What To Do With Your Christmas Tree After The Holidays

Give your fir a new life with one of these nine disposal methods.

Wrapping Each Branch with Lights
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Once the holidays are over, it means it’s time to pull down the holly and take down the tree. Whether you’ve put up your first Christmas tree or 20th, the inevitable question “What do we do with it now?” always comes around New Year's. If you’re wondering what to do with the enormous fir that has integrated itself into your living room for the past month, we have a few ideas. The first step is the tedious work of removing and repacking your ornaments. And if it’s a real tree, detangling the lights. If you opt for an artificial tree, we have a few storage tips to keep your faux fir looking good until next season, but any real trees will need disposing of come January. Not sure of the best way to get rid of your tree? Here's how to recycle, repurpose, or dispose of your tree when the season ends.

Use Curbside Pick-Up 

Many cities have local recycling programs that will collect old Christmas trees to keep them out of landfills and repurpose them for community uses and ecosystems. Most counties will post curbside collection schedules for the two weeks following the holidays. Just read closely because some may specify requirements for pick-up, including removing all non-organic materials (ornaments, lights, tinsel, wires, etc.).

Find A Community Collection Event 

If your area doesn’t offer pick-up services, there are often community drop-off sites organized by the city or local non-profit organizations. Check your local listings for these events and locations. Many Home Depot stores also hold collection events and you can call your local location to inquire.

Toss It Into A(n Approved) Lake 

Sunk trees can create a habitat and refuge for aquatic creatures and make excellent feeders and breeding shelters for fish. Be sure to only toss natural, chemical-free trees and branches into the water. If you have access to your own private lake or pond you can dispose of the tree at your discretion, but for any public bodies of water, be sure to obey local rules and regulations.

Cut It Up For Firewood

Use the smaller branches and needles as kindling, then cut the trunk into logs for burning. While Christmas trees make for great outdoor bonfires, be sure to never burn them indoors. Pines, firs, and other evergreens that are typically used for holiday decor contain a high sap content and can cause a creosote build-up in your chimney and flue. Plus, the needles produce a lot of sparks and are extremely flammable, so it goes up in flames quickly, which can cause smoke to pour out of the fireplace instead of up the chimney.

Turn It Into Mulch 

Give your tree another purpose after the holidays by making mulch. While you might not have a woodchipper on hand, a neighbor just might! If not, many towns offer local chipping services through the public works department, which will happily take your tree and turn it into mulch for public spaces or make it available for you to pick-up.

Repurpose The Needles 

Needles dry quickly and decompose slowly, which is what makes them a great ground cover for plants. Just as you would use a bale of pine straw to cover a bed, use the needles shaken from the branches of your holiday tree.

Insulate Perennials With Boughs 

Cut the branches off the tree in medium-sized pieces and layer them over perennial beds as a winter covering to protect the dormant flowers and plants from extreme frost and temperature fluctuations.

Compost It 

If you keep a compost bin or pile, needles from your tree can make a great addition. Let them dry out, then shake them off the branches, and add to your compost mixture as your dry component.

Get Creative With The Trunk 

Strip the tree of its branches, then cut the trunk into approximately 2-inch thick discs. These discs can be used to edge flower beds and walkways or for crafts like homemade coasters.

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