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How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree: From Mulch-Making to Helping the Planet

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How brown and brittle are thy branches?

Also, your needles are all over the floor, we’d really like to put our living room furniture back in order, and honestly, you’re kind of a bummer without the presents.

Whether you’re a family that tosses your tree the day after New Year’s or one that keeps it around until the twelfth day of Christmas, it’s nearly time to say farewell to your coniferous holiday centerpiece.

If chucking your tree in the garbage or tossing it on the curb seems too harsh an end for the fir that brought light and cheer into your home, and no doubt starred in a few family photos over the last several weeks, there are plenty of alternatives methods for disposing of it, many of which are better for the environment or even serve your community.

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), which is real thing, has a tip sheet available for well-intentioned tree tossers that lays out the most common options for recycling available across the country.

Curbside pick-up for recycling is often available for the two weeks following Christmas, though many providers require trees to be of a certain size and free of ornaments and other decorations. The NCTA suggests checking with your department of public works for details and dates. If pick-ups aren’t an option in your area, many counties also offer free drop-off locations for past-their-prime cut trees.


Tree recycling and mulching programs are growing in popularity, too. Cutting up your own tree and disposing of it as you would other yard waste is an option for those handy with a saw (and in possession of a yard). City dwellers, however, will need to make use of chipping and shredding services, which have become festive events in their own right in some neighborhoods.

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New York City, for example, provides a handy map of “chipping locations” and touts its annual “MulchFest” as a must-see.  You can even take your tree home again as mulch for your garden, or, if available in your area, donate it to a non-profit. The NCTA points out that some Boy Scout troops offer pickup services for a small donation (usually around $5).

Your Christmas tree can serve others long after it’s left your living room. The NCTA site outlines how trees are being used across the country for everything from rebuilding the storm-damaged Louisiana coastline to “animal enrichment” at Busch Gardens and other zoos.

Check out realchristmastrees.com to educate yourself on your wide range of recycling options, and get ready to feel great about saying happy trails to your tree.