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Give your Christmas tree life after the holidays

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If you celebrate Christmas, there is nothing like having a real tree to decorate in your home for the holidays. The festive aroma alone provides such a sense of nostalgia.

However, once the holidays have quickly come and gone, the next order of business is disposing of your tree. For most people, the first thing that may come to mind is to add it to their weekly trash pickup to go to the landfill. In theory, while this seems like a good idea, it is environmentally destructive. When your tree is sent to the landfill, it is packed so tightly it cannot decompose properly. In turn, this causes the tree to release methane gas that is harmful to the environment. 

So, what other options are out there? To give your tree life beyond the holidays, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has compiled some ways to recycle and repurpose your tree to give back to Mother Nature. 

Check out your local options. Contact your city, county, local waste management company, nearby garden center, local conservation organization or local nonprofit organizations to find out if they offer tree recycling. Many times, they will either pick up your tree or provide you with information on a drop-off site. 

Make mulch or compost. The wood or pine needles from your tree can be turned into mulch or compost to be used around your yard. Pine needles are full of nutrients that can lower the PH of your soil if it is more alkaline. Mulch can also keep your trees and plants healthy by keeping them moist during the cold, winter months. Another plus is that it controls soil erosion.

Create a pond or wildlife habitat. Provide a sanctuary for fish, birds and other wildlife. When placed on the bottom of a lake or pond, your tree becomes a place of shelter and food for fish. If you do not have a pond or lake on your property, contact local officials to learn whether there is a pond or lake where you can place your tree. Birds can find shelter in trees placed on your yard or land. You can tie bird feed, orange slices, popcorn and other treats fit for birds to the branches. Be sure to remove all decorations and ornaments before using your tree as an outdoor habitat. 

Spread tree ash in your garden. If you decide to burn the wood from your tree, the remaining ashes can be used to spread in your garden. Among other nutrients, wood ash contains potassium and lime, which helps plants flourish. Be aware that sap and dried needles tend to crackle, pop and explode when they burn. Also, fir, pine and spruce trees contain a flammable tar called creosote, which produces soot and can lead to chimney fires. Therefore, it is much safer to burn your tree outdoors instead of indoors. 

Reuse in your home. If you are wanting that fresh, pine smell past the holidays, store the tree needles (if they are still green) in sachets or paper bags to use as fresheners. On the flip side, the tree trunk can be cut and used for coasters, risers and other home décor. The trick is to let the tree completely dry before cutting and varnish the wood before use. 

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