7 Ways to Recycle Your Tree After Christmas

Once the lights and ornaments come off, don’t drag your tree to the curb! Learn how an old Christmas tree can feed your garden, birds—even fish in local waterways.
Used Christmas tree in front yard by curb, waiting for recycling pickup. Pile of cut and wasted christmas trees.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Once the holidays are behind us (and our tolerance for Christmas tree needles on our floors is at an annual low), many of us probably check our town’s refuse schedule and haul our Christmas trees out to the curb for pickup. Still, it feels wasteful somehow—there has to be a better use for a large mass of organic matter, right? Indeed, there are lots of ways to salvage part, or all, of the tree to give it a second life. Bestow an end-of-season gift on Earth, birds, fish, or even your landscaping with one of these eco-friendly Christmas tree recycling ideas.

1. Chip It for Mulch

Warminster, Pennsylvania, USA - February 6, 2019: After the holidays, Christmas trees are ground up into mulch by a wood chipper by municipal workers.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Chop up that tree and feed it to a wood chipper. You’ll have excellent mulch to spread around your landscaping or to line your garden paths. Your shredded tree can insulate your plants throughout the winter, help the soil retain moisture, and aid in foiling weeds in the spring.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: Earthquake Wood Chipper, Tested and Reviewed

2. Insulate Plants in Your Yard

Days after Christmas a pile of discarded Christmas trees.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Cut the boughs off of the tree, and layer them over plants in your yard that are susceptible to cold weather and harsh winds. The sheltering limbs will serve as protection throughout the winter and early spring frosts.

3. Make Wood-Slice Crafts

Wood Slice Coaster
Photo: RusticWoodSlices via Etsy

Biophilic decor is all the rage, so why not put your tree under the knife? Cross-cut slices of the trunk with a chainsaw or handsaw and use the rings to make coasters, trivets, a wreath, or even ornaments for next year’s tree.

4. Burn It in Your Fire Pit

Bonfire close up during the winter season. Fire is inside a metal fire pit. Snowy scene and woods in the background.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Your Christmas tree is great fuel for an outdoor fire. Cut off the branches to use as kindling, and cut the trunk into logs. Pine is not recommended for burning indoors, as its creosote content makes for sticky, sooty fireplaces. But it’s perfect for keeping you toasty while you’re enjoying winter evenings outside.

RELATED: No Money to Burn? Here Are 15 Fire Pits You Can Actually Afford

5. Make a Fish Habitat

Men loading tree onto a boat
Photo: ces.ncsu.edu

If you live near a pond or lake, you can sink your old tree into the water to create a welcoming habitat for fish. The branches give them a place to take cover. Just make sure the tree is completely free of tinsel or flocking material that might harm wildlife.

6. Feed the Birds

Christmas tree bird feeder
Photo: ces.ncsu.edu

Believe it or not, your old, dead Christmas tree will make an excellent home for the birds for the rest of the winter. Make sure it’s free of all ornaments and tinsel, then secure it in your yard in a stand, or with stakes and twine. Provide sustenance for your avian friends as well by decorating the tree with strands of popcorn, suet, or pinecone bird feeders.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Bird Feeders We Tested This Year

7. Compost It

Hand of agriculturist holding soil mixing coconut dust to prepare for cultivation with sunlight in the garden.
Photo: istockphoto.com

A good compost heap needs both “browns” and “greens,” and a Christmas tree has plenty of both. Any part of your tree that can’t be used elsewhere can be added to your compost. It will break down into rich soil to help feed your garden in the coming year.