Don’t Toss Your Christmas Tree: Try These 8 ‘Green’ Options


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Looking for "green" alternatives to throwing out your used evergreen? Here are eight ways to give your Christmas tree a life that extends well beyond the holidays.

With the start of the new year comes an old problem: What should you do with the Christmas tree that is now drying out and shedding needles all over your floor?

For years, people hauled their trees out to the trash. But in our more environmentally conscious age, folks are looking for “green” alternatives to simply tossing out their used evergreens.

Following are eight ways to give your Christmas tree a life that extends well beyond the holiday season.

1. Recycle it 

Don’t just toss your old tree into the trash. Give it new life through recycling. According to the National Christmas Tree Association:

Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes. …

Most areas will collect trees during their regular pickup schedules on the two weeks following Christmas. There are often requirements for size, removing ornaments, flocking, etc.

Taking your tree to a recycling center is another great option, especially if your community does not pick up trees. The association notes that many counties have free drop-off locations, and many will allow you to drop off up to two trees for free. 

2. Use it for firewood 

Converting a Christmas tree to firewood means the tree can continue making spirits bright long after the holiday is over. Experts warn not to toss your old tree into an indoor fireplace or wood stove, where creosote — a hazardous wood preservative — can build up and cause fires to burn extremely hot and send off sparks that can be housefire hazards.

However, it’s perfectly fine to use your tree as kindling for an outdoor fire pit. Nothing says winter quite like gathering with family and friends around a dancing fire. Just make sure that the wood is dry before burning. Also, don’t forget to remove any remaining tinsel and ornaments.

3. Mulch it

Your old Christmas tree is biodegradable. Its branches are a great source of mulch for your garden, and you don’t even need fancy equipment to get the job done. Simply remove and chip the small branches with the most appropriate tool you happen to have on hand and spread them throughout your yard.

As the needles fall off, they’ll help your soil retain its moisture. We just saved you a trip to the hardware store, not to mention all that cash you’d have spent buying several bags of mulch. You’re welcome.

4. Compost it

Use your old Christmas tree to supplement your garden soil. According to About.com, a layer of thin branches — such as evergeens — is the best base for a new compost pile:

This allows a bit of airflow at the bottom of the pile, and the branches will break down over time. Just trim them down so they fit in your bin, then stack them four to six inches high. After you’ve got them in, go ahead and start adding your kitchen scraps and other compostables as usual.

5. Transform it into pathway edging

Don’t need more mulch? Not a problem!  Instead chop the trunk of your old tree into 2-inch discs and use them to line your flower beds and walkways. You can also use small branches as edging if you prefer.

In addition to adding visual interest to your landscaping, your yard will smell like Christmas for many months to come. Talk about a win-win!

6. Use it to protect your perennials

Your old Christmas tree can actually help save the lives of the other plants in your garden. Simply lay the branches over perennials to help protect them from an upcoming frost. According to Fine Gardening:

Pine boughs or branches cut from the Christmas tree … make an excellent, airy mulch for young hellebores or any fledgling evergreen perennial because they help moderate temperature changes and offer protection from the winter wind and sun.

7. Toss it into your fish tank

Want to create a peaceful habitat for your fish? Place branches from your old Christmas tree inside their tank. According to Lifehack.org:

In the wild, many branches fall into ponds and lakes, offering protection to the fish in the water. You can put the smaller branches into the tank to give your fish a place to hide and relax. Make sure the branches are fully clean before you put them in the tank.

8. Return it to the seller

When all else fails, return your tree to the seller. That’s right. Some large tree farms will actually take the tree back after Christmas. Contact the place where you purchased your tree to inquire about pickup and drop-off options.

Do you know of other ways to use your Christmas tree after the holidays? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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