8 Ways to Love your Tree After Christmas

If you buy a cut Christmas tree this year instead of a container-grown one, which can be planted back out into the garden after the festive season, then think about how you can save your tree from going to landfill after the festive season, which is costly both for the environment and the taxpayer. 

The UK government estimated in January 2020 that the cost of landfilling eight million trees across the country came to £22 million. Christmas trees are biodegradable, so although they will naturally break down, sending them to do so in landfill creates methane gas which contributes to climate change.

Before you toss this year’s Christmas tree to the curb in January, check out eight ways to get the most out of your old tree!

  • Create a bird feeder by propping your tree up securely outdoors in a sheltered location. String your tree with orange and apple slices, and other bird-friendly goodies. This makes not only a great bird feeder but also a fabulous wintertime habitat for birds, who may even build their nests in the branches.
  • Use cut branches from your tree to protect tender shrubs against winter freezes. Just chop a few branches from the tree and place them over any delicate plants for the winter.
  • If the needles on your tree are still green, strip the tree and store the needles in paper bags or sachets to use as natural room fresheners. 
  • If you have a wood chipper, or can access one, chip the branches to use as a winter mulch around established trees and shrubs, especially around acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas. 
  • If you would like to use your Christmas tree as firewood, it is not a good idea to do so right after you take it down and cut it up. The wood will still be wet and can pose a fire hazard. Chop and stack the cut branches in a dry corner of a garage or shed to let them dry out before using. Most evergreens are heavy sap trees, which means they burn fast and hot, so work best for firewood when used outdoors. 
  • After you have burned the wood from your tree, you can gather the ashes and spread them on your garden. Wood ash contains potassium and lime, which help plants thrive. Do not confuse wood ash with coal ash; coal ash does not offer the same benefits.
  • Compost your Christmas tree. If your compost pile is small, add the tree branches in in smaller lots.
  • Recycle it, either by placing it in your Council garden waste bin for collection or check out local drop off points where the trees will be chipped and shredded. You will probably have to chop the tree into manageable pieces to ensure it fits into your brown bin. In Shetland, Christmas trees deposited at the council’s recycling centre are incinerated to produce hot water for the Lerwick district heating scheme during one of the coldest periods of the year.
  • Donate your Christmas tree to a restoration project to create flood barriers and fight coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels, with old trees used to reinforce sand dunes such as projects at West Sands, St. Andrew’s, or Ayr beach in Ayrshire. Sand dunes provide a natural defence against storm surges and coastal erosion, and protect low-lying areas from coastal flooding. Although they cannot grow their roots back, the branches of the Christmas trees trap sand and help dunes to form, whilst also providing a diverse habitat for wildlife.

According to the Carbon Trust, if you burn your Christmas tree, plant it, have it chipped, or composted, its carbon footprint is reduced by up to 80%. No matter how you use your Christmas tree after the festive period, be sure it is in a way which benefits and sustains the environment.

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