The presents are opened, Santa’s cookies are eaten, but the tree remains. Now what?
Experts say there are plenty of ways to put Christmas trees to good use after the holidays, so don’t just trash them.
“What we always recommend to people is that they recycle it somehow, and there’s a number of different options,” said Bert Cregg, an associate professor of horticulture and forestry at Michigan State University who focuses on nursery crops and Christmas trees.
One of the best options, he said, is one that’s already available in many towns and cities: Trees are turned into mulch, which is distributed on public land or given to those who want to use it.
New York City runs one such program, using the resulting chips in parks, institutions and community gardens.
“That’s actually a really nice wildlife erosion control, and it’s an organic nutrient supply to our parks,” said Bill Ulfelder, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy, whose mission is to protect ecologically important lands.
New Yorkers can even watch the process up close by bringing their trees to certain parks, where they may also choose to take the resulting mulch.
Some towns and cities offer other options. When Mr. Ulfelder was young, for example, his grandparents lived in a Massachusetts community where old trees were used to rebuild and support sand dunes at local beaches.
The same tactic was used in parts of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy eroded as much as three to five feet of beach elevation, an official said at the time.
Elsewhere, trees are dropped to the bottom of lakes, creating artificial environments for fish.
“We place them on wooden pallet habitat structures to diversify the habitat, or sink just the trees themselves,” Ron Brooks, director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release last year describing the practice.
The trees can also be stood up outside as makeshift habitats for birds, chipped for natural material to line hiking trails, or even replanted, if initially purchased with the roots intact.
Given the many ways to recycle your tree, experts said that anyone concerned about the environment can be sure to avoid disposing of it in a way that contributes little back to the earth.
“The main thing we try to get people to do is not have it end up in a landfill,” Dr. Cregg said.