Recycle your Christmas tree

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

tree_recycling_sm Now that the festivities are all over it is time to think of recycling the tree.

One of the main objections that some people – quite a number of “greenies”, especially – have to using real Christmas trees is that they are thrown away after the first use. Some people who want a real tree choose thus to buy a living one and plant it later. Alas, however, this will not work for everyone. But, whatever the thoughts as to the real tree vs. the fake one - the real one is much better environmentally speaking than the fake one, thus stick with real tree. It is green and not only in color.

There are several ways in which you can recycle your Christmas tree:

Take it to your local recycling center for turning into a variety of green materials. Many municipalities do have recycling services that will pick up your Christmas tree from the curbside or provide drop-off locations.

The trees are, generally, turned into wood chips and thus into mulch to help other trees to grow.

Recycling Christmas trees for mulch & compost

Make "winter mulch": "Winter mulch" Iis a heterogeneous mulch applied around perennial flowers to protect them in winter, as opposed to a conventional, homogeneous mulch (such as bark mulch) that you would use in the landscape during the growing season. The winter mulch consists of a base layer such as, for instance, straw, which is then held down (so the wind doesn't blow it away) by a layer of evergreen branches – which is where the recycled Christmas tree comes in to play. On the other hand I have also seen fir and spruce branches being used as such as covering on their own on cemeteries in Germany, for example.

Make your own “ordinary” mulch: If you have access to a wood chipper, you can make your own garden mulch. Run the trunk and branches through it to turn them into a conventional mulch. For use in a compost bin, remove a few of the branches and lay them down as "flooring" for the bottom of your compost bin. This flooring will provide aeration, allowing your compost to break down faster.

Use a saw to cut the Christmas tree into smaller pieces, if need be, in order to fit into the chipper. The wood chips can be used around your plants, in your compost bin, and for garden paths.

Recycling Christmas trees for garden construction projects: If tend to build your own shrub shelters, garden stakes or rustic trellises out of natural material, I am sure that you could always use another wooden pole. Therefore, why not use the trunk of the Christmas tree for this purpose.

Provide a Bird Habitat: Install recycled Christmas trees in your yard after the holidays are over, to provide cover for wild birds. Wild birds aren't as likely to come to a bird feeder located out in the open; they prefer natural nooks where they can hide. Providing such cover for them will help you in your efforts to attract birds to your yard. As an added touch, hang suet on the branches (or pine cones rubbed with peanut butter and rolled in bird food).

You will need to secure the tree by using the stand or stakes and twine. Provide the birds with food by making pine cone bird feeders, using suet holders, and hanging strings of popcorn or fresh fruit.

Remove all decorations. It is especially important that the tree is free of tinsel, and has not been flocked or treated in any other way.

Burning it for warmth: If you wish to burn a recycled Christmas tree as firewood, it's not a good idea to do so right after you take it down. The wood is still wet, posing a fire hazard from creosote buildup. If you wish to burn it in a stove, I would suggest adding it to your woodpile and drying it for a year. Spruces, pines, firs and balsams are softwoods that are useful as kindling.

One of the things that we would do with Christmas trees in recycling mode was to turn the top ends into wooden agitators for the kitchen. (add photo of my own). We would, in fact, take trees from people who wanted to get rid off them, removed the appropriate section of the trunk from which to make this wooden kitchen tool and then turn the remaining tree into firewood for our use, including the branches.

Those carved agitators we would sell either door-to-door or on markets in the areas where we operated.

© 2011