What to do with your Christmas tree?

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The Christmas tree is an evergreen symbol of joy, bedecked in sparkles, baubles, sweets and twinkly lights. The true centrepiece of Christmas.

But after the presents have been unwrapped and the festivities are over what do you do with your Christmas tree?

Whether your Christmas tree is real or artificial there comes a time (usually when only the coffee flavoured sweets are left in the tin and the turkey curry is finally finished) when it has to be stripped of all its festive finery.

After the baubles and tinsel have been banished to the darks of the loft or cupboard under the stairs for another year all that’s left is a naked tree and the thought of what to do with it.

Here are a few suggestions to reuse or recycle your Christmas tree be it real or artificial. Most of these options are great if you have your own garden, access to one or a bit of outside space but even if you don’t there are still some ideas to dispose of in an eco-friendly way.

For the purpose of this post it is assumed that your real tree is unflocked and has been hydrated with tap water only.

For real Christmas trees

Replant it

For Christmas trees that still retain their roots.

Sounds obvious, but just put it back in the ground (or keep in the pot) outside. Depending on the condition of your tree when you replant there is no reason that it shouldn’t thrive. Then next year you have an instant Christmas tree.

Don’t forget to acclimatise your tree to the cooler outdoor weather first. Store your tree in an unheated shed or garage for a few days and if replanting in the ground make sure the hole is twice the size of the root ball, the ground isn’t frozen and has plenty of mulch.

Mulch it

There are a couple of options to think about when considering mulching. Shredded wood is great for use in gardens and in another post you can read all about the multitude of uses for wood chips. Read – What to do with wood chips? here.

The Au Naturel way

Leave Mother Nature to do most of the work using this method. Slice up the trees limbs and trunk and leave in an area of the garden to naturally rot down. This should take a year or so to do and is a natural way to introduce nutrients into the soil. The needles make great mulch for plant beds. Collect the needles and spread over plant beds.

Wood Chipping

Putting your tree through a wood chipper makes instant wood chips. This means there’s no hard graft required to cut trees down to manageable sizes. If you don’t own a wood chipper you can hire one. Perhaps speak to your neighbours and split the hire charges.

Some local companies may offer a Christmas tree wood chipping service and this may come with the option of keeping the chippings or having the company recycle.

Local Drop Off/Collection

Your local council or recycling facility may offer a roadside collection service to take your real Christmas tree away. Or you may be able to drop off at your local recycling facility. Check local services or garden centres and Christmas tree sellers to see if they offer a similar service. A collection/drop off service may be the preferred option for those that have no garden or need for mulch.

Put it in the Garden

Repurpose parts of your tree if it’s still in good condition after the festivities. Slice trunks into discs to make garden borders. Gather the branches and use to shelter perennial plants from the harsh wintery elements or save the branches and use as stakes to support your fruit and veg, in the garden or green house.

Look after the wildlife

This is an easy way to repurpose your Christmas tree and is a great activity to do with little ones (if you have them). Once the Christmas tree has been de-tinselled keep it in its pot or stand and pop it outside. Redecorate with bird feeders (pinecones dipped in peanut butter and covered in birdseed) or string dried fruit and popcorn together as edible tinsel.

Using your Christmas tree in a garden pond (if you have one) can create habitats for fish. The tree provides a surface upon which algae can grow to feed the fish. Use this method sparingly as an excess of trees in a pond isn’t great but done moderately, the tree will simply rot away as would happen in nature.

Dead Hedge it

Additionally this is another wildlife friendly option for your used Christmas tree. A dead hedge doesn’t sound very appealing but I promise it’s not as morbid as it sounds. A dead hedge is composed of packed prunings held in place by thick, sturdy posts. Christmas trees make a good filling material and offer shelter for small insects and creatures of the garden. You could also ask your neighbours if they are keen to contribute their trees too.

Outdoor fire pit

Pine isn’t a particularly good firewood as it creates creosote, a flammable substance that can easily lead to a chimney or roof fire. Substantial amounts of creosote can be made when burning the wet wood in a wood burner or fireplace.

However, it can be used safely in an outdoor fire pit, where chimneys aren’t an issue. Christmas trees are easy to chop up and stack as firewood and they burn quickly, so are ideal to be used as kindling.

Craft it

Not the best medium for whittling or for your next woodwork project but that isn’t a reason not to use as a crafting material. To save from landfill and to make the most of this resource why not recycle into next year’s eco-friendly Christmas gifts.

Sanded and sealed slices of tree trunk can be made into all sorts of gifts. Coasters, Christmas tree decorations, trivets or stepping “stones” for the garden. With a little imagination and creative flair the ideas are endless. But you must remember to seal the disks before using as they will exude sap.

Eat it

Believe it or not pine needles contain high levels of vitamin C and can be used in a variety of ways and in a host of dishes.

Being high in vitamin C, pine needle tea can help alleviate congestion and other respiratory problems and ward off scurvy. Pine needles also have decongestant, disinfectant and healing properties. Commonly used for their oils and aromas pine is a popular scent added to candles, perfumes, air fresheners and cleaning products. And if it’s the taste of pine your after then use the needles to smoke meat and fish, chop up to use in marinades, salads or dressings.
We would strongly recommend doing research before ingesting your Christmas tree. Bon Appetite!

Artificial trees

What to do with your artificial Christmas tree can be sorted into three categories (not including throwing away as we want to avoid that where possible); Store again for next year, Sell and Upcycle.

Store

The best thing about an artificial tree is that you can pop it back in the box, tape it up and store until next year. Then reuse the next year and again the year after that and so on. However it is inevitable that some of the artificial material will shed from the tree (a bit like a real one) and over the years it may become a little bare. Then it might be time to look at the next sections.

Sell

Selling on your Christmas tree ensures that someone else can get use out of it and not have it end up in landfill. Likewise you could also donate your tree to places such as community groups, nursing homes, charity shops, schools or drama clubs to be used as a prop.  

Upcycle

What do you think about cutting up your artificial tree to make it into something better?

This is exactly what this section goes on to explain. Many Christmas themed decorations or gifts can be made out of an unwanted tree. As artificial trees come in varying shapes, sizes and colours your finished design will be a unique creation.

Seems a bit savage to start with but lop the top part of your Christmas tree off to make a mini tree. Use as a table top Christmas tree or as a centrepiece. Create an evergreen wreath by using the branches and attaching to a wreath form. Using pieces of floral wire, connect branches together with artificial flowers and foliage to create a garland. For branches with built in wires, why not wrap around a cylindrical form to make napkin rings. Happy crafting!

Hopefully, now you have more of an idea about what to do with your Christmas tree. Whether your tree is artificial or real, the aim is to reduce, reuse and recycle where possible and not have your Christmas tree end up in landfill. With a little bit of imagination and creativity there are endless possibilities to increase the longevity of your tree. Enabling it to see many more Christmases in many different guises.   

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