Selecting a real Christmas tree over an artificial tree is an environmentally friendly decision because of the renewable nature of real trees. 

But what should families do with the Christmas tree after the holidays have passed? If the tree is taken to a landfill for disposal, the environmental benefits end there. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent Adam Downing has some creative suggestions for getting the most out of your tree after the holidays.

Use the tree as a cover for birds in your yard.

“A bird feeder in the wide open is not as attractive to birds as one closer to cover where they can rest and hide. A simple way to enhance the cover near your bird feeders is to put your Christmas tree a few feet away from it,” Downing said. Drive a stake into the ground near your bird feeder and tie the tree to it. Evergreen trees — like the pines and firs we often use for Christmas trees — are great for birds because they will keep the birds warm in addition to protecting them from predators.

Build a brush pile.

Use your Christmas tree, along with any other brush you have or can collect, to build a brush pile in your yard. Small animals like rabbits will appreciate the safe, warm spot they can use to hide or live in. As the trees and brush decompose, they will return nutrients to the soil.

Chip it.

If you have a large leaf mulcher, you can turn the tree into natural mulch. “Any acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel in particular, will benefit from this type of natural mulch,” Downing said.

Use it as firewood.

Cut the branches off the tree, cut up the trunk, and leave it to dry for next year. “Pine is not recommended for regular use as firewood because the higher soot buildup in the chimney can make for a dangerous situation over the long run. But a few branches once a year should be all right,” Downing said.

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