Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Real Christmas trees are 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable. One of the top reasons for picking up a real Christmas tree this holiday season is the positive (and significant) influence real trees have on the environment. From converting CO2 to oxygen to providing natural habitats for wildlife to keeping large areas green, real trees have a real impact on our world.

Did you know that real Christmas tree farmers will plant one tree, or sometimes two, for every harvested tree? More trees for Mother Nature and more oxygen for us!

Get those extra warm and fuzzies knowing your tree won’t take up space in a landfill, because after the excitement of the holiday season has come to a close, it’s sadly time to say adieu to your real Christmas tree. But first, how do you get the tree out of the house?

Taking Down “O Tannenbaum”

Removing your tree from your home doesn’t have to be an arduous chore. While you may be tempted to just take all the ornaments off, then throw it to the curb, you may end up with pine needles on your floor and more stress than you actually need.

Here are a few simple steps that will help you take your real tree down cleanly and easily.

  1. Remove Lights & Ornaments
    Double-check your tree to make sure you haven’t missed anything! Give your future self a head start by storing your decorations like a pro, ensuring less frustration next year when you get to do this all over again.
  2. Siphon the Water
    Use a ladle or turkey baster to remove the water from the stand basin, then use a rag to absorb the remaining water. That way, you’ll avoid spillage, and if you like, you can tip the tree onto its side with the stand in place, giving you better access to remove the stand with ease. You can take the stand off inside or outside, whichever is most convenient for you.
  3. Bag it, Tag it
    Inevitably some needles will fall from the tree, so when you take it down, you’ll want to carry it out in a bag or sheet. Most home improvement stores and general retailers sell Christmas tree disposal bags. Before you put your tree up, place the bag at the base of the stand, so you can easily slip it over the tree when it comes time to take it down.

    Alternatively, you can use a large cloth or bed sheet to transport your tree. Place the cloth on the floor next to the tree, lay the tree down, wrap it up like a burrito. (Consider making burritos for dinner). 
  4. Trunk Leads the Way
    When you are all set and wrapped, bring the tree outside trunk first to avoid branches snagging on anything in your home, and you’ll have more control of the tree using the trunk as lead.

    Sweep up any loose tree needles with a broom, then follow up with a quick run of the vacuum to take care of strays.
  5. Recycle or Reuse Your Tree!
    Christmas may be over, but your real Christmas tree is the gift that keeps on giving. They are biodegradable, so they provide amazing nutrients to soil, and they can be used to preserve wildlife habitats, among other uses. Let’s dive in deeper!

Ways You Can Recycle or Reuse Your Tree

Tree Recycling Program
Most municipalities have a tree recycling program in place, so when you pick up your tree, ask your farmer or retailer if they have any details. Your city or county website should also have this information under their Waste Management or Recycling department. Or simply call City Hall to get the down-low.

Get Crafty
If you are the crafty type, then you are in for a treat. Use parts of the trees to make fun crafts with your kids and family. Get the old bow saw out and cut ½-inch (or bigger) pieces off the trunk to make a cute coaster set. You’ll want to put a finish on the coasters to prevent scratches or any resin from getting on your furniture.

Get creative! Use the branches for a home décor project. See if the kids can make cute ornaments, like reindeer or stickmen. Make air fresheners with pine needles. Place the pine needles in small drawstring canvas bags or sachets and place them around the house. It will smell like Christmas year-round!

Feed Your Garden
Pine needles work wonders on soil. Use any loose needles to fertilize your garden. They decompose slowly, so they will keep your soil healthy all through winter. If you have a super green thumb and have access to a chipper, you can also cut down the entire tree to make mulch.

Christmas tree branches also make great insulators for perennial beds, protecting them from the harsh cold and winter sun.

Create a Backyard Bird Feeder
Set your tree up in your yard, add some bird feeders to the branches, and watch as the birds start to visit your tree every day.

Donate It!
Recycled trees can be used in various ways to protect and conserve the environment and animal habitats – see more details below! Find a local animal sanctuary or preservation program in your area to see if they are taking donations this year.

Ways Recycled Trees Protect the Environment
In addition to providing natural mulch for your garden and some farms, real Christmas trees are used in creative and exciting ways to protect the environment.

Shoreline Stabilization & Beachfront Erosion Prevention
Recycled Christmas trees are also used to stabilize and prevent erosion on shorelines across North America. In New Jersey, in an attempt to stabilize the shoreline and build back the marsh, a team constructed tree breakwaters and Christmas tree vanes to “mimic naturally occurring debris structures in tidal systems and enhance habitat opportunity and shelter for aquatic life.”* In New Orleans, Christmas trees are dropped by helicopter into the bayou to encourage marsh grass development.** How cool!

Hiking Trails
The chippings can also be used to create and maintain safe and eco-friendly hiking paths. 

Fish Habitat
When laid down on its side in a body of water, a Christmas tree becomes a natural habitat for fish, giving them a sanctuary and an excellent feeding ground.

Mixed with holiday cheer, you’ll feel good knowing that your real Christmas tree experience contributes to maintaining and enhancing your natural environment. AND they smell great too.

* Source: Princeton Hydro. Recycled Christmas Trees Used to Restore Disappearing NJ Shoreline. May 14, 2019.

** Source: US Fish & Wildlife Service. Bayou Sauvage: Annual Christmas Tree Drop. October 16, 2019.

A field of Christmas trees with the sun shining in the background