How You Can Recycle Your Christmas Tree

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After the holidays your live cut Christmas tree, once a source of joy and beauty, can rapidly become a source of frustration. Shedding needles litter the floor and you need the space where the tree is standing to set up the exercise bike you got for Christmas. But what fitting end can you provide this arboreal emblem of the holiday season? There are several eco friendly options to choose from.

Send It to the Beach

Eroded dunes.

By capturing wind blown sand Christmas trees help rebuild dunes damaged by storm surge and erosion.

Who doesn’t want to end up at the beach after retirement? If that option is years away for you, let your Christmas tree live out your dreams by donating it to a local beach. Many beach towns collect Christmas trees to place along the base of the dunes to capture sand. This helps build and stabilize the dunes which protect our beaches from erosion and storm surge.

In Pender County, the Town of Topsail Beach will be collecting Christmas trees through the first few weeks of January. Trees can be dropped off at the corner of Davis and Anderson Street. To find out if a beach town near you is collecting trees for dune stabilization, call their public utilities department or check their website.

Let It “Sleep with the Fishes”

Don’t live near the beach? How about a pond? Believe it or not, Christmas trees make excellent fish habitat in deeper ponds and lakes. When sunk to the bottom, trees provide places for adult and juvenile fish to hide from predators as well as breeding and nursery sites.

Christmas trees being loaded into a boat.

U.S. Forestry service employees load Christmas trees into a boat to deploy as fish habitat.

There is a little more involved than just throwing your tree in the water. First make sure you have removed all tinsel and ornaments and that you have the pond owner’s permission. Then you have to figure out how to weigh the tree down, otherwise it will float near the surface. For maximum habitat value, you want the tree to stand upright when it is sunk in the water. The easiest way to achieve this is to anchor the bottom of the tree to a concrete block or give it “cement shoes” by placing it into a mold and pouring concrete around it. Getting the tree out into water that is deep enough to totally submerge it often requires the use of a boat.

Create a Bird Feeder

If you are reluctant to send your Christmas tree away, consider placing it outside at the wood’s edge or near trees and shrubs to provide habitat for birds. You can even decorate your tree with bird seed ornaments to serve as a bird feeder. Creating the bird seed ornaments is a great project for kids looking for something to do after the excitement of opening presents has faded.

Christmas tree decorated for the birds.

Fruit slices, seed heads, and popcorn garland can turn your Christmas tree into a bird feeder.

To decorate a tree for the birds, first make sure all tinsel, lights, and non natural ornaments have been removed. You can string stale popcorn to serve as garland and smear pinecones with peanut butter for ornaments. Peanut butter coated pine cones can also be rolled in bird seed. In addition, you can rub peanut butter or solid vegetable shortening on the tips of some of the branches and coat them with birdseed, raisins, and peanuts. Apple and orange slices also make a welcome treat for wildlife.

Turn It Into Mulch

Many communities offer curb side pick up or drop off sites where trees can be left to be recycled into mulch. In Pender County, residents who have a sticker to utilize the county convenience centers can drop off trees at the Hampstead, Rocky Point, and Burgaw locations from December 26 through January 21. To find out where to drop trees in other counties, check with your local public utilities department.

If you have a chipper you can shred the branches to use as mulch in your own yard, though you may be surprised how little mulch results from a single tree. If you cut the branches so four to six inches remain attached to the trunk you will be able to use the trunk as a trellis for annual vines like moonflower or cardinal vine in the summer. To add Christmas tree branches to a compost pile, first run them through a chipper or shredder or cut them into small pieces.

Learn More

Visit this link to find out more about optimizing your tree’s habitat value for fish:

Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care.