4 Ways to Upcycle Your Christmas Tree

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Did you know that the famous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City is annually donated to create lumber to build Habitat for Humanity homes? If such a huge tree can be hauled away to do good, you can do the same with your live tree!

Often, leaving your spent Christmas tree on the curb means it will end up in a landfill, which isn't ideal because landfill space is finite and landfills emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a plastic tree, try to use it year after year to save money and avoid waste concerns. If you have a live tree, there are many ways to upcycle it at the end of the season!

1. Enrich Your Garden

One of the easiest ways to upcycle your Christmas tree is to keep it in your own backyard. Borrow a wood chipper (making sure you know how to operate it properly) and create your own mulch out of your browning tree. Use the needles as mulch around acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons.

You can also prop up some of the tree branches over shorter perennials to protect them from snow. Place the tree stump in the garden as a base for a birdbath or a stand for a potted plant. Lining up a few stumps in a row can make a fun stepping path for the kids. You could also arrange thinner slices of stumps into a pretty walking path.

stepping stones made of tree stump

2. Create Valentine's Day Crafts

Once the December holidays are over, Valentine's Day is right around the corner! Get ready for the next holiday by creatively using materials from your tree. I am really loving this DIY stick heart wall art from Place of My Taste, and it makes the perfect Valentine's Day decoration or gift. For another piece of decor, try making a twig heart wreath with these instructions from Me and My Shadow.

For a personal Valentine's Day present, have your kids glue sticks or pine needles from your Christmas tree onto cheap photo frames (or just rectangular pieces of cardboard). Then add photos of your family and gift the frames to your loved ones.

3. Transform into Household Goods

If you aren't sure what to do with Christmas tree parts, borrow a table saw (or use your own) to cut the trunk and thicker branches into slices. Depending on the sizes, the slices can be used as coasters, centerpiece bases, or plate chargers to complete a rustic table setting. You can cut a slit into a thicker block to create a card holder or photo stand.

Have the kids paint smaller, thinner slices to make next year's Christmas tree ornaments, or transform the wood pieces into Valentine's Day hearts. Last year, we cut branches into outdoor stacking blocks to play with in the summer. The blocks were all different thicknesses and lengths, and the kids loved stacking them to make buildings, roads, and bridges. When using any woodworking equipment, make sure to be cautious and keep the kids a safe distance away until the tools are turned off or put away.

tree stump cut into centerpiece decoration

4. Restore a Habitat

Many communities are doing really innovative things with spent Christmas trees! The National Christmas Tree Association provides details about projects across the country. For example, if you live in Alabama or New Jersey, you can donate your tree to rebuild sand dunes on beaches. Residents of Illinois can donate their tree to make habitats for herons.

Does your state have a dedicated Christmas tree recycling program? If not, contact your municipality's department of public works or waste collector to ask about hauling away your tree to create mulch for your community spaces. While it would be great to use the tree in your own home, remember that recently browned trees are not ready to be burned in your fireplace or wood stove. Wood must cure for a season before it's safe to burn.

How will you reuse your live Christmas tree after the season is over? We'd love to see your creative recycling or upcycling ideas on Twitter!

Image Sources: Flickr | Flickr | Pexels

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Why It's Good

By upcycling or recycling your spent Christmas tree, you are doing good for the planet and setting a great example for future generations. Keeping your tree out of the landfill is great to begin with, but making something valuable out of it is even better for you and for the environment!