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10 reasons not to trash your Christmas tree

The holiday season is officially over, decorations are ready to be boxed up, and your once beautiful Christmas tree is shedding needles and turning shades of brown, which means it’s finally time to toss that once illuminated tree into the trash. But before you start pulling that tree curbside, check out these eco-friendly ways to salvage your Christmas tree. All you need is a little creativity to keep that yuletide spirit around until spring.

Mulch: The shedding needles can be used as mulch in your garden, just cut off some small branches and spread them around your yard. As the needles fall off, they'll help the soil around your plants retain moisture.

Insulate perennials: “You can cut off some of the boughs and lay them over perennial beds to insulate them from the snow and frost, explains Dave Miller, president at Miller Plant Farm in York. Anything you can do to protect them is great, and if covering them with old Christmas tree branches is what you have available, this a great alternative way to help shelter them from frost.”

Pathways: Take your tree trunk and slice pieces off with a saw. Use teach piece to edge a garden. They can be used along the perimeter of existing paths as markers, and can even be painted a brighter color to lead the way to the front door when it’s dark out.

Bird sanctuary: Lay your old tree within a foot near your bird feeder. “This gives birds a place to sit and hide, explains Miller. If you just lay it there for the winter, that will give smaller birds a place to hide from predatory birds.”

Artwork: If you have carpenter skills or know someone that does, try carving a large section of the trunk into a miniature sculpture for your garden. You could also use a drill with a special attachment to cut a base hole into the tree trunk and create a rustic-chic vase for a floral arrangement.

Pond shelter: “If you have a large pond (about a quarter acre to an acre), you can throw it in to give the small fish a sanctuary from predatory fish”, explains Miller. Be sure to toss the tree close to edge where it can easily be pulled out in the spring if you want to pull it back out.

Coasters: Cut the trunk into thin slices and sand them down to create unique coasters. If sap is coming out of the tree pieces, brush on a layer of polyurethane over them.

Potpourris: Collect all your tree needles to make aromatic potpourris to use year-round. To retain their pungency, be sure to place the needles in a brown paper bags.

Firewood: Dead or old trees can make great firewood. All you need to do is cut it up into log-like shapes, remove all of the tinsel and any other decorations, and use it as kindling in an outdoor fire pit. Just make sure the tree is completely dry before burning it.

Recycle: Last but not least, you should be able to recycle your Christmas tree through your local recycling program. Whether it's for wood chips, mulch or fish habitat, most townships collect old Christmas trees the first two weeks of January and recycle them for you. This could be done through your garbage collection company, or might require you to schedule a pick-up date. Be sure to call your city hall to get details.