Flower Gardening

Live Trees: A Simple Way to Help the Environment

By Sarah Marcheschi

Once the trees are harvested, that acreage will be replanted with more Christmas trees. Now, unless you source your tree from an organic grower, Christmas tree farming does usually require some use of chemicals. But compared to other crops, pesticide application on tree farms is typically low, and in some cases, the trees allow farmers to profit from land that might be considered unsuitable for growing other produce. Buying Christmas trees from local farms is a great way to support the preservation of farmland and sustainable agriculture in your community, and to help protect the green spaces in our landscape in the face of development.

Recycling Your Tree

After the last of the presents has been opened and the angel is nestled back in her box for another year, you have a number of options for repurposing your live tree, or disposing of it in a responsible manner. Many cities offer free curbside recycling to residents, picking up your tree and turning it into compost or mulch. But if you’re feeling creative, there are a number of ways to recycle it right in your own backyard. You could dry the tree out and use it for kindling, or strip its branches off and lay them atop perennial beds, where the boughs will serve as insulation against harsh winter temperatures in the cold months to come. Trees can be chopped up and added to the compost pile where they will be broken down and eventually used to enrich the soil. You could even string your tree with popcorn or homemade edible ornaments, (use ingredients like peanut butter, seeds, berries, and dried fruit), and position it in a corner of the yard to become a makeshift refuge offering welcome winter protection, or perhaps a nesting habitat, for birds and other local wildlife. And depending on where you live, some organizations will even accept donated trees to be used in local restoration projects. The National Wildlife Federation, for example, has in the past used recycled Christmas trees as part of an initiative to prevent wetland loss in Louisiana, and to help control beach erosion in other coastal communities affected by storms and hurricanes.

Whatever you decide to do with your live Christmas tree come December 26, (or mid-January if your family is anything like mine, but that’s a debate for another time), you can feel confident that it will have a positive effect on your ecological community well into the New Year. The potential uses for a recycled Christmas tree are only limited by your imagination, and of course, by the rules governing the town you live in. Your tree will likely go on to feed the soil, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, and on the way it may provide shelter for any number of the wild little creatures that populate our ecosystem. And that is a gift that really does keep giving.

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