How to give your Christmas tree a second life after the holiday

Dec 26, 2023, 7:16 AM

ATLANTA (CNN) — For weeks, your Christmas tree has sat twinkling quietly in a corner of your home, carefully decorated with the dazzling bits and baubles you so thoughtfully placed on its branches.

But now, the holiday has passed and the presents have disappeared, needles have begun to fall to the floor and the trunk has become a glorified cat-scratching post.

So what do you do with it now?

Here are a few things you can do to recycle, repurpose or dispose of your lovely tree.

Recycle your tree by turning it into mulch or compost

Luckily, your tree is biodegradable, so it can easily be returned to nature. If you have a compost pile, go ahead and throw it in there.

Many places will also accept undecorated trees and put them through a wood chipper to be turned into mulch and compost.

And for goodness sake, do not send your tree through the mulcher with the string of lights still on.

Dream up some lovely landscaping ideas

If you’re a crafty creature, there are many creative ways to use an old tree in your landscaping.

Cut the trunk into slices and use them to line your flower beds or walkways. You can also create dynamic garden displays by cutting trunk pieces at different thicknesses and using them as pot risers.

Those with serious green thumbs may also use the branches of their tree to line perennial flower beds. The evergreen boughs will catch snowfall and insulate the patch of dirt from winter chills.

For plants that need a little extra support, the branches can also be used as natural stakes.

Use it as outdoor fire fuel

Dried branches and hunks of trunk will make fabulous firewood for an outdoor firepit or bonfire, but be sure to keep the fire outside.

When Christmas trees burn, they release creosote — a highly flammable, toxic substance consisting mainly of tar — into the fire smoke. Creosote may build up on the inside of your chimney, increasing your risk of a chimney fire.

Enjoy it as a tree

Who would have thought you could use your tree as a tree? If you bought a potted Christmas tree or one that has its roots balled in burlap, you probably had this solution in mind already.

Buying a tree with its roots intact allows you to plant it after the holiday, giving you a gorgeous evergreen addition to your yard that can be enjoyed year-round.

Freshen your home

The fragrant smell of evergreen needles can last long after the tree is gone.

Just remove the needles from the tree before you dispose of it and put them in sachets or bowls of water to continue basking in the festive smell for a little while longer.

Dispose of your tree and help your community

Many communities have figured out how to use old Christmas trees in creative ways.

In north-central New Jersey, the Somerset County Park Commission has a free annual Christmas tree recycling program. The trees are turned into wood chips and mulch that are used within the park system to protect and support plant life. New York City has a similar program.

The city of San Diego also offers a free program with 16 locations where residents can drop off trees that are converted into compost, mulch and wood chips that can be purchased throughout the year.

Check with your neighborhood, county, city or local groups to see if they have a need for the trees this season.

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How to give your Christmas tree a second life after the holiday