After weeks of being the showpiece of the holiday season, your Christmas tree is looking a little, well, tired. Maybe it’s due to your dog drinking all the water from the stand, or numerous attacks from your toddler trying to take off all the ornaments. But it’s a few days past Christmas, and now your tree is tilting and totally dropping its needles. So when it’s time to say toodles to your tannenbaum, you’ll need to know what to do with your Christmas tree post holidays — and there are plenty of options.
How to recycle artificial Christmas trees
Although it’s served your family for many years, at some point, an artificial tree loses its luster. Or perhaps your family wants to upgrade to something bigger and better, or downsize to something smaller and sweeter. Still, it’s kind of sad to see your Christmas tree, once the crowning symbol of the holidays, tossed into the trash. But if you’re not planning to use your Christmas tree again, you might want to see it have a more fitting end than going into the garbage.
Thing is, not all artificial Christmas trees are created equal, and while some can be recycled, others can’t. If your faux tree contains the plastic compound polyvinyl chloride (PVC), it might not be recyclable. Contact your local department of sanitation, garbage collector, or recycling programs to find out if they’ll accept it, since some parts of the tree (such as the base or trunk) can be recyclable. Just be sure to strip the tree of any tinsel, garland, or lights, though.
Otherwise, look into donating your artificial Christmas tree. Places that might take it include churches, daycare centers, as well as charities that may be able to sell them. And organizations like The Christmas Tree Project will give donated trees to families in need.
How to repurpose artificial Christmas trees
If you can’t find a place to take your old tree, (and you love doing some DIY), then an artificial Christmas tree offers lots of creative options that will make the holidays next year even more beautiful. Here are some ideas on how to repurpose your artificial Christmas tree for next year:
- Spray paint it to give it a new look
- Tie together individual branches to create a garland
- Repurpose some of the branches to make another tree look more full
- Save the top section to display as a mini tree next year
- Twist branches into circles to create napkin rings
What to do with real Christmas trees after Christmas
If you don’t want your real Christmas tree to end up in a dump, there are ways to recycle some (or all) of it to make something new, pretty, and purposeful.
- Make some mulch
When you have a real tree (and a wood chipper), reap the benefits of all that organic matter by making some mulch to use around the bottoms of trees and other shrubbery, or to line a path in your garden. Not only can they provide some much-needed insulation, but it might help prevent the process of the soil thawing and freezing, which can be a plant killer. You could even simply lay branch pieces around the base of your plants if you can’t get them shredded
- Recycle your tree
Some cities will host a recycling event to collect all the dying Christmas trees in the area and turn it into mulch.
- Get aromatic
There’s no denying how delicious a fresh tree smells. Make your own sachets by stripping some of the fallen needles into a bag and tie a festive ribbon around it. Place it in a drawer or other area to make it smell like the holidays all over again.
- Donate it to a farm
Who knew that a Christmas tree could be served as a yummy snack? Well, some local farms will take real trees to feed to their animals. Call ahead to see if your farm is in need and what their donation requirements are.
- Help create a living habitat
Your local Department of Conservation might accept a real tree to help wildlife habitats — or just create your own by leaving it outside during the winter, when animals and birds can nest in it. Stock it with some snacks (like slices of fruit, seed cakes, or bird food) to keep those critters fed and comfy in the cold.
- Burn it in your outdoor fire pit
Use some branches from your Christmas tree to start an outdoor fire. But you should never burn your tree indoors. Why? Well, a byproduct of burning wood is creosote, and the stuff can solidify and stick to your chimney liner. And since creosote is highly flammable, (as is a dried-out fresh Christmas tree that is full of sugary sap), the combination of the two can cause a fire to quickly ignite and become out of control — with potentially catastrophic results.
- Work the branches into a wreath
If you’re sentimental about your Christmas tree and don’t want to just toss it just yet, save parts of it to create a wreath or garland.
- Use the branches as stakes.
Instead of buying wooden stakes to help support growing plants, use the branches of your tree instead. Be sure to strip the branches of needles and place the branches about 2-3 inches away from the stem so that you don’t risk hurting the roots.
- Turn it into compost
Add your tree to your compost pile, and eventually, it will naturally decompose. The smaller the pieces, the faster the matter with break down, so break down the branches first, or better yet, run it through the wood chipper.
After the holidays are over, your real Christmas tree can definitely be disposed of. But if it’s artificial, you can give it a new life by becoming a part of your holiday décor or donating it so that it brings joy to a new family’s home. And in that way, the gift of Christmas can continue on well into the winter and beyond.