How to recycle a Christmas tree

How to recycle a Christmas tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A real Christmas tree is the star of the show during the festive season. But by the new year, it can look worse for wear, and you may be tempted to throw it out. Yet there are plenty of alternatives if you know how to recycle a Christmas tree. The good news is there are plenty of ideas to give your Christmas tree a new lease of life and enjoy it all over again. 

Recycling your tree is a fantastic way to do your bit for the planet. You’ll help to preserve the earth’s precious resources and protect habitats for wildlife, all of which come with a serious feel-good factor. Reusing your Christmas tree is an eco-friendly choice, meaning you can avoid the guilt of sending it to landfill. 

We asked the experts for their top tips on recycling a Christmas tree. There are plenty of simple and creative ideas to inspire you to try something different this year. Whether you want a fuss-free option or a crafty project to get your teeth into, we’ve got you covered. 

Pressed for time? Check out our guide to the best chainsaws (opens in new tab) to make short work of cutting your tree.

How to recycle a Christmas tree

“Recycling your Christmas tree is an excellent way to be more environmentally conscious and reduce waste,” says Mike Futia, gardening expert and the founder of Nerd Lawn. Here are ten ways to inspire you.

1. Plant it

If your tree still has roots, why not give it a new home in your garden? It’s a superb choice if you’re striving to be more sustainable, helping reduce your carbon footprint. 

A fir or spruce adds welcome greenery at a time of year when it can be scarce. Plus, next Christmas, you can decorate it with outdoor lights for a festive feel.

2. Create a wildlife shelter

“If you have a natural area near your home, you can use your Christmas tree as food for the local wildlife. Cut the branches off the tree and place them in an area where birds and small animals can feed on them. The branches can also be used for shelter for birds and other small animals, providing a place to hide from predators,” says Mike.

Don’t forget the trunk. You can transform it into a bug house by drilling holes into the wood. This creates a haven for insects, which makes for a thriving garden.

Family enjoying Christmas dinner

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Get crafty

Fancy more of a project? Try your hand at woodwork and craft your own coasters. They’re a fantastic way to bring a touch of eco-chic into your home. Cut the trunk into thin discs before sanding and sealing the surfaces. 

4. Protect your plants from frost

Winter can be tough for tender plants. Give them added protection from the cold using branches from your Christmas tree. Cut lengths and layer them around plants susceptible to frost. They will act like a blanket, insulating them against the chill.

5. Support climbing plants

Give climbing plants like peas and beans a helping hand with supports. Cut the long branches from your tree and stake them in the ground to create a framework for your climbers.

6. Donate it

If you want to keep the festive spirit alive, consider donating your Christmas tree. “Many cities have a curbside pickup option or drop-off locations. There may be local farms that can use your old tree as feed or bedding for animals,” says Matt Bertulli, an expert in waste management and sustainable composting and the CEO of Lomi (opens in new tab).

7. Compost it 

“If you have the luxury of space, you can compost your tree in the backyard. Over time it will provide nutrients for your soil,” says Matt.

A top tip is to chop up the branches and place them at the bottom of the pile to encourage them to break down quickly.

8. Create wood chips

Another option is to transform your tree into wood chips. “Rent, borrow, or invest in a wood chipper to speed up the degrading process,” says Matt. Use the chips to define walkways or add them to compost.

9. Turn it into mulch

“One option for recycling your Christmas tree is to have it mulched for use in your garden,” says Mike. “Contact a local landscape supplier or a tree recycling facility and have them grind up your tree into mulch. This can be used in garden beds, flower pots, and other landscaping projects. Mulch keeps the soil moist and acts as a natural fertilizer, aiding the growth of plants,” he adds.

Alternatively, strip off the needles and use them as a mulch for acid-loving plants. Think heathers, rhododendrons and azaleas. 

10. Make firewood

Nothing beats relaxing by a cozy fire on a wintery day. “Firewood can heat your home, or you can even use it to create a campfire. Just be sure to store the firewood away from your living area, as the sap and resin are flammable,” says Mike. 

“Cut the tree into manageable pieces and store it in a dry area,” he adds. It can take a while to dry, but it’s worth the wait for that gorgeous pine-scented fire.

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Louise Bond

Louise Bond is a UK-based writer specializing in health and wellbeing. She has over eight years of experience in management within health and care and brings this passion and expertise to her writing. Louise has been published in The Guardian, Live Science, Fit & Well, Tom’s Guide, Planet Mindful, Breathe, and Psychreg. She is at her happiest when she is out in nature, whether that’s on an invigorating hike or pottering in the garden.

With contributions from