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What to Do With Your Christmas Tree Now

The Giving Tree


You know the feeling well – that pang of sadness as you disassemble, one ornament at a time, the Christmas tree you so proudly displayed in your home. The feeling continues as you reluctantly drag it outside to the curb while the kids watch from the living room, their little noses pressed up against the window, with a tear.

OK, in real life the scene might not be so melodramatic, but the truth is you don’t have to just throw away your beloved Christmas tree when the holidays are over. There are actually a variety of creative ways to repurpose it to help the environment – or just have fun.

Here are eight ideas for putting that evergreen to good use in the new year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Recycle It


Want to make sure your tree doesn’t end up in a landfill? Many communities offer tree recycling programs in which trees are collected and re-used for the benefit of Mother Nature.

“Generally the trees are ground into a mulch, which can be used as a ground cover or a trail surfacing material,” says Michael C. Bondi, a professor of forestry and director of the North Willamette Research and Extension Center at Oregon State University.

The website earth911.com allows you to find the nearest tree recycling program to your home – just click this link and type in your ZIP code. The site will also tell you whether the trees are collected at a drop-off point or picked up curbside.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Make Your Own Mulch


If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can make your own mulch out of your Christmas tree.

“Homeowners can purchase a mulching machine for use with branches, cuttings and any woody vegetation from around the yard,” says Bondi.

After you’ve made the mulch, you can lay it down around trees, shrubs, landscapes beds and your garden. The mulch helps reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil surface and helps keep the soil temperature cooler near the surface of the ground. “Most plants prefer having cooler soil temperatures and as much moisture as they can get,” says Bondi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Leave It for the Birds


Christmas trees are just trees, after all, and can thus make a great wildlife refuge for birds. Simply leave the evergreen in your backyard and watch Mother Nature do its thing.

“Winter can be a challenging time for birds to find cover and food,” Bondi explains. “The trees can provide a habitat on cold days.” If you’re feeling especially generous, Bondi suggests hanging sacks on the tree branches to provide a food source for the birds.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Put It Under Water


Birds aren’t the only animals that will appreciate your Christmas tree.

“Your tree can provide a potential fish habitat,” says Bondi.

Knoxville, Tenn., resident Bill Vogel, 49, says he likes to take Christmas trees to his house on a lake and sink them next to the dock. “The fish love it,” he says. “In the summer we skin dive down to where the trees are and see a magical site with tons of fish in their new home.”

There are a few caveats, though. First, you should always seek permission from local jurisdiction before placing a tree in any public water source. Second, “because the decomposing trees do utilize oxygen from the water too, care needs to be taken to not overload a water body and deplete oxygen levels that would impact fish,” Bondi adds.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Do an Art Project


It can be tough explaining to kids why the holidays are over, but you can lift their spirits by incorporating parts of your Christmas tree into fun art projects. Here are two ideas from craft designer Pattie Wilkinson of iLoveToCreate, an arts and crafts manufacturing company in Fresno, Calif. Just be sure that all of the sawing and drilling is done by adults.

Photo holders:

Cut the Christmas tree trunk into two-inch discs, then drill a tiny hole in the centers. Next, glue wire photo holders into the holes. For extra pizzazz, decorate them with beads.

Coasters:

“If your Christmas tree is large enough, you can cut the trunk into ½-inch rounds for coasters,” says Cano-Murillo. After you’ve cut the trunk into rounds, personalize them with family photos or print out monograms using your favorite font, then add a glaze.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Make Potpourri


Back in September we told readers how to create potpourri using apples. But Christmas trees can also be used to make your home smell nice – just follow these simple directions from Rachel Hollis, a lifestyle and party expert for Celebrations.com.

Materials:

• Dry pine needles (not brown and dead, just dried out a bit)

• Any other pleasant-smelling ingredients, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, dried rose petals, orange peels or bark.

• Pine oil

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together with about 10 drops of pine oil. Place in a dish and enjoy. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Create a Centerpiece


Your Christmas tree can be repurposed to create a beautiful centerpiece that you can use all winter long. Hollis suggests cutting branches and placing them on water in a vase, then adding some more outdoorsy materials for that extra winter touch. “Incorporate bare winter branches for a modern look, or berries and pinecones if you want to be more traditional," she says. "A gorgeous white winter flower could be beautiful too, like an amaryllis or hydrangea.”

Adds Hollis: “This is a centerpiece that smells as good as it looks.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Improve Your Golf Game


This one may sound a bit unusual, but in the town of Hawley, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains, Christmas trees are actually used as hole markers for an annual golf game played on a frozen lake.

Called the Ice Tee Golf Tournament, the event is presented by the Pocono Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce and includes nine holes atop the frozen Lake Wallenpaupack.

“The trees allow people to easily see the next hole on the ice,” says Sarah O’Fee, director of marketing for Ehrhardt's Waterfront Resort, which hosts the event. “We ask locals to donate their trees, and I have been a donator for many years.

Curious to see the spectacle for yourself? If you happen to be in the Pocono Mountains area, this year’s event will take place on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Photo Credit: Ehrhardt's Waterfront Resort

How 'Bout Them Apples?

Christmas trees aren’t the only gift from Mother Nature that can be repurposed in innovative ways. Check out this roundup for 15 ideas for re-using apples!

Photo Credit: joyosity

 
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Kristin Colella is a writer/editor for MainStreet. You can follow her on Twitter at @KrisColella.

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