It’s over. The parties are done, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the diets have started. But what’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree farms are equal in their environmental impact.
The most eco-friendly way to treat a Christmas tree would be to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so that you never have to dispose of it. Of course, then you wouldn’t have one in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree’s disposal. When it’s time to say goodbye to this year’s Christmas tree, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.
- CHIP IT.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a large wood chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Woodchips make a great decorative landscaping material (giving you a head start on spring).
- CRAFT IT.
If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas—get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent.
- STICK IT.
Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots.
- TREECYCLE IT.
Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood chips or chip mulch. This probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.
- DONATE IT.
After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why not give back to nature? When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore. If you live near a beach, a local organization may appreciate your old tree to help fight erosion and restore dunes. By covering parts of the beach with the pine trees, the trees and their needles help protect the vegetation and sand from wind and water erosion. They can also provide cover for non-migratory birds in the winter.