How to Buy and Recycle an Evergreen Christmas Tree

For many of us, a natural tree trimmed with decorations is what Christmas is all about. Caring for a cut tree properly will prolong its fresh scent and vibrant color. Also important is knowing how to recycle the tree after the holidays.
How to Pick a Perfect Christmas Tree

How to Pick a Perfect Christmas Tree

Before purchasing a live Christmas tree, conduct a three-part stress test, recommends Stacey Palosky, a spokesperson with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A fresh tree has needles that resist being pulled off and do not snap when bent, a trunk bottom that's sticky with resin, and strong limbs that will drop just a few needles if shaken.

Photo by: Photo by Debbie Wolfe

Photo by Debbie Wolfe

Before purchasing a live Christmas tree, conduct a three-part stress test, recommends Stacey Palosky, a spokesperson with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A fresh tree has needles that resist being pulled off and do not snap when bent, a trunk bottom that's sticky with resin, and strong limbs that will drop just a few needles if shaken.

It takes tree farmers about 10 years to produce a 10-foot Christmas tree. The best varieties to choose are Noble fir and Nordman fir, because they have good color and scent and hang onto their needles well, and Scots pine, which has the best scent.


Choosing a Tree:

Buy a locally grown tree to support growers in your community. You'll minimize the impact of transport miles and guarantee it has been freshly cut and the needles will stay on longer. Norway spruce, the "original" Christmas tree, is mostly grown in the northeastern US and may be cut down weeks before you buy it, which is why it sheds needles quickly. Wherever you are in the world, your best bet is to choose a species of tree that is grown locally to ensure freshness. Once your cut tree is home, cut 1/4 to 1/8 inch off the base of the  trunk, stand it in water, add a tablespoon of honey (which mimics the tree's sap) and keep the room as cool as possible to help the tree stay fresher longer.

Recycling Your Tree:

Currently, a large percentage of cut trees are sent to landfill sites but recycled trees can be chipped and used to benefit the environment again as mulch, path surfacing and soil improvers. Many communities now provide a collection site from which the trees will be properly recycled.

Christmas Tree Facts:

  • According to the National Christmas Tree Association, live trees can be recycled and used by a number of different organizations for a wide variety of purposes, including helping to keep erosion at bay in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana and providing nesting sites for bird populations across the country.
  • In the US, there are approximately 500,000 acres of land devoted to Christmas tree production. The chief Christmas-tree growing states are Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan.
  • When buying a tree, consider buying a potted tree which can be used for several years before being planted outdoors.
  • An artificial Christmas tree may be reusable but it will probably have been made from a petroleum-based product and may well have been flown in from China. The materials commonly used in the manufacture of artificial trees are PVC, polyurethane foam and steel. Although you may reuse it for several years, if your tree is not recyclable, it will eventually linger for centuries in a landfill site.
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