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7 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

December 19, 2022
Written by Aaron

If you bought a live tree for Christmas, maybe from your friends at Eising, and you’re wondering what to do with it after the holidays, we have 7 ways to recycle or upcycle it. The needles and tinsel may be falling off, and you’re probably ready to give it the “Heave Ho!”, but wait! Check out these ideas first:  

1. Create a wildlife shelter and winter interest

Let's put our Christmas trees to work in our gardens! If you have a bare spot in the yard, moving your Christmas tree outside is a great way to instantly “spruce” it up! You can leave the tree right in the stand, or prop it up on a fence, maybe even add a string of outdoor lights to enjoy on the dark winter nights coming our way. Doing this will give you something pretty to look at for sure, but more importantly, it provides additional shelter for birds and wildlife.

2. Enhance your garden soil

A live Christmas tree is 100% biodegradable. By turning it into mulch or compost it will break down and return stored nutrients back to the soil. Now that’s a win-win! And it’s easier than you may think. If you don’t have a shredder, branches can be chopped up by using good ‘ol pruning shears. Needles are full of nutrients and will also help soil from becoming dense and compacted. Using wood chips, chopped branches, and needles as a mulch is also a great way to help your garden trees stay moist and healthy during the winter. If you’re adding the needles and branches to your compost pile, be sure to add some water and mix it well with the rest of the compost. Another option is to add the chopped branches and needles to a garden path.

3. Protect your plants

There’s still a lot of winter weather ahead of us, and your tree can help protect perennials that are marginally hardy. Simply cut long branches from your Christmas tree using loppers, pruners, or a saw, and lay them over perennial plants to add insulation. The boughs will protect your plants from winter freezes and spring thaws, which could be the difference between losing a plant and seeing it grow again next year.

4. Keep the fresh pine scent

Are the needles on your tree still green? Use gloves or scissors to strip them from the tree, then store the needles in paper bags to use as room fresheners. The needles can retain their scent for months to come.

5. Support for Spring

Branches make lovely natural supports for any plants that need a little propping up - like peonies for example. Once the branches are trimmed off, the trunk can be used to support vines like Morning Glories or pole beans, or by laying it on it’s side as an edge for a garden.

6. Get creative

Crafts like ornaments and coasters are a great way to upcycle a tree trunk. Be sure to let the tree completely dry first or the wood will split when you cut it into 6 to 10 millimeter thick rounds. Then get creative by painting or varnishing and drilling holes in them if you’re making ornaments. They’re attractive, practical, and make great gifts.

7. Donate it, or take it to a recycling centre

If you have no need for recycling your living tree for home use, then look for a local program to donate your tree to. For over a decade, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton has used donated Christmas trees for various stream restoration projects. More information about their programs can be found on the RBG site. Or, skip the drive to Hamilton and check for your county recycling program. In Norfolk County for example, you must drop your tree off.

What’s not on our list? Burning your tree. You definitely do not want to burn it in your fireplace as it’s creosote content makes for a sticky, sooty fireplace. It’s not recommend that you burn it outdoors either. Coniferous needles contain nitrogen and substances called terpenes which are very toxic when burned, making the smoke unsafe for anyone around your fire pit to breathe. It’s much better to do any of the things listed above, or, if you have your own wooded area or pond, you can also put your tree in either of those places to enhance the natural habitat for woodland animals or fish.

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