Recycle your Christmas trees


Let Christmas continue for months.

If you recycle your live Christmas trees, you will be giving a gift to the environment. Your beautiful tree can be converted into several things–mulch, fish and wildlife habitats, and lake and river stabilization. And the way technology is moving in the area of cellulosic ethanol, in the near future, you may be trading in your Christmas tree for a gallon or two of synthetic gasoline.

The mulch from the trees will provide a protective barrier for the roots of other plants while preventing weeds from growing. When the mulch decomposes, it will provide the nutrients plants need to thrive.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, pine-needle mulch helps the winter soil to retain heat. The warm soil will encourage early seeding and faster growth come spring. The mulch will then act as a stabilizer for the temperature and moisture while preventing sunlight from germinating weed seeds that compete with what you are trying to grow.

To improve fish habitat, many trees can be sunken in farm ponds and lakes to create habitat for small fish and encourage the larger fish to scale on the outskirts. This helps create favorite fishing spots for our young anglers. Christmas trees have created some of my favorite places to fish in some of the gravel pits along the Tombigbee River in Northeast Mississippi and in the oxbow lakes of the Delta.

In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a conservation project was started in the late 1980s to help rebuild the coastline. Trees are placed into pre‚Äźconstructed shoreline fences. Project Coordinator Jason Smith stated, “A monitoring study by Louisiana State University found that these tree fences dramatically reduce the rate of shoreline retreat and, by effectively trapping sediments, result in higher accretion rates in nearby marshes. Sediments carried over and through the fences by wave action are slowly accreting and building land between the shoreline and the fences.”

The state of Georgia is well-known for its recycling efforts, and its Christmas tree recycling program is another one of its many successes. Cleverly titled “Bring One for the Chipper,” the program is organized by Keep Georgia Beautiful in cooperation with private sponsors. The Chipper program historically involved hundreds of Georgia communities and thousands of volunteers. Communities have the option of coordinating a pick-up program or relying on designated drop sites; the trees are then turned into mulch that is used for playgrounds, beautification projects, and individual yards.

Before you turn your tree over to the environment, be sure to remove everything including all ornaments, wire, hooks, lights, tinsel, garland, nails, screws, and the stand.

There are approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees sold in the United States every year. Our environment can benefit from your donation.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their web site is

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