SHOULD I DISPOSE OF MY CHRISTMAS TREE?
are environmentally sound ways to discard my Christmas tree after the
holiday? I responded to this question in a column more than a decade
ago. The answer is worth repeating.
question is inapplicable to the estimated 20 percent of the nation's
households that have no Christmas tree in the home and is easy to answer
for the multitude of families with an artificial tree that goes back
into storage. But in the nearly 20 million homes with real Christmas
trees, where should the trees go when their job is done? The question
has several ecologically gratifying answers.
about living organisms is that they die. Of course, a Christmas tree
is functionally dead before you take it home, unless you happen to get
a rooted one you can plant in the backyard after Christmas. (In my experience,
these do not die until the next summer.) But at the end of yuletide,
most people have to deal with a dead tree in the house. Although the
12 days of Christmas last through Jan. 5, some people say that if your
Christmas tree is in the house past midnight Dec. 31, bad luck will
haunt you in the coming year. You do not, however, have to be superstitious
or a pagan to acknowledge that keeping in the house a tree that sheds
highly flammable foliage, making it a potential tinderbox, might, in
fact, be a bad idea.
have a dead tree with needles littering the floor each time you jiggle
it. Time to get the lights and ornaments off and the tree outside. Once
the tree is lying on its side on the front porch, you can begin to consider
sound approach is to drag the tree into an out-of-sight spot in the
yard. If such a discreet location is not possible, and the tree ends
up in a spot where everyone can see it, tell your neighbors you are
using it to create "wildlife habitat."
do, in fact, create wildlife habitat for wood-dwelling insects and fungi,
and occasionally for amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, depending
on the stage of decay, type of tree and its location. You are doing
what you say, though the inhabitants of your created wildlife habitat
may not be obvious.
rationale for leaving the tree in your yard is to use the dry branches
for building fires in a fireplace. Old Christmas trees make great fire
starters. They crackle loudly, burn brightly and are aromatic.
tree has been up for a week or more, you can probably start using the
branches right away. Be advised that some organizations decry the idea
of burning Christmas tree limbs in the fireplace because of safety concerns
about creosote buildup. You may want to check into the potential hazards
before taking my advice on how to start a fire.
approach is to throw the tree into your favorite fishing lake to create
habitat for fish. A friend who does this every year claims he catches
more fish in that spot. He does not mention whether his hooks are snagged
by tiny branches well into summer. But whether better fishing is the
result or not, I cannot see any environmental harm in discarding old
Christmas trees in a river or lake.
solution many communities use for Christmas tree disposal is to consolidate
discarded ones into a giant heap of pine, fir and spruce in a designated
area. The trees are then ground into mulch for landscaping around town.
a really simple option exists for people who live in a community where
trash pickup includes removal of vegetation. Haul the tree to the curb
and forget about it. Whichever of these options you choose, you can
close out the holiday season with the assurance of having been environmentally
responsible with regard to your Christmas tree. Happy holidays!
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