The holidays are over, and it’s time to (reluctantly) take down the tree that’s been gracing your home for the past four weeks or so. If you’ve made the environmentally friendly choice of setting up a real Christmas tree, you’ve got a lot of options for recycling it once the season is over.
With more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs in the United States, an easy choice is to turn over your tree to a community recycling program. Many communities offer curbside pickup, while others have easy drop-off locations. Most of these trees are then turned into mulch used for gardens, trail pathways, and other landscaping purposes.
Another easy choice is to simply prop your old tree up your backyard, where it can provide food and shelter for birds. You can keep decorating the tree with popcorn strings, pieces of stale bread, and mesh bags filled with chopped fruits to attract even more birds and provide for some spectacular bird-watching opportunities for your family all winter long.
A Christmas tree can provide the same refuge for fish. If you have a private pond or access to other such bodies of water, and if the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows it, you can submerge your tree in the water where algae will form on the tree, providing food for fish and protecting them from predators.
Individually, the parts of a Christmas tree can be used in many different ways. Cut the branches off the tree and use the trunk to edge a garden, or saw the trunk into pieces and use them for wood craft projects.
You can also saw the trunk into logs and burn them in your outdoor fire pit, or save them for the next bonfire. Spread the ashes over your garden, or use them in a compost mix; wood ash provides nutrients that will help your garden thrive. If you do burn your Christmas tree trunk, just be sure you don’t burn the branches, as they can send off sparks.
Instead, place those cut-off branches and boughs over perennial beds or nursery rows. The boughs will provide steady temperatures to protect the beds from winter freezes or spring thaws.
If you strip the branches of their needles first you can use the needles to make aromatic potpourris and sachets. The needles will better retain their pungency if you store them in a brown paper bag. You could even make some sachets for next year’s Christmas gift-giving!