I'm not talking about artificial trees, here, though of course, if the tree is still in good condition and you won't use it again, donating it to the DI or Good Will (or similar program) can be a great way to keep your tree out of landfills.
No, what I'm talking about is that wonderful pine tree--the one you searched the lot over to find. Or maybe you got a permit and trudged through the mud (if you lived in Utah, chances are it was mud not snow this year) to find the perfect fit. We won't be pulling our tree down for at least another week--though if my cats had their choice, it would stay up year round.
So what do you do with the tree? There are lots of possibilities. Many cities have a Christmas tree recycling program. They allow you to put the tree out on the curb, or provide a drop off spot for old trees. These trees are then chipped and used for mulch in city parks, or as mulch in orchards, on playgrounds, daily cover in landfills, or are turned into compost. Remember these trees need to have all lights, tinsel and metal hangers removed before you drop them off.
Other recycling programs use whole trees for dune or coastal restorations, rebuilding wetlands, providing safe hiding places for deep fishing spots and more. In Louisianna thousands of old trees each year are used to protect coastal marshes to prevent salt water intrusion.
There are other options if you have your own yard, too. Trees can be placed on their sides in a back corner to provide shelter for birds and other small animals. They can be strung with strings of popcorn or cranberries, bags of suet, or other bird feeds.
You can save the tree yourself for chipping into mulch in the spring for your garden beds, or you can pull the branches off the trunk and lay them directly onto the garden bed.
Another option is to pull the needles for potpourri projects. Dry and crumble them, then add cinnamon sticks and cloves for a great Christmas scent. Put the potpourri in a tight jar. This can be added to a simmering pot, one cup of water to a quarter cup of potpourri, to make the whole house smell like Christmas.
Some municipalities will allow you to burn your tree, bu you should check into your local ordinances first. Remember, flocked or other types of treated trees should not be burned, as it releases chemicals into the air and can affect air quality.
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