It’s hard to argue with Andy Williams when he blithely declares Christmas to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Nowhere is that wintry wonder summed up better than in the universally beloved symbol of the Christmas tree.
The traditional evergreen fir, with its rich greenery, delightful fragrance, and dazzling decorations, can lend much-needed warmth and light to any home, even during the coldest, darkest months.
Once the magic of the holidays has passed, however, many homeowners find themselves pestered by a puzzling question: what do you do with a Christmas tree after it’s served its seasonal purpose?
How to Dispose of a Christmas Tree
When it comes to offloading an unwanted Christmas tree, you’ve got options.
Here are a few of the best methods available to you, along with advice for keeping your home—and your loved ones—safe during your end-of-the-year festivities.
See if You’re Eligible for Curbside Pickup
If you live in a city that provides brush collection services, the easiest way to ditch your tired old Tannenbaum is to simply set it out in front of your house.
Many municipalities have Public Service or waste management departments that round up things like brush and leaves on a weekly basis.
These authorities frequently accept entire Christmas trees for a few weeks after Christmas has concluded.
Officials typically ask that the trees be cut into small pieces and bundled together to make things less complicated for the employees tasked with the collection.
Not all municipalities offer brush pick-up, so be sure to check to see if your town or city does before you go to the trouble of dumping your tree.
Take Your Tree to a Recycling Facility
Don’t have the luxury of waiting for curbside pickup? Your next best bet is to haul your tree to the nearest recycling center equipped to deal with so-called “green waste” like Christmas trees.
Type in “Christmas tree recycling” into your favorite search engine plus the name of your town or city to pull up a list of waste disposal locations near you.
When you find one that fits the bill, load up your tree and hit the road.
These sorts of places sometimes have drop-off sites that stay open 24 hours a day, giving you the freedom to swing by whenever it’s most convenient for you.
If your local facility isn’t open ‘round the clock, though, or if you think you might need assistance unloading your tree, it’s a good idea to visit during the facility’s regular hours of operation.
Ask a Nonprofit to Come and Get It
Certain nonprofit organizations, such as scout troops and ecology clubs, carry out Christmas tree collections in exchange for modest donations as a form of fundraising.
These groups often make house calls, meaning all you have to do is pick up your phone and reach out to a participating organization and they’ll take care of the rest.
Not only will you be unburdening yourself, but you’ll also be making it possible for members to do things like buy new uniforms, gain access to resources, and plan events that benefit the community.
If you have a few extra dollars to spare but not a lot of time, paying a nonprofit to remove your tree is a conscientious alternative to doing it yourself.
It’s a gesture that certainly won’t go unappreciated.
Look into Christmas Tree Collection Events in Your Area
It’s common for communities of all sizes to hold special Christmas tree collection events following Yuletide’s end.
These events are usually held in convenient centralized locations like public parks and popular downtown gathering spots.
Their purpose is to help homeowners scrap their unwanted Christmas trees with minimal effort or imposition.
You just show up, dump your tree, and get back to your busy, regularly scheduled programming.
A quick search should be able to tell you whether there are any such events taking place in your neck of the woods.
Make sure you and your tree are there when things get underway. If you’re lucky, there may even be refreshments.
Turn Your Tree Into Mulch
If you own a wood chipper and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, it may be more expedient for you to chuck in your tree and convert it into fresh-smelling, usable mulch.
You can do all sorts of things with fir mulch: blanket garden beds, line footpaths, smother intrusive weed patches.
Pine needles, meanwhile, make excellent ground cover and compost.
More generally, mulch is excellent for controlling soil issues like erosion and compaction. It also does a tremendous job of helping things grow, thanks to its nutrient content and moisture-retaining properties.
People pay top dollar for high-quality fir and pine mulch at gardening stores. With the right equipment, you can make your own in just a few minutes.
Find Other Practical Uses for Your Tree
Christmas trees aren’t just top-notch mulch material. They’re also fantastic fodder for firewood, gardening projects, or even arts and crafts projects.
For example, you could stick your tree out in your yard and hang old food items that double as enticing bird feeders (think strings of stale popcorn or pine cones smeared with peanut butter and birdseed) from its branches.
Another idea is to strip your tree of its bark, split it up, and use the pieces as stakes for growing tomatoes, beans, and other varieties of produce.
Amazingly, many evergreens are even capable of regenerating themselves and growing again when properly planted or potted, severed root systems and all.
If yours doesn’t, it’s not a total loss—the thickly shrouded limbs of a once-living fir or pine can make a perfect protective natural habitat for itinerant birds, squirrels, and similar critters.
When to Get Rid of Your Christmas Tree
It’s tempting to want to leave your tree up well past the Christmas cut-off, and many homeowners do just that.
But safety experts are quick to point out that this isn’t advisable, and for good reason.
Christmas trees are one of the biggest fire hazards you can have in your living space.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees are responsible for an average of 160 house fires every year in the U.S.
It’s their unique biology and chemical composition that makes them such an unseen risk.
Firs, pines, and other evergreens are full of naturally flammable oils and resins. As they age and dry out, some of these fire-causing substances start to deteriorate or disappear.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the process, the wood itself also ends up losing most of its moisture.
Needless to say, dry wood and traces of flammable oils are a potentially disastrous mix.
To drive that point home, consider the fact that a Christmas tree that’s past its prime can go from festive to fully engulfed in a matter of seconds.
Tree fires are capable of causing untold amounts of damage to your home and can easily spread and take over if not extinguished right away—assuming you’re even home to notice.
To avoid accidents, it’s recommended that you say so long to your tree once it begins to dry out.
More specifically, you want to watch for its needles to begin turning brown or taking on a rough, brittle texture.
It’s at this point that the tree will be at its most combustible. The longer it remains in your home, the more of a danger it will pose.
If you need further convincing, just think of all the trouble you’ll be saving yourself in the form of daily waterings, pet-related mishaps, and invasions by mites, aphids, and other creepy crawlies.
The Tradition of the Twelfth Night
Interestingly enough, there’s also an age-old evangelical case for discarding your Christmas tree in a timely fashion.
Ancient Christian customs surrounding the holiday of the Twelfth Night hold that all Yuletide ornamentation, including the tree, should be put away no later than the last of the twelve days of Christmas.
Depending on the denomination to which you subscribe, the Twelfth Night falls on either January 5th or 6th. After that, it’s considered bad luck to have decorations around.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a religious person, this seems like a sensible timeframe in which to jettison your tree.
That said, it’s perfectly fine to hold off until New Year’s Day or even shortly after, and any pragmatic clergyman would probably agree.
If bringing a freshly cut Christmas tree home is one of the best parts of the holiday season, figuring out what to do with it later has got to be one of the worst.
Make things easy on yourself this year by kicking your tree to the curb, carting it off to a recycling facility or community collection event for disposal, or finding a safe and useful means of repurposing it.
No matter which method you end up going with, it will no doubt beat trying to explain to your relatives why you still have your Christmas tree up at your Easter get-together.
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