Saturday, December 27, 2008

Save-It Saturday: Recycling the Christmas Tree

Ok, I will save the which tree, real or fake, is better for the environment debate for next year, but for this year, I will discuss ways to dispose of a live (real) tree. Since the trees are organic in nature, they will break down on their own in a landfill anyway, but there are more environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of them. Before doing any of the following things though, you first need to remove ALL decorations (this means each and every strand of tinsel) and should remove any plastic bags, wires, nails, etc as well.

- Probably the most economical way to recycle your tree is to have it mulched or chipped. Where I live, this is a free service offered by many towns. The resulting mulch is then free for residents to use in their gardens and plant beds. It is important to note, if you plan to use the mulch in your plant beds, let it decompose first. Otherwise, as it decomposes the plants and the mulch will be competing for the nitrogen in the soil. They can also be used in a compost pile, but they do take a while to compost.

- See if your city or town offers tree recycling. Chances are they will do the same as above, but use the mulch or chippings in city parks and trails.

- Look into donating the tree to a wildlife refuge or using it in your own yard as a place for small animals and birds to take cover from predators and harsh weather. You can either simply toss it on its side or put the entire thing outside in a stand, allowing it to be used as it would have been naturally used. You can then mulch or chip it in the spring.

- Drop it into a pond or lake (check local laws first) that is stocked with fish. The fish will use the tree for cover as well and a safe place to locate food.

- Use the wood to build a bird house.

- Cut the branches off and then cut into logs for a campfire. It is not recommended to use unseasoned pine logs in a fireplace though because a resin can build up and start a chimney fire. Of course you can season the pine logs by allowing them to sit outside for at least one year to dry out the sap. Then they are safe for burning in a fireplace. The needles and branches can be allowed to dry out for use as kindling and tinder for campfires as well.

However you choose to dispose of your tree, please be sure it is safe and that it does not violate any local laws. Any of the above ways are great for keeping the trees out of the landfills. While they will eventually decompose, they do take a long time and take up valuable landfill space.

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