Health & Environment

Sustainable Christmas Tree Disposal

The Texas A&M Forest Service offers options for what to do with real Christmas trees once it's time to take down the decorations.
By Alexandra Reynolds, Texas A&M Forest Service January 3, 2020

christmas trees piled behind a fence with a sign that says "compost our christmas tree here"
Mulching, recycling and repurposing for wildlife habitats are among the options for real Christmas trees once the holiday season is over.

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Many Americans love the experience of having real Christmas trees in their homes for the holidays. But what many don’t realize is producing real Christmas trees also benefits the environment by sequestering carbon while growing and supporting local businesses and tree farmers.

“Getting outside, selecting that perfect tree, cutting it down, and carrying it home can be a wonderful family tradition,” said Paul Johnson, Texas A&M Forest Service urban and community forestry program leader.

For the month of December, the tree serves its purpose as the pinnacle of Christmas ambiance — providing a fragrant backdrop for parties, a soft glow in the evenings and towering over the festivities on Christmas Day. But now, it’s time to dispose of the tree.

Those who enjoy a real trees can continue to have a positive impact by sustainably disposing of them after the holidays.


Real trees are biodegradable, and many communities have tree recycling programs. Check with your local waste management company, a nearby garden center or local conservation organization to find out if Christmas tree recycling via curbside pickup or drop-off is available in your area. Texas A&M Forest Service wildfire safety experts recommend recycling trees rather than burning them to prevent unnecessary wildfire danger.


Used Christmas trees may be chipped and turned into mulch that can be used in the yard or around the base of trees and in your garden. Mulch helps prevent soil erosion and compaction.

Pond habitat

If you have a pond or lake on your property, you can place your Christmas tree in the water to serve as shelter and a food source for fish. The weight of the tree will hold it at the bottom of the pond. If you don’t have a pond or lake on your property, contact local officials to see if there is another suitable pond or lake where you can dispose of your tree.

“Live trees can be key for celebrating, and they can continue to provide benefits after the holidays,” Johnson said. “Mulch or fish and wildlife habitat are our favorites.”

Wildlife habitat

You can choose to set your tree out in your yard or on your land to create a habitat for wildlife. Birds can use the tree as shelter. You can tie bird feed, orange slices, popcorn and other treats suitable for birds to the branches. Be sure to remove all ornaments and decorations before placing the tree outside.

Insulate your garden from cold weather

You can cut the limbs off of your Christmas tree and lay them along your garden to insulate the plants in your garden and protect them against the cold and wind.

Tree cookies and coasters

If you can cut the trunk of your tree into tree cookies, you can then use the slices as drink coasters or wood accents in your home. Be sure to choose a sustainable option, like those mentioned above, to dispose of the remaining wood and branches to ensure the whole tree is disposed of sustainably.

For more information on how to sustainably recycle a Christmas tree, contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service district office.

This article by Alexandra Reynolds originally appeared on AgriLife Today.

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