No matter if you swiftly put away your holiday décor or like to keep those lights shining well into February, the time will come to say goodbye to your Christmas tree. As the number one producer of Christmas trees in the nation, Oregon has a special fondness for this holiday tradition. In 2017, 300 tree farms in Oregon sold 4.7 million Christmas trees! These farms brought an impressive 120.6 million dollars to the state economy. The benefits don’t have to stop there – consumers can enhance the health of their community by recycling their Christmas trees.
Curbside disposal like regular household waste is the norm for many families. In some rural areas, adding the Christmas tree to the backyard burn pile is an option. Disposing of Christmas trees this way undoes many of the environmental benefits trees provide while growing. Like all trees, Christmas trees remove the climate-warming gas CO2 from the air. Burning your tree releases that stored carbon right back to where it came from. When dumped in a landfill, Christmas trees are removed from natural systems that can use it for many productive purposes. Instead of making your tree a single-use product, keep its benefits going by recycling.
Create Fish Habitat
Woody debris, like fallen trees and limbs, is an important component to aquatic ecosystems. It provides food for microorganisms and benefits bigger animals higher up the food chain. Small fish will flock to this debris as it provides reliable food, shelter, and safety from predators. Humans often remove vegetation when they alter natural areas, so sunken debris isn’t replaced as often as it needs to be to provide consistent habitat. Loss of aquatic habitat is a big reason for the region’s salmon decline. Learn more about ways to improve stream habitat.
Since 2011, the Tualatin Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited has hosted a Christmas tree collection event to support stream restoration projects. Putting trees in streams and lakes requires more than chucking them into the water. Experts choose the location carefully and have methods for ensuring the trees don’t become hazards or float away. This year’s event is canceled due to Covid-19, so you’ll have to wait until next year to participate. Luckily, there are other ways to put that tree to good use!
Make a Giant Bird Feeder
If your yard or community garden has space, give your Christmas tree a second life by decorating it with edible ornaments for wildlife. Since this tree will be moved outside, use a tree stand with stakes and rope to secure it against the elements. Once secured, decorate it with a variety of tasty ornaments that will provide food for birds and small mammals during the long winter. Don’t forget to remove all tinsel and artificial decorations that could harm wildlife.
Check out these links for edible ornament ideas:
Use it to Protect Your Soil
Covering soil is an important step for conserving soil health during the winter. If not protected, valuable topsoil can be lost or degraded by prolonged rainfall. Raindrops can compact the soil, making it difficult for plants to establish and limiting the amount of water that seeps back into the ground. Heavy rain can also wash your soil off the property and into waterways – transporting pollution along the way. Christmas trees are a great source of organic matter that can be used to protect, and even enhance, your soil.
Converting your tree into useable products ensures the tree’s nutrients are put back into the earth and will be used again by other plants. Break your tree into small pieces by sawing off limbs and then shake, shake, shake it to collect the needles. Sprinkle the needles over bare soil and then place the pieces of limbs on top. Not only will this Christmas tree blanket protect the soil, but it will also provide shelter for small critters and will eventually break down into nutrient-rich topsoil. If you don’t have a yard or access to a garden, you can donate your tree to be turned into mulch and compost for other people. Many non-profits host collection events that will arrange for your tree to be chipped or turned into compost. There are many private companies that will take your tree for a small fee. Use this search tool to find a find a recycler near you!
- 16 types of Christmas trees – infographic
- Watch a Christmas tree harvest with helicopters
- Get an underwater look at Christmas tree habitat
- Cooking with Christmas trees
 Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association: http://www.pnwcta.org/news-events/facts-at-a-glance/