A second life for the Christmas tree: 5 ideas

The new year has barely begun and most Christmas trees are already being collected and disposed of by the city. Actually, it’s a pity, because the beautifully decorated trees could actually remain standing for a while, right? If you don’t want to give away your Christmas tree yet and would rather recycle it yourself, then this article is just the thing for you!

The Christmas tree: A short pleasure

For many people, the Christmas or Christmas tree is as much a part of Christmas as the air they breathe. Although there are many variants, such as deceptively real-looking trees made of plastic, the freshly cut tree is still the most popular here in Europe: just under 30 million each were sold in 2018 and 2019. The municipal waste disposal companies and in some places also the fire department usually collect the trees again as early as the beginning of January. To do this, you can usually just put them outside with the residual or organic waste garbage can. However, at this time the trees usually still look great and not everyone wants to part with them so early, after all, depending on religion or even personal family tradition, the Christmas season actually extends into January or even February.

Christmas over – and then?

Now you can certainly ask the question, where this huge amount of sorted out trees disappears. In fact, most of the time they simply end up in a waste disposal facility (i.e. landfill) and are burned for heat and electricity.

Good to know: When burned for energy, they replace fossil fuels in a sustainable way, releasing no additional CO2 in the process, only that which was already stored in the trees.

There are also many places where the trees are shredded/chipped and then processed into very high quality compost. Of course, there are also trees that are left over and not sold at all. If they come from organic farms, they are often donated to animal parks or zoos where they serve as a tasty snack or toy for the animals. Some communities also collect the Christmas trees for the Easter bonfire and are open to donations if asked.

A second life for the Christmas tree: 5 ideas
Old tree: great nibbling fun for all

Christmas tree recycling

If you don’t want to part with your Christmas tree early, we have good news for you: old Christmas trees can be used in a variety of ways, as the examples above tell us. If the tree is to be used in the garden (compost, mulch, etc.) or turned into a toy or animal feed, care should be taken to buy an organically certified specimen already at the time of purchase. Trees from conventional agriculture can be contaminated with harmful pesticides.

Don’t forget to decoct!

Regardless of whether you recycle or dispose of the tree, it must be properly decorated! Remove in advance in any case any form of jewelry (tinsel, baubles, chains, …) and accessories. Please be really thorough, because many decorative elements are made of plastic or glass. These, in turn, often contain metals and colors that can enter the environment and are toxic to humans, animals and plants.

  1. in the garden: compost, mulch, or frost protection?

Old Christmas trees can be further recycled in a variety of ways right in the garden. Waste management companies are already showing us a great way: They compost the trees. The rule is: the finer the wood is chopped up before composting, the better the rotting process will run. Small and delicate trees can be shredded with a saw and secateurs, but a shredder makes the job much easier and is also the method of choice for large trees. Check with your neighborhood or nurseries if you don’t have your own equipment: often you can rent one or someone is kind enough to lend it to you. Everything you need to know about composting can be found in this article.

Since it often doesn’t get really cold and frosty in our latitudes until after New Year’s, the old Christmas tree can also be used wonderfully for mulching and as additional protection against the cold. Especially after the stormy November and December, it may be necessary to touch up or renew the protection in some places in the garden. You can simply saw off the branches and twigs and place them on the corresponding plants or cover the root areas of sensitive plants with them. Especially for young and cold-sensitive trees, you can tie the fir branches around their trunks with a string or place them around the trunks. In this article we have summarized for you what you need to bear in mind when mulching. Also interesting: how to properly protect potted plants and co. from the cold.

A second life for the Christmas tree: 5 ideas
Roses are happy to have frost protection, but also a bed of herbs can be well covered with the loose material
  1. snail protection included

Another plus for recycling your own Christmas tree in the garden: the branches are a great protection against snails! They don’t like the intense smell and prefer to steer clear of the fir branches. If you decide to mulch with the branches or use them as cold protection, you already have the snail protection included. Otherwise, you can simply place the branches around the beds to protect seedlings from the slimy buggers in the spring.

  1. firewood

If you have a fireplace or a fire pit in your garden, you can use the wood for burning. However, it must dry for some time in advance. No problem, because the next winter will come soon enough and even in March there can be frost and the fireplace can be started. In fact, conifers have a rather short burning time, but make very good fireplace lighter because of the resin they contain.

  1. fun and games for your four-legged friends

If you have purchased a tree from organic farming, you can turn it into a great play element for your animal friends. The de-needled branches are sure to make a great play trophy for your dog, and our pets are guaranteed to enjoy sharpening their claws on a bare trunk (and this time they’re even allowed to destroy the Christmas tree to their heart’s content). Cut/saw off the old twigs and branches and pick out the ones you can use; perhaps as a climbing branch or perch for the birds in the garden? Large trees also make good climbing elements for cats or rodents, whether indoors or out. The possibilities are almost endless; you might even find a great tutorial on the internet to build a cat tree or climbing elements yourself.

  1. is it art or can it go?

Because the wood of conifers like fir and spruce is quite soft, it’s particularly well-suited for carving, even for beginners. Speaking of carving: If you have an artistic streak, are crafty or want to try your hand, now is your best opportunity, since you don’t have to invest in new material and the old tree would have ended up in the trash anyway.