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Upcycle that old Christmas Tree

Man carrying out a bare Christmas tree ready for recycling

Well, Christmas is over, and it is time to decide what to do with that fresh-cut Christmas tree that has been sitting in your home for the past several weeks.

Did you know that how you dispose of your tree can have an environmental impact? A live Christmas tree disposed of in a landfill is estimated to generate 35 pounds of CO2. However, if that same tree is recycled or upcycled, that number is cut to less than 8 pounds, which is a 77 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether you recycle or upcycle your tree, you must remove all the decorations. An easy way to remove tinsel is to use the vacuum cleaner and hold the suction wand a few inches from the tree, and whoosh! It sucks the tinsel off the tree while the lights and ornaments are still on the tree. This makes removing the ornaments and lights much easier without tinsel getting tangled in everything.

Now that the tree is undecorated, there are a number of choices in how to repurpose that old tree:

  • Find your nearest Community Christmas Tree recycling program, such as those offered in Champaign, Urbana, and Charleston.
  • If you live in Macon County, take your undecorated tree to either Decatur Composting or the Macon County Composting Facility. Both facilities are located on North Bearsdale Road.
  • If you own a chipper, you can chip the entire tree and use the chips for mulch in your landscape beds.
  • Call your local goat farm and see if they are accepting trees. Goats like to supplement their diets with pine needles, and the condensed tannins in the needles are a natural dewormer for goats.
  • Cut the branches off and use them to protect tender outdoor plants, make wreaths, or stick branches into outdoor planters to create arrangements. Crush the loose needles to create a fragrant potpourri to enjoy in your home.
  • Remember that if you cut the branches of the tree, burn only the trunk in the fireplace. Branches shoot sparks when burning.
  • Have a winter bonfire outdoors and burn the whole tree
  • Upcycle your tree for wildlife by sinking the undecorated tree in a pond for fish habitat, or tying the tree up against a fence and using it as a bird feeder. If you live in the country, an undecorated Christmas tree placed in a fence line or hedgerow can serve as a winter habitat for small mammals and birds.

Give your old Christmas tree a new purpose and do your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by not putting it in the landfill.