7 Ways to Properly Dispose Your Christmas Tree (Plus, How to Clean and Remove Tree Sap)

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There are many alternatives to a cut Christmas tree, but if you decide to go that route, you'll also need to decide how to dispose of your tree once the festivities are over. Being full of Christmas cheer and a good citizen of the globe, you'll want to dispose of it properly using one of these five ideas. Select either of the two naughty ways and you aren't likely to make Santa's list next holiday.

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1. Use a City Drop-Off Site

If you live in an urban area, post-Christmas tree pickup is usually a thing you can count on. Each city sets its own schedule of certain days that they pick up cut trees in the weeks following Christmas. Often, these trees are run through a grinder and used to make mulch for city parks and, sometimes, as free mulch for residents. In San Francisco, for example, there are set days you can leave your tree out beside your garbage and recycling bins for just those purposes.

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Call the city or look online to find out about local programs. Then remove the tree topper, decorations and lights before setting it out to be recycled.

2. Drop at a Recycling Center

Nothing is easier than putting your tree on the sidewalk for city trucks to pick up. But if your city doesn't offer this service, you may find a local, and usually free, spot where you can take your tree to be recycled. Again, the place to start the inquiry is by calling the city or visiting their website. Sometimes stores sponsor this recycling project as well. The Home Depot has been known to accept cut-tree drop-offs for recycling, so call your local store first.

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3. Make Christmas Tree Mulch

The city doesn't have a monopoly on making mulch. If you or a neighbor have a chopper or shredder, you can make Christmas tree mulch yourself. Just cut up the tree and run the pieces through the chopper. You might make it a neighborhood project if the city doesn't offer this service. Who couldn't use a little pine mulch to protect plants through spring?

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4. Use the Tree for Wildlife

As long as you haven't sprayed your tree with anything toxic, it's as organic as a tree can be. That means you can use it in the backyard as a feeder for birds or a refuge for wildlife. For the former, stand your Christmas tree up in your backyard, holding it in place with a stake or two. Then decorate it again, this time for the birds. Buy suet balls or suet bells to place on the branches or make your own bird food with pine cones filled with peanut butter. Birds also appreciate strings of cranberries and popcorn.

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When the birds have had enough, cut up the tree and use it to top a pile of shrub cuttings in an isolated corner of the backyard. Small animals will be happy to have this shelter.

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5. Donate Your Tree

If you don't have much of a backyard where your tree can be of use to wildlife, donate it to organizations that do. Many times, local zoos and wildlife reserves are happy to accept old Christmas trees to use for feeding and other needs. You might also check with the local fish and wildlife department to find fishing spots where you're allowed to take your tree and sink it. Sunken trees create natural underwater habitats for marine life and serve as new, desirable food sources for fish and other animals.

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6. Don't Dump the Tree

You may think that putting the tree in your garbage will result in it decomposing in the landfill, but this is far from a sure thing. Anyone who composts at home knows that oxygen is an essential part of the decay process. Many landfills are so packed down that they lack the oxygen to allow a tree to decompose fully and organically. Just say no to this idea.

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7. Don't Burn the Tree

Burning Christmas trees may seem like a good idea, but it isn't. This practice can release carbon into the atmosphere. In addition, some evergreen Christmas trees contain tars or oils that can lodge in your chimney and cause an unwanted and destructive fire later. Bad karma surely will follow.

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