Lifestyle & Seasonal

Giving Tree – Recycling your Christmas tree

The needles start to pile up. The kids have moved on. The cat has even given up on trying to topple it. Here’s what you can do with that Christmas tree after the new year arrives.

Creative advice from experts

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) knows a thing or two about the life cycle of a pine tree. The NCTA cites three common options for recycling your Christmas tree: Curbside pickup (by townships or organizations), cutting it up for yard waste, or taking it to a drop-off point. Most homeowners will avail themselves of one of the 3 options. But the NCTA lists much more creative recycling ideas, like propping it up outside and hanging bird feeders in it or submerging the tree in a fish pond. If you have the space in your landscape or a fish pond, go for it. But, the NCTA says, whatever you do don’t burn fresh pine in an indoor fireplace. Creosote build up in a chimney is a serious fire hazard.

Another option for recycling your Christmas tree is to mulch the tree yourself for use in your garden. Some plants can use the acidic pH pine needles provide. If you don’t want to mulch the entire tree, save some of the needles to enrich the soil of plants like fruit bushes or azaleas.

Your township may mulch trees. Check your local municipality for recycling programs. Many communities have drop-off centers or curbside pickup of Christmas trees. The community programs grind up the trees and make mulch that is used in beautification projects or offered for residents’ use. Hint: take another look over your tree for decorations when you get it out into the sunlight. Those pesky ornaments can hide from the most eagle-eyed de-decorators.

If you do have a saw handy, you can cut the tree’s trunk into two-inch disks and use them to line a pathway or edge a garden plot.

“Sea”-sonal recycling

If you live near the sea side, your tree may be used to beef up sand dunes. Fences are installed along the shore line then trees are placed in the fenced areas. As the winter wind blows, sand is caught in the tree branches, rebuilding and fortifying the dunes. The trees are eventually covered with sand and planted with long-root grasses, making a strong sand dune that protects the shore. After Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey towns trucked in tens of thousands of donated trees to rebuild the dunes washed away in the storm.

Cleaning up

Once your Christmas tree is out of the house, it’s clean-up time. The best tool for cleaning up all of those pine needles is a broom. According to home cleaning advice site, typical home vacuum cleaners will clog up quickly with pine needles. If you must vacuum instead of sweeping, Aunt Patti recommends first using a “shop style” vacuum to suck up the bulk of the pine needles, then use a regular house vacuum to slowly and carefully gather up the rest.

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