How to Dispose of Christmas Trees Sustainably

Evelyn Long

Jan 1, 2024

forest of pine trees with sunset in background to dispose of Christmas trees

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With the holidays wrapping up, many people are wondering how to dispose of Christmas trees without simply tossing them in the trash. There are all kinds of ways you can get a used Christmas tree off your hands that are better for people and the environment. Whether you have a live tree or a fake tree, here are the top ways to dispose of it sustainably. 

How to Dispose of Live Christmas Trees

Live Christmas trees are great – they bring a comforting pine smell into your living room and they don’t have the odd plastic texture of a fake tree. Unfortunately, they only last one year. So, you need to know how to dispose of Christmas trees properly if you go the live tree route. 

The only exception to this is live trees with the root ball intact. Most live trees are simply cut off at the trunk. However, if you can find a Christmas tree farm that offers trees with the root ball, you can actually replant the tree after the holidays. This isn’t possible with most live Christmas trees, but luckily there are other options. 

Tree Recycling

The most sustainable way to dispose of live Christmas trees is tree recycling. Most towns have at least one organization nearby that offers this service. Some boroughs even have their own tree recycling where you can simply leave your tree out on the curb for pickup with your regular trash. Check your local recycling and garbage collection organizations’ websites for more info. 

There are also businesses that can recycle your tree for you. Usually recycled trees are cut up for use in mulch and other wood products. It’s an easy way to get your tree off your hands. Just make sure you remove all of your decorations first! 

Pro tip: If you do leave your tree out for curbside pickup, it’s often a good idea to cut it up into smaller pieces if possible. This makes the tree easier for the pickup personnel to handle. 

Chop Up For Mulch, Fire Wood or Yard Decor

You can also recycle your live Christmas tree yourself by chopping it up. You can turn the trunk into logs for firewood and cut up the branches and bark and make mulch. If you do make firewood, save it for outdoor fires only. Pine wood has a lot of resin in it, which means it creates high amounts of soot and creosote, which are bad for your chimney and may be dangerous indoors. 

Depending on your yard situation, you can also use your tree for outdoor decor. For example, hollowed out chunks of tree trunk can make great bird houses. If you cut the trunk into thin pieces, you can even make coasters out of it! 

Donate to a Local Nature Conservancy or Park

If you’re wondering how to dispose of Christmas trees without cutting them up yourself, there is one other option. Some nature conservancies and parks use tree trunks as barriers for maintaining the sides of hiking trails. Felled trees can also be useful as natural fish habitats in ponds and lakes. 

So, check online to see if there is a nature conservation or land management organization near you. They may be willing to take your live tree off your hands if you offer it for free. However, keep in mind, these organizations won’t be able to replant most live Christmas trees since they are cut off at the trunk, leaving no root ball attached. 

How to Dispose of Fake Christmas Trees

If you’re wondering how to dispose of Christmas trees, you may have some difficulty if your tree is artificial. The vast majority of fake Christmas trees are not made of recyclable plastic, especially if they are covered in artificial snow. Luckily, there are a few things you can do with an artificial tree you don’t want to use anymore. 

Donate It

The easiest way to dispose of fake Christmas trees is by donating them. There are a variety of businesses and organizations that will happily accept used Christmas trees for decoration or resale. For example, nursing homes, hospitals, schools and churches can often use donated trees. 

One great place to donate your used artificial Christmas tree is the Christmas Tree Project, an organization that gives trees to families who can’t afford one. 

You can also give your tree to a donation center like Goodwill, where someone else can buy it. Similarly, if you don’t mind waiting for warmer weather, you can save your artificial Christmas tree to sell at your next yard sale or garage sale. 

Repurpose It For Holiday Wreaths

It’s more difficult to use artificial Christmas trees for crafts than live trees, but it’s certainly possible! One fun way to repurpose your old fake tree is by turning it into wreaths or garlands. 

Simply cut the branches off of the plastic or metal “trunk”. Fake tree branches usually have a flexible wire core, which is perfect for bending or weaving into a wreath. You can also cut the leafy parts of the branches off and glue them to a wooden base for the wreath instead. 

Dispose of Your Used Tree Sustainably 

If you’re wondering how to dispose of Christmas trees without simply throwing them in the trash, you have a lot of alternatives. Live trees are especially easy to repurpose or recycle, so whenever possible, it’s often more sustainable to opt for a live tree. However, an artificial tree lasts longer and there are ways you can reuse it or donate it afterward. Overall, recycling and donation are usually the most sustainable ways to get rid of an old Christmas tree at the end of the holiday season.

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