Ten creative ways to recycle Christmas trees for a planet-friendly end to the celebrations.  Plus, what to do with potted trees.

A Jolly Festive Exclusive
Bare Christmas Tree In Room Near Window

All good things come to an end and whether it happens on Boxing Day, the twelfth night, or somewhere in between, the day will come when you wonder what to do with your beloved Christmas tree.

Artificial Christmas trees can be neatly folded and safely packed away until next December – and that’s an absolute must to make sure you get both your money’s worth and to ensure the carbon impact of choosing plastic is balanced. We’re looking at 10 years to achieve the same carbon footprint as a real tree. 

For real Christmas trees, we challenged ourselves to find out all of the available options and to understand which is the most sustainable way to dispose of a tree. After all, Christmas trees are special, help us celebrate and must be appreciated. 

The right way to dispose of your tree all depends on the sort of Christmas tree you invited to spend the festive season with you. Here’s 10 ways to reuse or recycle your Christmas tree:

1. Return Your Tree Rental

The easiest solution for farewelling your Christmas tree is most definitely to return it to the company you rented it from. Christmas tree rentals are a pretty new phenomenon but one that’s growing in popularity and what a gorgeous idea it is. Companies like Green Elf Trees based in London rent pot-grown Christmas trees, delivering them to your door right across the UK and collecting again after the big day. 

2. A Year In Your Garden

Your pot-grown Christmas tree can be moved to your garden where it can live and breathe the natural air until next Christmas when you can reuse it. Your tree will need to be re-potted every couple of years to ensure it has plenty of room to grow.

3. Plant your tree

Your pot-grown Christmas tree could also be planted in your garden to become a permanent fixture. Hannah has some of her previous trees now providing summer shade in her garden. And we visited a garden this December that had years of Christmas trees lined up at the bottom of their garden, all differing in size. Could you create your very own Christmas tree farm? Imagine them all lit with fairy lights year after year.

4. Turn your tree into wood chips

If you selected a traditional cut tree without roots, it obviously cannot continue to grow as a tree or be reused again but there are many options for recycling it. Turning your tree to wood chips that can be used as mulch and reabsorbed by the earth looks to be the most environmentally friendly option for cut trees. Greg Foot investigated the carbon impact of real and artificial Christmas trees, and chipping your tree certainly comes out as the lowest carbon footprint of all.

If you can get your tree shredded then you can reuse the wood chippings in your garden as path ways and under trampolines. 

If you don’t have access to a shredder, consider cutting up the branches yourself (the pieces won’t be as small but can still do the job) and then slicing the trunk into 5-10cm pieces to use as a verge for a path or flowerbed.

5. Make Use Of Your Tree

Gardeners World suggests using every part of your tree. The wood for mulch, pine needles for mulch for acid-loving plants and cut branches to train climbing plants.  Plus, during the colder winter months, those needle-covered branches can make a great eco-friendly insulator for growing plants – simply place larger branches over the plants to protect from frost.

6. Turn your tree into a bird feeder

Cut the branches back towards the trunk to leave small sturdy perches on which birds can rest and you can hang food. Position your tree securely and let the wildlife take ownership of their new home. 

If you’d prefer something slightly smaller, try cutting the tree (trunk and branches) into chunks to stack and create a bug hotel or wildlife shelter for smaller animals.

7. Jolly Festive your tree!

Dispose of your tree in true Jolly Festive create and recycle mode.

  • Make pine needle vodka – oh yes – it’s really possible and joyously delicious.
  • Saw a slice from the trunk of your tree, sand it and reuse it as a drink coaster
  • Take further slices to turn into craft projects through the year and even to make next year’s decorations.  Jo has done this for some years now and has a whole collection of her previous Christmas trees hung as decorations on her current one – and yes they do all still smell of Christmas tree.  
  • You could use some of the bendier branches to make a door wreath for January or one as a bird feeder.

8. Recycle your tree with your green waste

Most local councils offer a Christmas tree recycling program whereby they collect and recycle your tree or offer a local drop off point.  Be sure not put your real Christmas tree in your regular non-recyclable rubbish waste bin.  If you subscribe to a garden waste service, you can cut it up and add the tree to that.  Otherwise, check for details of your nearest Christmas tree recycling collection or drop off service.

9. Find your local treecycle

Many charities and hospices around the country offer a treecycling program whereby they will collect your Christmas tree and dispose of it for a small donation. They are generally then composted for use in agriculture. Google to find your local treecycling service.  Alternatively, you can register your tree with Just Helping – a UK charity which is growing a nationwide treecycling collection service.

10. Avoid the garden bonfire

Whilst it’s always an option to use the wood as firewood for your firepit or log burner, burning your Christmas tree releases carbon back into the atmosphere and is therefore not ideal.

Christmas may be over, but before you farewell your tree, consider how you can give your tree a new lease of life. Whether that be using it for the birds and wildlife in your garden, as mulch for your plants, for crafting pursuits, or to recycle it en masse via your local council.  There’s plenty of options for how to recycle Christmas trees.  What do you typically do with yours?

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