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Not Just a Pretty Tree: 5 Ways to Re-Use Your Christmas Tree Post-Holiday

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Not Just a Pretty Tree: 5 Ways to Re-Use Your Christmas Tree Post-Holiday

December 23, 2022

These days we are all trying to do our best for the planet. We’re trying to make better decisions and cut back on wasting resources. Sometimes that’s really hard when it comes to long-standing traditions, though. A Christmas tree—whether fresh cut or artificial—is a beloved must for some, but even if you choose to go with a real tree (always better, in our book, than a fake tree that will end up in the landfill at the end of its life), there is an environmental impact.

To lessen that impact, make sure to participate in your town’s tree recycling program after the holidays if it has one. (Municipalities will often pick up trees and turn them into mulch.) Or, upcycle your fresh-cut tree at home. Below, five ways you can reuse your Christmas evergreen. Admittedly, these are small gestures, but shifting your thinking on how single-use objects can be repurposed for more than the original use can have a ripple effect.

1. Provide shelter for birds.

A Yellow-throated Warbler perches on a pine bough. Photograph by Eric Ozawa, from Ask the Expert: Edwina von Gal, on How to Help the Birds.
Above: A Yellow-throated Warbler perches on a pine bough. Photograph by Eric Ozawa, from Ask the Expert: Edwina von Gal, on How to Help the Birds.

Give the winter birds a place to shelter from the cold and hide from predators in winter. After you remove all the decorations from the tree, bring it outside and prop it up in a corner of your yard, preferably near the bird feeder. This provides cover from predators, especially if your yard has no evergreens, and provides shelter during winter storms.

2. Deck the garden.

Return the tree to the earth, part one: Snip off the boughs and place them, upside down, over your beds. Placing them upside down forms a protective layer over plants that lets air and water circulate. In the spring, the branches give space for tender plants to grow but keeps them sheltered from late frosts and heavy snows.

3. Improve the soil.

Above: Photograph by Jo Zimny Photos via Flickr.

Return the tree to the earth, part two: Chip your tree and use it as a soil amendment on your beds. The chips will start to break down over the winter and add organic matter to the soil. Some towns may offer to do this for all the spent Christmas trees by collecting and chipping them, and offering the chips for free to residents.

4. Make fragrant sachets.

Justine used fallen balsam branches to make these updates on a New England classic; see the full DIY in our new book Remodelista in Maine. Photograph by Justine Hand from Remodelista in Maine.
Above: Justine used fallen balsam branches to make these updates on a New England classic; see the full DIY in our new book Remodelista in Maine. Photograph by Justine Hand from Remodelista in Maine.

Collect the pine needles and place them in a pouch to remind you of Christmas year round. These make nice gifts too. Make sure the material for the pouch is a tightly woven material or there will be more ouch than pine scent.

5. Drink it.

Above: A concoction of a pine needles, water, and sugar for pine needle soda. Photograph by Pascal Baudar for The Wildcrafting Brewer, from The Wildcrafting Brewer: A Guide for Botanical Alchemists.

Yup, you can make cocktails using your Christmas tree. You can also use it in seasonings. Did you know that a chemical in the conifers trees is used in imitation vanilla? And that spruce tea is high in vitamin C and pretty tasty? Consider extending the Christmas season further by eating and drinking your tree! It goes without saying that you should know your trees. Not all Christmas greenery is safe to eat. If you’re not 110% sure, do not eat it. Also trees can be sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, and even paint, so please do your research to make sure what you’re consuming is safe to consume.

For more on Christmas trees, see:

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