassium, which can help plants grow.
Ashes also make an excellent insect deterrent in your garden. You can even mix the ashes into your compost bin.
8. Wildlife Habitats
A tree doesn’t have to be alive for it to provide a place for animals to live. You can leave the tree right in its stand or prop it up around other trees in your garden or backyard to use as a bird feeder or shelter.
Consider placing some DIY bird feeders in the branches to give the birds food and shelter during the winter. Just make sure you’ve removed all decorations and hooks first!
You can also lay the tree on its side to provide shelter for mammals, such as squirrels and rabbits.
In about a year, the branches will dry out and become brittle. At that point, you can start to break the tree apart and turn it into mulch.
If you have a pond or other private body of water on your property, you can also sink the tree and use it to create a refuge and feeding area for fish. Just remember, never toss your tree into a public body of water unless you have permission.
9. Garden Insulation
If you’re trying to protect your garden beds from winter freezes, cut off Christmas tree branches and lay them over the bed. The branches give your plants a steady temperature during the colder months that can help protect them.
You can also lay branches over perennials that are susceptible to frost to give them a chance to bloom again next year.
Related: Garden Year-Round With These Best Plants to Grow in Winter
10. Garden Pathways
Once you’ve trimmed off all of the tree branches to use as insulation in your garden, you can use the tree trunk to create garden pathways.
If you cut the tree trunk down the middle, you can repurpose it into garden path or garden bed edging. As previously mentioned, the wood from a mulched Christmas tree makes outstanding cover for pathways.
You can also use tree trunks to grow or support vining plants, such as green beans or morning glories.
The Best Recycling Options for Your Christmas Tree
This year, you don’t have to throw away that old Christmas tree. Instead, use some of these awesome ways to recycle a Christmas tree and give that tree another purpose after the holidays.
More Helpful Eco-Friendly Living Tips
Did you enjoy learning about how to recycle a Christmas tree? Are you interested in checking out even more simple tips that can help you live an eco-friendly life? Then please be sure to take a look at some of our other popular posts:
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