8 Ways to Recycle Your Real and Fake Christmas Trees

Zero Waste Christmas Tree

Spread the Sustainable Gospel!

Ways to Recycle Your Real and Fake Christmas Trees | The holidays bring joy and magic and now that it’s time to undeck the halls, you might feel that there is a lot of waste as a result. Packaging from gifts, food, and disposable decorations add to our heaps of garbage the days following the holidays. In order to minimize what we throw away, we have to look at each part of how we celebrate the season and come up with zero waste solutions. Today, I’m tackling the Christmas tree. Some of you might opt for a fragrant, real tree and some might have a fake tree that is in need of a new home. Well, I have options for both.

For the real trees:


Growing up, picking out the family Christmas tree at the local tree farm was one of my favorite holiday activities. I can’t tell you how long it took my brother and I to find that perfect one. We’d closely examine each and every tree to find that gem. Once it was located, my dad would cut it down, tie it to the car, and take it home. That tree smell embodied Christmas. Minus the occasional needle-in-the-foot, having a real tree was just the best thing ever for me. But here’s the question. What do you do with that tree once the season is over? Luckily for us, we had a very large plot of land with a pond that we’d sink the tree into for fish habitat. I know not everyone has there own fish pond, so I have a few other solutions to get rid of that Christmas tree that doesn’t involve the landfill.

1. City Tree Pickup/Drop off


Most cities offer some sort of Christmas tree curbside pick up or drop off. These services will take the trees, grind them into mulch, and use the mulch in city parks and flower beds. Contact your local parks and rec department for what is available in your area.


2. Donate to the Department of Conversation

Your state Department of Conservation usually accepts donated natural trees to aid in fish and wildlife habitat. Since many lakes and ponds are man made, these bodies of water lack essential habitat for smaller fish and invertebrates. This provides great food sources for bigger animals and gives that Christmas tree a wonderful second life.

3. Donate to your local zoo


If you live near a zoo, call to see if they will take trees for the animals. I contacted the Kansas City zoo and they do. The trees provide hours of fun for the animals.

4. Use in the garden


 The evergreen needles provide great nourishment for gardens. Use the larger logs for flower bed barriers and compost the smaller branches.

 For the fake trees:


Now I know buying a fake Christmas tree made from plastic isn’t the most eco-friendly choice when picking out that holiday decoration, but a lot of us have already committed to one before we decided to venture down this new “green” adventure. Instead of throwing that tree out to sit in a landfill for a billion years, I have some solutions to give that plastic needle conifer a new life.

1. Donate to a thrift store

Donating the tree to a thrift store gives someone else the opportunity to adopt that tree as their own. I typically donate to the DAV since the majority of the profits go to disabled veterans and their families.


2. Donate to a nursing home


Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities love getting artificial trees. They use them as decorations in lobbies and also give them to the residents so that they can make their rooms festive.

3. Donate to a charity


Their are many different charities looking for artificial trees for families in need. This is a perfect way to celebrate the true meaning of the season by giving as well as letting that inner eco-warrior surface.

4. Donate to a school


Many schools will graciously accept artificial trees for classroom decorating as well as theater productions. When I was in school, we’d use fake trees in many of our school plays. The donations helped our budget tremendously allowing us to utilize our funds more efficiently.

The holidays don’t have to be wasteful if we refuse to allow what society has taught us about getting rid of things we no longer need or want. I find it incredibly amazing that by opting to recycle our trees provides an act of kindness to so many others in need during the holiday season. It definitely gives me the warm and fuzzies! 🙂

What are some other ways you have recycled your Christmas trees?

15 thoughts on “8 Ways to Recycle Your Real and Fake Christmas Trees

  1. Upcycle! I have a friend who takes discarded fake Christmas trees (usually pre-lit ones that the lights have gone out on) and uses spray paint or flocking (fake snow) to make them unique, colorful, and new. She then donates them to low-income families, schools, non-profits, anyone who might need a tree.

  2. It is an informative article. I love the way you re-use the materials. It's just amazing, You have given some good ideas of managing a Christmas tree after using it and when not in need.

  3. During holiday season especially in Christmas, we are trying to use the old Christmas tree for decoration and celebration. But due to damage and unused for years, it is completely demolished. So it is quite better to recycle it or use it properly while following the above instruction present in this article. I really appreciate the information provide in this article.

  4. Due to kids with severe allergies, we've had to have artificial trees for many years. We have downsized the tree from a huge FAT tree to a very slim tree. When we downsized, I simply put a picture of the tree (from the year before) on FB and said “Free, Porch Pickup, with Rubbermaid box. It was claimed in minutes, and gone the next day. Now that the kids are gone, I may downsize again to a live, in the pot Rosemary plant trimmed like a Christmas tree. We'll just carry in from the deck when we need it.

  5. I have an artificial tree for allergy reasons and I will be using my tree until it looks hideous. I don’t think it would be very kind of me to donate my horrible looking tree to a family in need. However, I don’t see why I couldn’t turn it into a wreath and garlands. I guess it will depend on just how ugly it gets! I will try to take good care of it, so it lasts a long time, first.

    That said, I can’t predict the future. If I end up needing a different tree than the one I have, you can bet I’ll be using your suggestions!

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