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How to sustainably dispose of real Christmas trees

Recycling, mulching, wildlife habitats provide good options

December 27, 2022

3 Min Read
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As Christmas comes to a close, the Texas A&M Forest Service says there are several sustainable options when it comes to disposing of your real Christmas tree. Tyler Tomasek / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Many people enjoy having a real Christmas tree for the holidays. And when the holidays are over, there are several eco-friendly ways to dispose or recycle a Christmas tree.

“As Christmas trees grow, they provide many of the same benefits our urban and natural forests do, such as clean air, soil stabilization and carbon sequestration,” said Alison Baylis, Texas A&M Forest Service regional urban ecologist. “Further, buying a Christmas tree can help support a business or your local economy.”

According to the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, there are 175 Christmas tree farms in Texas producing over 200,000 trees each year. However, once the tree has served its purpose of bringing light and beauty into a home many trees end up in a landfill as their final resting place.

“Even though trees are a renewable resource, we should opt to recycle or dispose of them in a way that helps the environment and gives our trees a second life,” said Baylis. “By recycling Christmas trees, we can reduce our carbon footprint and support a more sustainable holiday season.”

There are many ways to sustainably dispose of Christmas trees.

Recycle

Real trees are biodegradable, and many communities have tree recycling programs. Check with your local waste management company, a nearby garden center or conservation organization to find out if Christmas tree recycling, whether curbside pickup or a drop-off station, is available in your area. Recycling trees is recommended over burning them to help prevent wildfire danger.

Mulch

The most common recycling option is chipping Christmas trees into mulch, which can be used for a variety of needs around homes and yards. Mulch can be placed around the base of trees and gardens as an insulator to help plants withstand cold temperatures and prevent soil erosion and compaction.

Tree limbs are a great way to insulate garden plants, and some cities even have free mulch available after the holiday season.

Pond and wildlife habitat

Place Christmas trees in yards or nature landscapes or in bodies of water to create habitat for wildlife. When trees are sunken into water bodies, they increase the complexity of the aquatic habitat. Woody debris provides a place for aquatic species to flourish, which increases overall biodiversity. If you do not have a pond or lake on your property, contact local officials to see if there is a suitable body of water in which you can properly dispose of your tree.

You can also choose to set your tree in your yard, creating a wildlife habitat and providing birds with shelter. By tying bird feed, orange slices, popcorn and other bird-friendly treats to your tree you can enjoy the view as birds fill the branches.

Fun family crafts

Keep the holiday spirit alive after Christmas by using parts of Christmas trees to make fun family activities such as “tree cookies” and coasters. Cut the trunk of your tree to make coasters or other decorative accent pieces in your home. Go a step further and let kids paint the trunk “tree cookies” for one-of-a-kind artwork.

As the joy of having a Christmas tree in your home comes to an end this season, use one of the many ways to sustainably dispose of your tree to prevent it from ending up in a landfill. Make sure to remove all decorations such as ornaments, lights and ribbon. If the tree is sprayed with flocking or fake snow, it should not be recycled.

For more information on how to sustainably recycle your Christmas tree, contact your Texas A&M Forest Service district office. Visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/ContactUs/ to find contact information.

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