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December 27, 2012

Don't Trash That Christmas Tree

Recycle or repurpose it for animals

The Humane Society of the Unted States

  • String popcorn, dried fruit, and peanuts to hang in your retired tree. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Hang pinecones smeared with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed for a tasty treat. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Lay the tree down in your yard to provide a wildlife shelter or spider habitat. iStockphoto.com

It’s that time of year again—stockings hang empty on the fireplace mantle, candy canes that once adorned the tree have long since been eaten, and packages are empty and stripped of their finery.

Now comes the age-old dilemma: what to do with that real tree? We've got a few ideas to put that retired tree to good use to help you, the environment, and your wild neighbors. 

1)  Stand your tree outside near bird feeders for added cover for birds.

2)  Need an indoor project for the kids while they're out of school?  Have them make birdie edibles to adorn the tree:

  • Pinecones covered with peanut butter and dipped in birdseed or sunflower seeds.
  • Dried bagel wreathes—cut the bagels in half, smear the sides with peanut butter, dip them in seed, and tie them securely to the tree with string.
  • String popcorn, cranberries, oranges, peanuts in the shell, and other bird goodies, and hang in tree.

3)  Have a natural pond or lake? Sink the tree to create fish habitat.

4)  Think brush pile:

5)  Find a suitable place to lay the tree down in the yard to provide a wildlife shelter, or a habitat for beneficial insects.

6)  If you have or can rent a chipper/shredder, you can turn the tree into mulch to use around acid-loving plants. 

7)  Let the tree dry out so the needles fall off, and rake the needles up for mulch. Mulch benefits shrews, who don’t live in burrows so much as in litter and duff. 

8)  Check with your county’s local waste management department to see if you have a local tree recycling program, or check out Earth911 for a recycling location near you.

If you use tinsel, be sure to remove it all from the tree before you incorporate it into your landscape.

A resolution for the new year

Next season, think live. Get a balled or potted tree that can be planted after the holidays. You'll avoid the “what to do with a dead tree blues,” and you'll provide cover and a nesting place for birds for years to come. 

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