Christmas trees are a sustainable crop that many communities recycle at the curbside when the season is over. Still, their time is not necessarily over. Brilliant new uses have extended the lifespan and the mythic stature of the Christmas tree. The story’s not over when the ornaments come off. Here are five other uses for your Christmas tree after the holidays.
Stop Beach Erosion
Sand dunes are beautiful and fragile and constantly on the move. Erosion is an ongoing problem for beach communities. Wind and water can make entire beaches disappear. Seaside communities have begun to use recycled Christmas trees to preserve their coastlines. The Christmas trees are posted in the sand. The sand fills in around them, and the trees anchor the dunes.
New Jersey and Long Island communities used Christmas trees to restore their beaches after Sandy. Louisiana communities have also used Christmas trees as bulwarks against marshland erosion. If you’re near salt water, call a local conservation agency or the local office of the Department of Environmental Affairs and find out who’s collecting trees.
Provide Natural Habitats
Pine trees also have uses in fresh water. They naturally provide habitats for freshwater creatures when they fall over into lakes and streams. Counties around large inland lakes collect Christmas trees each year for this reason. They give the trees “cement shoes” and sink them to the lake bottom. There, the trees become fish habitats.
You can make a squirrel habitat in your backyard with the top of the tree. Just cut it off, stand it up and fill the branches with peanut butter or suet. The squirrels will love running through it. If you have a large back yard, you can lay the Christmas tree out in one corner and give rabbits a winter home.
Pine needles make a very fine mulch. They dry quickly and decompose slowly. The needles resist mold and moisture. Sprinkle them around plants that provide low ground cover, such as strawberries, to protect them from winter cold. Lay small branches over the garden for insulation. You can stake out young trees with pine-branch poles. Wrap the poles with netting to keep deer from eating the tender leaf buds.
Rent a wood chipper and turn your Christmas tree into mulch. Pine tree mulch will protect plants, suppress weeds between seedbeds, line driveways and walkways and protect trails against erosion. Communities often band together on this project. San Francisco and New York both collect and chip Christmas trees every year. The wood chips are used in parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and gardens. Urban gardeners can bring home a bag of city mulch.
Have a Bonfire
Christmas trees go up in flames easily, especially when they dry out. Make use of this potentially dangerous characteristic by having an outdoor bonfire. Dig a fire pit in the back yard. Pick a clear night with a full moon. Throw the Christmas tree in the fire pit, and add logs. The dry pine will start the fire nicely.
Pine branches can also be used as fire starters for fireplaces and woodstoves. Pine is rich in flammable resins, and a few branches will light easily. Use only dry, seasoned wood as firewood. Seasoned wood produces less creosote, which builds up in chimneys and stovepipes and can cause chimney fires.
Christmas trees are wondrous and miraculous sources of delight in the darkest months of the year. It’s nice to know that your Christmas tree can be sent off to do more good in the world, after it’s done lighting up your holidays.
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