Monday, December 27, 2010

Seven Ways to Recycle Christmas Trees

A  pine needle-infused bath is just one
earth-friendly way to reuse your Christmas tree.
About 13 million Christmas trees were cut and sold last year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Unfortunately, many ended up in the holiday trash.

Here are eight better ways to reuse your Christmas tree after the holidays:

1. Recycle It: Many communities around the United States offer recycling programs for properly prepared Christmas trees. First, remove ornaments, tinsel, nails and stands. If your tree is taller than 6 feet, cut in half.

Trees that have been flocked, painted or fireproofed cannot be recycled ... something to keep in mind when you shop for Christmas trees each year.

2. Feed the Birds: Set the tree outside and decorate with orange slices, cranberries or popcorn. The birds will love the winter feast. Be sure to remove all tinsel, lights and decorations first.

3. Chip It: Run Christmas trees through chippers or shredders to make mulch for garden paths. Chips also make effective bulk for compost piles. Always strip trees of decorations first.

4. Mulch: Remove needles and use to mulch garden, conserve water and fight weeds. The needles are especially appropriate for acid-loving plants. Later, use tree to support climbing beans or sweet peas in warmer months.

Photo by doortoriver on Flickr
 5. Protect Wildlife: Consider leaving the tree outside to decompose naturally and provide wildlife cover for birds, rabbits and other small animals. Over time, trees decay and add nutrients to soil.

6. Smell It: Make aromatic portpourri. Combine dry, crumbled needles with cloves, broken cinnamon sticks, dried orange peel and orrisroot. Add a few drops of fir, cedar, pine, orange and/or cinnamon essential oil(s). Keep covered for at least a week so scents blend. Stir regularly. Display in bowls or use as stuffing for scented pillows.

7. Take a Bath: Soaking in a pine needle-infused bath is popular in Europe's Alps. In fact, pine is widely used for muscle pain, rheumatism and circulation problems, according to "The Herb Society of America's Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses," (Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2001).

For a homemade remedy, infuse pine needles in oil. Fill a glass Mason jar with washed needles and sweet almond oil. Close tightly and place in sunny spot. Steep at least three weeks. For stronger oil, steep longer. Use as a massage or bath oil.

Never use trees sprayed with fire retardant or other artificial substances in bath tea or oil. Ingredients listed here are safe for most people, but always check for skin sensitivities before using.

What's your favorite way to recycle a Christmas tree?


  1. I think numbers 5, 6 and 7 are my favs.

  2. Hi Kim and Victoria: Thanks for stopping by and never try 6 and 7 with artificial trees. ;) Happy New Year. Teresa

  3. A warm pine-needle infused bath sounds heavenly on a cold winter day, but I was just imagining the thousands of pine needles one would have to clean up from the tub, until I read futher down about making the homemade remedy! HaHa
    I'm glad I stumbled across your site. Check out my blog as well. Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks, Ramona. As you can see, it's not difficult at all to make a pine needle bath -- and the method has a long history. I look forward to reading your blog too. Happy new year. Teresa

  5. What great tips. I'm embarrassed to say that my tree is still up. I've been loving the great smell when I walk into the room and have been procrastinating taking it down. Looks like I'll be making some potpourri this week.

  6. Isabel: Thanks for stopping by. I couldn't have a live tree this year, but a friend brought by branches for me. So, we reused her tree instead. I adore the smell of live trees. Don't you? Teresa