How can you Recycle Your Christmas Tree?

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When the holidays are over and all the decorations are stripped from the Christmas tree, most people just drag it to the curb and forget about their once loved fir. Surprisingly, you’ve got lots of much better and more sustainable options.

Before you settle for your city’s Christmas tree collection service, consider one of these ways to repurpose and recycle your tree.

How can you Recycle Your Christmas Tree?

Use your tree for firewood!

Once your Christmas tree dries out, it becomes very flammable. Because of this, old Christmas trees are great for helping get a fire going in your fireplace or fire pit. If you do burn this wood in your fireplace, be sure to clean your chimney regularly to control dangerous creosote accumulation.


If you have access to a wood chipper, grind your old tree into mulch for your flowerbeds and gardens. Even without a chipper, old boughs and needles also make excellent mulch.

How can you Recycle Your Christmas Tree?

Wildlife refuge

Leave your old tree in a corner of your yard to create a great refuge for many different types of wildlife including birds and small animals. Lie it down or prop it up and decorate it with bird feeders.

Protect young plantings

Place your used tree in a garden area where it can provide cover and protection for your most fragile new plantings.

Help Nourish Water

When a wild tree falls in water, it benefits the water’s ecosystem. If you have a lake or river running through your property, let your old Christmas tree provide these same benefits. Your tree will create a wonderful habitat for the local fish and they’ll enjoy swimming around its branches. It may even attract additional fish to the area, increasing the water’s biodiversity.

Discarded Christmas trees also help insure safety for ice fisherman and snow mobilers. Some communities accept donations of trees to use as safety markers on frozen lakes and rivers. As the weather warms, the trees sink and people know not to cross the ice. Once the trees are underwater, they become fish habitats and shelters.

Dune builders

If you live in a beach area, bury your tree in the sand to help control beach erosion. Some communities do this in an organized way by staking a number of trees to a fence on the beach. The trees and fence catch the sand that would otherwise have blown off the beach and encourage the formation of protective dunes over them. These dunes further protect beach ecosystems by providing habitat for native grasses, plants, birds and insects.

Erosion barriers

In some areas of the country, municipalities collect old trees to be used as erosion barriers around rivers, mountains and streams.

Rent and return!

You can give your tree back to the earth when you opt to rent a live tree rather than buy a cut one. Rented trees come with care instructions, have a reduced fire risk and bring a lovely energy to your home. When the holidays are over, simply return your tree and it will be replanted. You can also purchase a live tree, then plant it on your own property.

Sustainable Curbside Tree Recycling

After considering your options, perhaps you don’t have the energy to do anything more ambitious than take your tree to the curb for routine disposal. Luckily most municipalities don’t just trash the trees they pick up at the curb. Many towns and cities chip trees to create mulch for use in public parks and city landscaping.

To find out more, contact your town office to see if they recycle Christmas trees or check online at to learn about recycling options in your area. Remember if you opt to recycle your tree on your own, get the proper permission from your local authorities.



Last Updated: December 20, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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