Recycling your Christmas tree

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So, it is that time of year when we celebrate the wonder and the magic of Christmas. And what a glorious time of year that it is! But my goodness, this time of year can create a lot of needless waste.

So, as conservationists, we can help alleviate a lot of that waste and reduce our carbon footprint by doing just a few simple things.

Recycle trees

For example, our live Christmas trees. Once these decorated trees have served their purpose, we can give it new life and purpose by using it in other ways.

First, if you have not used old world edible decorations like popcorn and cranberries that wildlife eat or that can decompose, make sure that you have removed all nonedible decorations before you place your trees outside.

If you purchase a tree with the root ball intact, your tree can be planted outside. Just remember to pack the root ball well with soil and sawdust and keep the soil as moist as possible while you enjoy it indoors during the season. And then, as soon as possible after Christmas, plant your tree outside.

Windbreak

Conifers make excellent windbreaks. Wildlife such as deer and rabbits use them as windbreaks and bedding. In large quantities, conifers can be used as windbreaks for livestock.

They can keep the snow from blowing on long country driveways and keep our homes just a bit warmer.

Birdhouse

If you have used decorations that are edible by wildlife, you can set the tree outside. Christmas trees make wonderful bird feeders.

You can add dried fruit, suet, stale bread and bags of seed. The tree will not only be a source of food for birds, but it will also provide them shelter.

If you didn’t use the whole tree as a birdhouse, create one made from the twigs and branches of the tree.

Pond life

If you have a lake or pond, put your tree in it. Christmas trees provide habitats and forage for fish.

If you don’t have a lake or pond on your property, check with your city or township department to see if they offer a drop off location.

Here in Mahoning County, our Solid Waste Management Green Team allows residents to drop-off trees and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife puts the trees in nearby lakes.

Needles

Townships and cities may also offer to take your Christmas trees as they use them for mulch in community parks and gardens.

You can even chip the trees yourself and use the mulch in your gardens or as groundcover.

Just the needles alone make great mulch. Pine tree needles decompose slowly and do not collect mold.

And speaking of pine needles, they make great potpourris and sachets. Store needles in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry area and they will retain their scent for some time.

Wood

Another option for recycling and reusing, is to chop your tree and use it as firewood for your fireplace and/or fire pit. But be careful, the branches can send off sparks.

If burning in your home fireplace, use the Christmas tree firewood to start the fire as the burning pine wood may leave a tarry residue.

Also, you may have to wait a while for the wood to dry, but the scent of a good log fire makes it worth the wait.

For those of you who are a bit more ingenious, there are many woodworking projects that you can do with Christmas tree wood.

Give the gift of coasters or trivets, or plaques next Christmas made from this year’s tree.

You can also use the logs for garden barriers or paths.

Shredding the tree makes a natural path material that is not only aesthetically pleasing but very comfortable to walk on as a hiker — and good for the environment.

Erosion

One of the most important things we do here at our office is address soil and erosion concerns. Christmas trees are extremely effective sand and soil erosion barriers.

While we may not have to worry about the sand here in Ohio, we still want to keep our valuable soil in its place.

Christmas trees can be used along lakes and rivers for shoreline stabilization and sediment management concerns.

Burning

If you are like me, you may find your tree in the back yard after the spring melt. Don’t worry though, you can still use it.

If permitted in your community, you can burn your Christmas tree. The ashes are nutrient and mineral rich and can be spread in your garden thereby saving money on other costly soil amendments.

Whatever you choose to do this season and afterward, do it with goodwill and good intentions for yourself, your neighbor and the environment.

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