You can get weeks more of enjoyment from your tree and help the birds by leaving the strings of popcorn and cranberries right where they are and moving the tree, stand and all, to your garden. Hang slices of oranges and pieces of suet – the suet can also be smeared into the branches. Pine cones filled with peanut butter and bird seed can also be hung from the branches. When the birds are done with the tree, just remove all decorations, hooks and tinsel strands and mulch the tree, as described below.
Just dump the tree on its side in a protected part of the yard to provide shelter for wildlife, including rabbits. Allowed to decompose, the tree will become home to insects, fungi and possibly even amphibians and reptiles.
Just remove the branches to turn your tree into a trellis or vegetable stake.
And get this: some people place their used trees in their fish ponds, where they serve as refuge and feeding areas for the fish. Some experts recommend removing all the needles first, as they’re mildly toxic to the fish.
Turn your tree into mulch that’s perfect for paths with the help of a chipper/shredder (a great tool to share with neighbors). Even without a chipper, you can trim the branches and place them on perennial beds to reduce the heaving caused by cycles of freezing and thawing.
Chop it into firewood and kindling. A typical fir can be turned into 13+ pounds of firewood. Dry branches make great kindling for starting fires. Use for outdoor fire pits, but do not use in an indoor fireplace due to potential creosote build-up.
And if you don’t have a spot for the tree in your garden, there are still good uses that can be made of it. As long as it doesn’t end up in the landfill, right?
Donate it for stream protection. Christmas trees are increasingly used to shore up streamsides as erosion control, so check with the nearest water protection group to see if they can put your tree to good use. They may even pick up the tree for you.
Let your local government recycle it into compost or mulch. Most cities and counties have composting operations for such valuable organic matter as yard waste and dying Christmas trees. You usually have the option to leave it on the curb on collection days or to take it to a yard waste recycling facility. Check with your local government for details, but no matter where you live you’ll need to remove all decorations from the trees before pick-up. And of course, the recycling option is for real trees only. Artificial trees go out with the garbage (to the landfill).
Updated December 2017.