7 Alternatives to Tossing Out Your Christmas Tree

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Christmas tree pine needles swept up with a broken ornament
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With the start of the new year comes an old problem for many people: What should you do with the Christmas tree that’s now drying out and shedding needles all over the floor?

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

Consider the following ways to give your Christmas tree a life that extends well beyond the holiday season.

1. Recycle it

Recycling a Christmas tree
Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock.com

Don’t just toss your old tree into the trash. Instead, give it new life through recycling, which usually means it’s turned into mulch.

Curbside recycling pickup may be an option in your area, although there are often requirements, such as for the tree size and decoration removal.

Taking your tree to a recycling center is another option, especially if your community does not pick up trees. Check to see if your county has drop-off locations.

2. Use it for firewood

view of firepit and happy smiling family of two, father and son, enjoying time together in the background
Aleksei Potov / Shutterstock.com

Converting a Christmas tree to firewood means the tree can continue making spirits bright long after the holiday is over.

Experts warn, however, not to burn all or part of your old tree in an indoor fireplace or wood stove. As the Iowa State University extension puts it:

“Dry, evergreen branches literally explode when burned and could cause a house fire. Also, burning the tree may contribute to the buildup of creosote and lead to a flue fire.”

However, it’s perfectly fine to use your tree as kindling for an outdoor fire pit if you keep some distance from it. Nothing says winter quite like gathering with family and friends around a dancing fire. Just don’t forget to remove any remaining tinsel and ornaments.

3. Mulch it yourself

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Your old Christmas tree’s branches are a great source of DIY mulch for your garden. Use them for this purpose, and you’ll save yourself a trip to the store — not to mention all that cash you’d have spent buying bags of mulch.

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 the bits throughout your yard.

As the needles fall off, they’ll help your soil retain moisture.

4. Compost it

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Use your old Christmas tree to supplement your garden soil. According to home tips website The Spruce, a layer of thin branches — such as evergreens — 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

maxbelchenko / Shutterstock.com

Don’t need compost? 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.

6. Use it to protect your perennials

Cedar mulch
SakSa / Shutterstock.com

Your old Christmas tree can help save the lives of the other plants in your garden.

Simply lay the branches on the ground beneath perennial plants to help protect them from any 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. Return it to the seller

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When all else fails, you may be able to return your tree to the seller. 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.

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