5 Ways Recycled Christmas Trees Can Live On After the Holidays


LINCOLN, Nebraska (December 27, 2022) – As the holiday season comes to a close, the Arbor Day Foundation is reminding the public of the importance of recycling their live Christmas trees.

"Decorating real evergreens is a great way to celebrate the holidays, and recycling them afterwards is an even better way to celebrate our planet,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “There are so many ways Christmas trees can give back after the season is over, and it can be as simple as bringing them to a recycling drop-off in your city.”

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 25 to 30 million Americans purchase real Christmas trees every year. The association also notes there are more than 4,000 local Christmas tree recycling programs throughout the United States.

Here are just a few ways Christmas trees can be repurposed after they’re recycled.

Mulch and Compost for Public Parks

The wood from recycled trees is commonly chipped into mulch to spread across city parks and playgrounds. Pine needles are also full of nutrients, which means they can be added to compost.

Fish Refuge in Lakes

Many recycled trees are dropped into lakes or ponds for fish habitat. As time passes, algae starts to form on the tree, providing nutrients for fish. The tree also provides a refuge and helps shield them from predators.

Habitat for Birds

Often, recycled trees are placed in state parks in brush piles as habitat for birds. The brush not only protects the birds from the cold and the wind, but it also provides a safe sanctuary for nesting.

Preventing Soil Erosion

In some communities, discarded trees serve as natural and effective soil erosion barriers, especially along lakes, rivers and coastlines. The dry tree makes for a perfect foundation for a bank or a sand dune, and as the tree breaks down over time, gives time for plants around them to take root. 

Supporting Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries

Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries use recycled evergreens for animal enrichment. Some animals, like goats, eat the trees. Larger animals — like lions, tigers, and elephants — also enjoy playing with them. Some wildlife rehabilitation organizations use the trees to make the animals in their care feel more at home. 

For more information on how to recycle your tree, contact your local parks and recreation department or your city waste department.

About the Arbor Day Foundation

Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation is the world’s largest membership nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees. With a focus in communities and forests of greatest need, the Foundation — alongside its more than 1 million members, supporters and valued partners — has helped to plant nearly 500 million trees in more than 50 countries. Guided by its mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees, the Arbor Day Foundation is committed to unlocking the power of trees to help solve critical issues facing people and the planet. Learn more about the impact of the Arbor Day Foundation at arborday.org

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