MDC foresters offer ways to recycle live Christmas trees after the holidays

RDN REPORTS
Once the decorations are removed, a real Christmas tree can be recycled into craft projects or they can provide shelter to local fish and wildlife as habitat in ponds, lakes, or even a back yard. Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

From the natural suppleness of its needles, to that majestic stature, to the unmistakable evergreen aroma. But after the holidays are over, it doesn’t mean that your natural Christmas tree needs to retire. It can find a second career in a lot of conservation-friendly ways, according to Missouri Department of Conservation Department foresters.  

One of the advantages of using live Christmas trees is that they can be recycled in a variety of ways to benefit the environment, wildlife, and even people. So instead of kicking it to the curb for trash pickup, why not put that tree to work?

There are plenty of after-holiday uses to consider. “Most live trees can be chipped and turned into mulch which you can use to return organic matter to the soil,” MDC Community Forester, Mark Grueber, said. “As the mulch breaks down it helps keep soil moist and cool during the summer and warmer during the winter.”

Many municipalities will offer mulching services, where residents can drop of their trees and return later to collect the mulch. Or, if homeowners have no use for it, the mulch might find a place in public works projects to benefit the community.

Along the same lines, gardeners can cut boughs and branches from their trees and place over perennial beds to help protect from frost and snow. Pine needles are very moisture and mold-resistant, thanks to their waxy qualities.

Used Christmas trees can also give a holiday gift to wildlife, according to Grueber. “They are great for habitat – place them in a quiet corner of your yard to provide cover for wildlife or stand them up and place bird feeders on them for winter feeding,” he recommended.

MDC Community Forester Danny Moncheski offered an idea for outdoor lovers who like to camp or spend time by the outdoor fire pit in winter. ‘

“Try filling a coffee can or container with needles and small twigs to make an excellent year ‘round fire starter,” suggested Moncheski. “Cover the twigs in melted wax to increase the shelf life and make it more effective. A can of needles and wax covered twigs can make a great gift for the camper in your life.”

And naturally, there are plenty of craft ideas that make use of post-holiday trees. Grueber said there are plenty of ideas to be discovered on the internet. The branches can find a use as part of a potpourri mix or be woven into an after-holiday wreath. Discs cut from the trunk, dried in the oven, and painted, can create a multitude of things, like drink coasters, refrigerator magnets, wall art, even ornaments for next year’s tree.

How about creating a home for fish? Due to COVID-19 considerations, MDC is not accepting used Christmas trees for use as fish habitat in area lakes this year. However, property owners can take advantage of used trees to help fish in their own ponds. The trees benefit some of the most popular fish that anglers like to pursue, including largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie.

Since these fish typically spawn in shallow water, MDC recommends tying the tree to a cement block and submerging it at a depth of four-to-seven feet. This gives emerging fish easy access to the cover. No need to cut it up, the entire tree is best for creating fish structure. Of course, you do need to remove all traces of decorations, tinsel or garlands. Since the underwater habitat will concentrate fish, place the tree so you can easily cast nearby and see if your catch rate improves.

One of the many beauties of live Christmas trees is their potential to be recycled in so many beneficial ways. They truly embody the spirit of the season and can continue to give their natural gifts long after the holidays are over.