What are you going to do with your Christmas tree now that the holidays are over?
It took seven years or longer to reach its present size, it’s brought seasonal spirit into your home over the holidays and you’ve cared for it lovingly, so it seems a shame to just chuck it into the garbage.
Here are some alternatives (and what you need to know if it is garbage-bound).
A cosy animal shelter
If you have a backyard, no matter how small, pop the tree into a corner and secure it so it doesn’t blow around in winter winds. Christmas trees make an ideal shelter for small birds and other animals who have to put up with the cold, snow and ice outside as we hunker down in our warm spaces inside.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has reminded us we’ve lost almost three billion birds in Canada and the United States over the past 50 years because of climate change, cats and other causes. A sheltering tree will help birds get through a tough winter season and produce young in the spring.
Bonus: In the spring and summer, the branches hold moisture and help improve the soil as they decompose, giving flowers a boost. The trunk makes a great shelter for toads, and insects like carpenter bees can burrow into the wood, especially if you help by drilling holes in the wood.
A green bird feeder
Another thing you can do with your Christmas tree is turn it into a colourful bird feeder just when snow and ice make foraging hard for wildlife.
For food, halve old fruit, even if it’s bruised or starting to spoil, and hang it up with some string or strong thread (a darning needle works great). You can also attach a loop of string to a pine comb, slather the comb with peanut butter and then cover the peanut butter with bird seed. Another old standby: use a needle and thread to string popcorn and hang it like tinsel on the tree.
Tip: Children love helping with these sorts of nature-friendly tasks. No kids of your own? Borrow a couple of neighbourhood children for the job — they’ll have fun and learn about nature in the process.
Make a potpourri
Winter means the air in our homes gets stale, so here’s what you can do with your Christmas tree after the holidays to freshen indoor air.
Fill a shallow bowl halfway with water, add pine needles, a piece of the trunk, cinnamon sticks, cloves and raw cranberries, and put the bowl on a warm spot like the top of a radiator cover where children and pets can’t get at it. As the water warms, the lovely natural smells will be released. When the water dries up, add more, replacing the needles and other ingredients as needed.
Way better than spraying the room with artificial air freshener!
Decorate the Rideau Canal
Again this year, the National Capital Commission needs Christmas trees to decorate rest areas on the Rideau Canal Skateway. It can get breezy on the canal, so the trees also offer shelter in the rest areas. Drop your tree off on Colonel By Drive, just west of the Bronson Avenue Bridge.
Take it to a farm
Vanderlaand The Barnyardzoo in Winchester Springs south of Ottawa will use your old Christmas tree to feed the animals, and your children can explore the farm’s petting zoo while you’re there. The farm asks that your tree be decoration-free. More information.
On the garbage pile
If none of this works for you, don’t despair. There’s one other thing you can do with your Christmas tree. The City of Ottawa will pick up your tree and recycle it for mulch. Remove all decorations and put it out no later than 7 a.m. on the same day as the green bin. The city says trees will not be collected if wrapped in plastic bags or frozen in snow banks.