The Christmas season ended months ago. And millions upon millions of Christmas trees have long since been hauled to the curb; yesterday's symbol of holiday joy transformed in a flash to nothing more than today's trash.

Christmas tree recycling pickup

Seems kind of sad, doesn't it? (Unless, of course, you use an artificial tree. In that case, your tree is stored away all snug and cozy, ready to once again be the focal point of holiday cheer in just a few short months!)

Do you ever wonder what happens to all of those millions of discarded Christmas trees every year? We did. So we decided to do a bit of research. And we discovered that the ending isn't really so sad for many of those tossed-away trees.

In fact, many discarded Christmas trees go on to offer benefits in forms decidedly different from their past roles as symbols of holiday happiness, but no less important. Here are some of the more interesting uses we discovered for cast-off Christmas trees:

  • Mulch makers. Lots of trees are ground up for mulch, which is then used for many different purposes including landscaping, gardening, and erosion control. Christmas tree mulch is even used to soften the surface of recreational trails, cushioning each step for runners and walkers.
    Christmas tree needles
  • Fish furniture. Fish like to have sheltered places to congregate, hangout and search for food. But many lake bottoms are rather desolate and bare. So lots of Christmas trees end on up lake bottoms nationwide, used by Fish and Game Departments for creating fish-friendly habitats. The trees are weighted down in some manner - often concrete or chains - and dropped into areas where they will most benefit the fish population.
  • Bird banquet. Lots of Christmas trees make an intermediate stop in the backyard before final disposal - much to the delight of the local bird population. After removing all ornamentation from the tree, many people convert their trees into temporary bird feeders. The trees dry up and begin to break down after several weeks. But in the meantime they can be re-decorated with edible birdie treats, things like:
    • Strings of popcorn or dried fruit
    • Suet cakes, suet balls, or small mesh bags of suet
    • Birdseed ornaments
    • Strings of peanuts (unshelled)
    • Strings of unsweetened cereal (Cheerios, for example)
  • Beach barriers. Discarded Christmas trees are used by many beachfront communities to help reduce the wind erosion of beaches, and to help stabilize sand dunes. The Mayor of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, even credited Christmas trees for helping to minimize the damage caused to her community by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Lunch Munch. Discarded Christmas trees are regarded as tasty treats for certain zoo animals such as giraffes and zebras. So, for some discarded Christmas trees, the last stop is at the local zoo.
  • Energy Boost. Some communities even use Christmas trees to help fuel local power plants. The trees are ground into mulch and fed into an electricity-generating plant. The town of Burlington, Vermont, for example, gathers residents' Christmas trees each year, grinds them into mulch, and feeds them to the town's 50-megawatt generating plant.

If You Were a Tree…

Christmas tree recyclingHave you heard (or maybe even been faced with) the old interview question: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Kind of a silly question, I've always thought. But if I were a tree, here's the kind of tree I think I'd like to be: a Christmas tree.

I'd get to be the focal point of the happiest time of the year. I'd be decorated and adorned with radiant lights and shimmering decorations. People would experience a warm glow of joy and happiness just from looking at me. I'd get to witness firsthand the squeals of absolute delight as toddlers discover their Christmas morning bounty. And when Christmas was over, I'd have another very important role to fulfill; something that helps to make the world a better place.

Not a bad life for a tree, right?