After holiday season, Christmas trees are the gift that keeps on giving

Andrea Tinning

The holiday season is finally here, and people are putting up festive trees in their living rooms. In a couple of weeks, those trees will be withering husks of the jolly Christmas symbols they used to be. But make sure not to throw out your tree just yet — it can spread joy past the holiday season.

As part of the City of Austin’s zero waste goal, the city plans to divert 90 to 95 percent of waste from the landfill by 2040. Organic waste is the second biggest contributor to landfills, and Christmas trees fall into that category. By recycling your tree, this holiday tradition will keep on giving year-round. 

Zilker Park

For 33 years, Austin Resource Recovery has offered Christmas tree drop-off services at Zilker Park, where trees will be repurposed into mulch for free.

The tradition continues this holiday season, as residents are invited to donate their trees between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 30 and 31, as well as on Jan. 6 and 7.

The Christmas tree mulch will be available at 9 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2018, free to anyone who brings the proper tools and storage containers to transport it.

Curbside Recycling

If you’re not interested in seeing the holiday season until next December and would rather part with your tree forever, curbside pickup is available for any resident already participating in curbside recycling.

Residents are asked to remove all tree decorations and set their trees on the curb by 6:30 a.m the morning of their regular collection day. The city asks that trees taller than 6 feet are cut in two.

Free & Paid Recycling Centers

If you’d rather drop off the tree yourself, several local landscaping businesses are offering tree recycling services in order to reduce the number of Christmas trees going to the landfill. If you can’t make it to Zilker, consider dropping your tree off at a recycling center.

Organics by Gosh is in partnership with the City of Austin’s Zero Waste goal and is accepting Christmas tree donations. Other groups, such as Walker Aero Environmental and Whittlesey Landscape Supplies, will take your tree for free and dispose of it in an environmentally conscious way.

Alternatively, for the cost of a 12-inch Subway sandwich, Austin Wood Recycling will take your tree and turn it into mulch.

Ecological Donations

If you’re extremely invested in having your tree live beyond the holiday season, the National Christmas Tree Association has a list of ecological projects that can benefit from your tree.

From erosion prevention to creating a habitat for fish in man-made lakes across the country, there are several environmental projects that can make use of your tree long after you’ve removed the presents from underneath it.

Creative Alternatives

Are you the artsy type? Try repurposing a tree on your own!

If you are passionate about the outdoors and crafty, recycled Christmas trees are known to make excellent bird feeders. By cutting the tree into large sections, trimming some of the branches and drilling holes into the wood, it’s possible to create a hangable bird feeder from the old yuletide logs after filling the holes with peanut butter. 

Own a saw? Slice the tree trunk into circular coasters or use them as wall art.

Use the pine needles as a fragrant sachet.

Fire wood.

Eat the bark for nutrients and become one with the earth.