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Recycling Your Tree After the Holidays

Do not just throw out that Christmas tree this year! Turn it into something you can use for months after and help the environment by reusing your tree.
Jennifer Harvey | Apr 10, 2024 | 4 min read
Recycling your christmas tree after the holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of year full of decorations that will eventually need to be put away as January rolls around.  For many families, a regular challenge is what to do with a natural Christmas Tree after the holiday is over.  If you have a natural tree for the season and enjoyed the fragrance of drying pine needles, there are many ways to recycle your tree after the holidays and keep it out of a landfill.  A pine tree can be surprisingly useful in almost all households.  After all, that living room decor tree was once a natural resource.

Today, we're diving into the many ways to recycle your Christmas Tree, starting from whole-tree uses down to the fallen pine needles.

Uses for Entire Christmas Trees

The simplest solution is to find a new use for the entire tree, without breaking it down.  It's amazing how resourceful you can be with a well-preserved cut pine tree.

Standing Birdfeeder or Bird Habitat

Set your Christmas tree in the ground or in a sturdy stand in the backyard.  Choose a place that's easy to see from your back windows.  Then wrap it in popcorn strands and peanut butter-and-seed pinecones.  Your pine tree is now a beautiful natural bird feeder. 

Even without bird food attached to it, the dying tree can provide welcome habitat in the winter months for many birds. As the tree ages in your backyard, it will serve as a home and food source to small animals. Some State Parks collect Christmas Trees for creating bird habitats with viewing blinds for observers.

Sunken Fish Residence

If you have a pond or lake near your home, consider sinking the tree.  A fallen pine tree makes a wonderful home and food source to fish, as well.  Small fish love to live in the protection of a fallen pine tree. Many lakes have a program to create new fishing habitat after collecting the trees. Just be sure to check with the governing body of the lake or pond first for their regulations.

Chop Into Firewood

If you have a fireplace or fire pit in your home, then you've every reason to chop your Christmas tree into fragrant firewood.  Pine wood branches burn hot and fast making them excellent for starting a fire.  Chop the branches off and break up the tree trunk into burnable sections.  Add the trunk pieces to your log pile.  As with any firewood, allowing them to dry reduces the buildup of creosote in your chimney.

Recycle Into Wood Chips

Your entire tree can also be chipped into mulch for flowerbeds and playgrounds.  Many communities have a local tree recycling service that will mulch the tree.  Or, you can rent a woodchipper with your friends and throw a mulching party to deal with all your trees at once.  Get fragrant and useful wood chips in return.

Slice Into Art Supplies

You can also slice your tree trunk into slender circles for art projects.  Pinterest is full of ideas to turn them into  festive memory coasters, plaques, ornaments, candle holders and more  if you're crafty. .

What to Do With the Branches

There are even more things you can do if you lop all the springy branches from the Christmas tree as you recycle it.  Pine tree branches are incredibly useful because they are natural, resilient, and insulating.

Protect Garden Beds

If you have perennial plants that need protection in the winter, your Christmas tree branches are a great way to protect the roots from cold.  Lay your tree branches over garden beds that are at risk of freezing.  The pine branches will keep snow off the earth and provide insulation.

Start a Compost Pile

In a compost pile, pine branches work well at the bottom of a barrel.  They provide air circulation from the bottom and are natural, so they will eventually decompose into the rest of the pile.  Place tree branches into a new compost barrel as you get it started for Spring.

Support Vining Plants

You can also strip your pine branches and use them as supports in your garden.  They can support vining flowers like Morning Glories or vining vegetables like peas and tomatoes.

Ways to Repurpose Pine Needles

There are always a few thousand pine needles that drop off the tree during the holiday season and as you pack the tree up to go.  These pine needles, and any you strip while reusing the branches, have enjoyable uses as well.

Spread Them Along Garden Paths

Gather up the pine needles and spread them into the mulch of your garden paths.  Pine doesn't mold and will prevent your mulch from molding.  The needles also smell fantastic when walked on.

Crush Them into Potpourri

You can also crush or chop your pine needles and mix them with other dried fragrant plants into a homemade potpourri.  Little bowls or mesh bags of dried pine needles can make your home or car smell like fresh winter pine all year.

Your Christmas tree doesn't have to be trash this year.  There are a surprising number of ways to put your post-holiday tree to new use. You can use it as a bird feeder or fish habitat, garden, compost, decorate, or perfume with an aging pine tree.  You can turn it into a DIY project or come together as a community to recycle the trees.  Just be sure to put your Christmas tree to good use after the holiday season.

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