Nothing brings the holiday spirit into your home quite like a decorated Christmas tree! Bringing home a live evergreen is a surprisingly eco-friendly option to holiday decorating. Christmas trees are sourced from sustainably managed forests. As they grow, the trees contribute to a healthier environment by serving as natural habitats for wildlife, storing pollutant carbon, releasing fresh oxygen, and even improving the quality of nearby bodies of water.
The Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition, but as New Years and the holiday season comes to an end you may be wondering how to remove your no longer needed tree from your home.
Christmas trees can be recycled in many ways at the end of the holiday season. Unlike plastic, faux trees, living Christmas trees can be quickly and easily disposed of in a responsible manner.
The steps to recycling a Christmas tree differ depending on the type and condition of your tree as well as the recycling options available to your local community.
Christmas Trees with Viable Roots
If the Christmas tree in your home has viable roots, you may be able to transfer it to your garden. These trees typically have roots that have been balled and enclosed in a protective burlap sack. Trees in this condition that have been taken care of throughout the holiday can be transported and replanted.
At the end of the season when you’re ready to plant your tree, you’ll need to find a site in your garden where it is possible to dig a wide and deep enough hole to support your tree. After digging a hole approximately twice as wide and deep as your tree’s root ball, simply place the tree and pack it firmly into place with species appropriate soil. You can care for your tree by keeping surrounding soil and mulch somewhat damp and ensuring sufficient access to sunlight.
Christmas Trees Cut at the Trunk
Christmas trees that have been cut along the trunk can no longer be replanted, but there are still eco-friendly recycling options available for their disposal. Often, local Christmas tree recycling services will collect curbside trees that have been properly prepared. This requires removing all festive ornaments, strings of lighting, and tinsel that you may have used to decorate your Christmas tree.
If your tree stands larger than 7 feet tall, you may need to take the additional step of cutting it down to a more manageable size for collection and recycling. The size limit for recycling Christmas trees depends on the individual service being used. While some companies have the capacity to collect and transport tall trees, others may specify the need to trim your Christmas tree into smaller pieces. Be sure to check with your local Christmas tree recycling service for their requirements before placing your tree by the curb.
Turn Your Christmas Tree into Mulch
If you care for a garden but lack the space or ability to replant your tree, you may consider recycling it into a substrate of woodchips and mulch instead. Mulch is a mixture of decaying matter used to enhance the quality of soil. Using mulch in a garden can improve moisture retention, boost fertility, and even reduce the growth of unwanted garden weeds. Wood chips contribute to the insulation of plant roots under the soil while adding a visually appealing top layer to your garden soil.
Creating chips and mulch from your old Christmas tree is a quick and easy way to get more use out of your holiday decorations. Turning a drying tree into mulch requires cutting the tree into smaller pieces that can be fed into a woodchipper for processing. Even if you don’t own your own woodchipper, you can rent one from a local hardware store to create your own custom garden mulch, recycling your old Christmas tree in the process. You can team up with neighbors and friends in your community to recycle local trees into usable mulch.
Recycle Your Christmas Tree as a Stabilizing Barrier at Eroding Beaches
In some areas, Christmas trees may be re-used after the holidays to provide erosion control along shorelines. Although not an option for everyone, some coastal communities collect drying Christmas trees to lay on beaches or protect against flooding. In these circumstances, decorations are removed but the tree is left intact rather than being cut down.
If you live in a state along the coast, you can contact your local municipal office to find out if Christmas trees are being collected for these purposes. Donating your old Christmas tree to serve as an erosion or flood barrier extends the environmental benefit these trees provide throughout their overall lifetime, making this an excellent recycling option.
Recycle Your Christmas Tree into Fish Food
Another creative way to recycle your Christmas tree is to donate it to local ponds supporting fish life. Some cities may collect Christmas trees for use as fish food or fertilizer for underwater environments. After decorations have been removed, trees may be taken in tact or cut into pieces and sunk to the pond floor, where they continue to decay. Pieces of the tree may be consumed by fish and other pond life while the decaying substances enhance pond soils to support the underwater plants that support fish life in underwater ecosystems.
Unrecyclable Christmas Tree Conditions
Unfortunately, not all Christmas trees can be successfully recycled. For example, trees that have been treated with flocking spray may not be eligible for recycling methods due to the chemical residues these sprays leave behind.
Trees that cannot be recycled should still be disposed of in a responsible way. In many communities, tree collection services come at scheduled times to pick up properly dismantled Christmas trees like regular household waste. In order to ensure that your tree is picked up, be sure to call your city department to learn about any size restrictions they may impose.
In areas without curbside tree disposal pickup, community Christmas tree drop-off events present an opportunity to successfully throw these trees away. Some hardware stores may host tree drop-off disposal events on the weeks following the holidays.
Christmas trees should never be burned in fireplaces or stoves as a method of disposal because the resulting fumes may release dangerous creosoles into the surrounding air. Aside from polluting your home, burning a dry Christmas tree presents a large fire hazard. Being dry, these trees tend to catch and spread fire quickly, which can be difficult to control. Rather than burning your Christmas tree, consider one of the other, safer disposal options.
Before bearing sentimental family ornaments and festive lights, your Christmas tree grew from a sapling into a mature tree, providing the world environmental benefit that forest wildlife and humans alike get to enjoy.