The Christmas season ended months ago, and now, 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.

Seems kind of sad, doesn't it? (Unless, of course, you use an artificial Christmas 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!)

Have you ever wondered what happens to Christmas trees after the holidays each year? We did. So we decided to do a bit of research and discovered that the ending isn't really so sad for many of those tossed-away trees.

Christmas tree recycling pickup

How to Recycle Christmas Trees

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, hang out 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.

Wondering how to get rid of your Christmas tree? There are a few options available after Christmas that make recycling your Christmas tree easy. Many neighborhoods offer pickup services a few days after Christmas and during the first few weeks of January. Simply put the tree out near the bins before pickup. Check your local recycling service provider pages to see pickup times and review any additional steps you’ll need to follow to get rid of the tree. If you have a larger Christmas tree (taller than 8 feet), you may want to consider cutting the tree in half.

There may also be drop-off services for old Christmas trees in your area throughout late December and January that are often more convenient for disposing of trees. If you left your tree up for an extended period after Christmas (more than a few weeks), you might need to break the tree into smaller pieces so that it fits into your compost or yard waste bins. There are sure to be many options in your local area that ensure your tree is appropriately reused and recycled.

Benefits of Artificial Christmas Trees

If you purchase an artificial Christmas tree for your home, you won’t need to worry about what happens to your old Christmas tree or how to dispose of it. There are several other benefits of artificial Christmas trees that make them a reasonable and practical choice for celebrating the holidays at home.

Though artificial trees often cost more upfront than a regular Christmas tree, you’re more than likely to save money in the long run. An artificial Christmas tree lasts for several years at a time, so you should consider the cost of the 3-5 years worth of Christmas trees when comparing prices. You’ll also be able to keep your artificial tree up for longer each year, which means you’ll be free to start hanging up the beautiful Christmas tree ornaments you’ve been saving as soon as the Thanksgiving holidays are over.

An artificial Christmas tree is significantly easier to manage when setting up and taking down your holiday decorations. Assembly is straightforward and you’ll only need to spruce up a few branches to give a well-shaped and neat appearance. In addition, you won’t need to clean up any needles, deal with tree sap, or worry about the fire hazards associated with dry branches. There are very few downsides to choosing an artificial tree for your home for the coming holiday season.

If You Were a Tree…

how to recycle a christmas treeHave 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?

How to Choose a Christmas Tree

There are many benefits to artificial trees, but the natural appearance and aroma of a live tree are always something worth considering. Choose the option that is most convenient for your home and don’t stress the details. No matter which type of Christmas tree you decide to put up this year, you’ll want to consider picking up a new set of accompanying holiday decorations and ornaments to get you and your family into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Designers is happy to provide you and your family with ornaments, wreaths, LED Christmas tree lights, and other decorations for the coming holiday season. All of our decorations, trees, and lights are available year-round, which means you can start planning your decorations now.