Forget buying mulch and instead get it right where you’ll need it — your own backyard. Rent a wood chipper and mulch your own tree. Better yet, split the rental fee with your neighbors and mulch your trees together. Why? Mulch improves and protects the quality of the soil and reduces weeds. It can be composted or used as a ground covering.
Insulate Your Perennials
Remove the branches from the trunk of the tree and lay them across a bed of perennial plants. The boughs protect the hibernating plants from extreme weather conditions like snow and frost.
Be a Friend to the Fish
Trees submerged in water might sound odd, but Rick Dungey, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, believes this is one of the most inventive ways to recycle them. Sunken trees provide fish with lost of nooks and crannies where they can hide, lay their eggs and feed. But wait! Check with your local authorities before doing any dunking in lakes and ponds on public land.
Feed and House Birds
Stand your tree up in your yard using a tree stand, or dig a hole deep enough to provide the trunk with the stability that it needs. Decorate the tree with edible snacks that birds love munching on, like garlands made of popcorn and cranberries or peanut butter-covered pinecones.
Not Feeling Crafty?
At the local level, most communities offer tree recycling programs where trees can be dropped off and chipped. In fact, Dungey suggests finding out where yours is as soon as you begin decorating.
“One thing I like to do is look up the drop-off locations for that year just before I put my tree up,” he explains. “I will print the list on a sheet of paper and put that sheet under my tree stand when I set it up. That way, I don’t have to remember where I put it or look up the info when I’m already doing Christmas cleanup.”
Many towns make the dropped-off trees into mulch and give it away for free. Contact your local parks department for a drop-off location near you.
Read more: 11 Household Items You Should Be Recycling
By Alexandra Ward