In a previous post I was lamenting about needle-drop. As much as I love trees and hate to see the holidays end, under my breath I look forward to the day when the holiday fir-ball and its few remaining needles can be put out on the curb. I’ve dutifully remove all ornaments, wire hooks, tinsel, stand screws, wreath wires—essentially anything that could bollix up the chipping machine. There the Poor Thing patiently waits for the DPW to take it away. From the curb it goes on to its next life in the form of . . . smithereens.
In my limited suburban experience, discarded Christmas trees have gotten hauled off to a local landfill lot and are made into mulch—used to pave a city or state park trail, other municipal property or used at a playground. Though I’ve seen instances of overusing mulch, it is good for weed control and it does not introduce invasive elements or seeds.
But with each year comes a new idea for recycling the roughly 30 million once-living Christmas trees sold each year. In San Francisco and Burlington, VT for instance, much mulch is used as biomass fuel, generating electricity by heating water and creating steam. Christmastree.org lists some of the ways trees are being repurposed in various communities.
Unchipped whole trees have been used to rebuild wetlands, and stabilize fish habitats along lake or river shorelines. They may also serve as shelters and perches for birds and other wildlife. Christmas trees have also been used for management of river delta sedimentation and for the prevention of beach erosion and coastal sand dune restoration.
And here’s a random curiosity. What is happening to this year’s huge Rockefeller Center tree in New York City? In keeping with the three previous years of “tradition,” the tree will be milled into lumber which will then be used in house building by Habitat for Humanity. The wood will go to housing in the Newburgh, NY area near where the tree grew.
If treecycling chipping is not in your area and you’d like to start a program, see the several how-to articles found by exploring the Earth911.com website. Some good suggestions can be found including the importance of promoting the event. A lot of treecycling programs come with clever themes and signage to gather interest. In New York City the program is called “Mulchfest.” The Keep Georgia Beautiful organization uses the title “Bring One for the Chipper.” My favorite? The drop-off signage at Prospect Park—“Thank you very Mulch.”
Nancy R. Peck