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Recycle, repurpose Christmas trees to keep season green

Whether using a live tree or an artificial one, there will come a point when it’s time to dispose of or otherwise recycle or repurpose the tree.

For live trees, there are many possibilities – besides using them for firewood or mulching.

Emily Blanton, of Belgreen’s Blanton Christmas tree farm, notes one use for live trees is to create fish habitats for local lakes. “They provide good habitats for bait fish, as well as crappie and bass,” Blanton said. “The trees are harmless to the lake but a nice attraction for the fish. This helps aquatic life and leads to better fishing on the lakes.”

While this is a perfect option for a privately-owned lake, people should consult TVA regulations before disposing of their trees in TVA-owned lakes.

Melissa J. Will’s blog, Empress of Dirt, suggests options including using leftover greenery for making wreaths and garden trellises or creating signs, coasters and other crafts out of wood slices. Along a similar line of thinking, some people make garlands and small “trees.” Specifics for carrying out these ideas and many more are widely available online.

Local environmentalist and children’s magician Rockin’ Eco Hero Steve Trash said live trees are “very recyclable,” noting that one way to dispose of an old tree is to chop it up and let it biodegrade in the backyard or in a compost pile. It will decompose within two or three years.

“I understand the joy of celebrating with a live tree, and one way to help make up for the environmental impact is to plant another tree, preferably not pine,” Trash said. “In north Alabama, hardwoods that grow really well include oak, hickory and poplar.”

Trash said he and his wife bought a living tree they kept in the house over the Christmas season and then planted in the yard. “It lasted from the 90s until two years ago. It did very well. If you go that route, you’ll need to keep it watered and be ready to plant it right after Christmas.”

Trash pointed out the whole point of decorating for Christmas is to celebrate. “If we make good choices, we can work with God’s creations.” He noted there are natural decorating options to be considered, including decorating with popcorn, explaining it’s “biodegradable, and the birds will love it.”

Nowadays, they use an artificial tree indoors. “We had the same one for almost 18 years, and we replaced it about six years ago, so that can be a good route to take,” he said. “I love having a beautiful, fresh tree in the house, but the truth is, it makes a mess. Needles are falling, and you are cutting down a tree for just one use.”

Another option some might wish to consider for the future is to use alternatives, including “trees” made out of materials such as books or tires.

“I have seen wonderful trees made of books,” explained Trash, “and when you stack them in a cone shape, it makes shelves to put ornaments on. My other favorite alternative is to make a tire tree,” something he has done in the past few years, having used tires donated from Duran Tires in Spruce Pine for the project. “I put a hubcap with a star on top. It’s a nice touch. For the tree, start with a large tire and use progressively smaller ones.”

“We generate a lot of garbage this time of year,” said Anna Carol Porter, founder of local environmental-focused service group Krewe de Guard, “and it’s nice to honor Jesus’ birth by being good stewards of the Earth and finding ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle Christmas trees and other decorations.”