As the holidays come to a close, it’s time to start taking down all of the twinkling lights, dangling ornaments and that shining star at the top of the tree. Everything is back in its marked storage tubs and only one thing remains – the tree. Your family packed into the car just a few weeks ago, sawed it down at a local Christmas tree farm, and now its needles are spread out across the living room floor as it begins to fade from green to brown. What exactly do you do with that tree now? Believe it or not, you have options beyond leaving it out at the curb.

After the packages are opened, the once beautiful tree becomes a major safety issue. “Once the tree is cut, the trunk begins to seal itself with sap to preserve moisture,” explains former Vancouver Fire Chief and Fire Service Consultant, Don Bivins. “However, the tree slowly loses that stored moisture over time through its needles. By the time the tree is taken down, the tree is dry and laden with sap which acts as a fire accelerant. This is a good time of year to test smoke detectors and teach children a fire escape plan and reunification spot.”

What to do with your Christmas tree
The Christmas tree was once a beautiful sight but now it is becoming a safety hazard. Photo credit: Alyssa Ramsfield

Recycle Your Tree

If recycling your tree is part of your annual Christmas tradition, there are plenty of options for that. The first rule to recycling your tree is to make sure you’ve cleared everything off of it. If you’re in the City of Lacey, local Boy Scouts will pick up trees that are located within the city limits as long as the tree is placed curbside. In the City of Olympia, residents can put their trees into their yard waste bin. You will need a hand saw for larger trees as the tree must be cut into three-foot sections. City of Tumwater makes it extremely easy to recycle Christmas trees. They only require residents to take their tree to the nearest street corner. If you’re further east in the City of Yelm, trees can be brought to a designated dumpster in Yelm City Park. All Thurston County residents are invited to take their tree for recycling at the Thurston County Waste & Recovery Center beginning the day after Christmas through mid-January completely free of charge.

Use Parts of Your Tree Outside

Believe it or not, Christmas trees are incredibly useful in your own backyard. Consider using it as a bird sanctuary. Make sure it is away from the house and set it up near a bird feeder. Birds will enjoy its branches all winter long. Have the kids even add their own bird feeders to the branches using seed and peanut butter.

Another great option is to cut up the branches and use the once lit tree to safeguard your other plants. Lay branches beneath perennials to help moderate temperature and protect them winter frost. A pile of branches about six inches high also works well as a strong base to start a new compost pile in your backyard and the pine needles can be used as a moisture and mold-free mulch for ground covering plants.

To even further your tree’s use, consider cutting it up! One use for the sawed tree is to use it for firewood in an outdoor fire pit. While it burns too hot for an indoor fireplace, it makes great flames to roast s’mores or get cozy under a blanket outside. The cut-up trunk could also be used to line garden beds or create barriers in your yard.

Christmas tree
Take down all of the shiny ornaments and glistening lights before recycling your tree. Photo credit: Jenna Simek

Use Parts of Your Tree Inside

While you can’t keep the whole tree due to safety concerns, there is a lot you can do with it inside! Pluck the pine needles and add them to a bowl of potpourri to create an air freshener for any room. Consider using cuts from the trunk to create a variety of crafts including coasters or ornaments for next year.

If you have a variety of indoor plants, consider using your tree for support. Strip the small branches and use the twigs to hold up some of your most loved potted plants or consider using these pieces to help stake and guide seedlings you intend to plant in the spring.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete events calendar.

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