Along with wrapping paper, ribbon, cooking oil, and various forms of electronic waste, Christmas trees are one of the holiday season’s largest waste producers for consumers and businesses alike.  

Clark W. Griswold’s dad might have taught him everything he knows about exterior illumination but after watching the classic movie character shove a huge tree in his living room and then place that burnt tree on the curb in the Christmas classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation it becomes obvious that Clark’s dad taught him little to nothing about the proper way to handle a holiday tree, let alone dispose of it!

While you might have Clark’s instinct to put your tree either from your office, small business or home holiday party on the curb for garbage pick up, we here at Rubicon want to let you know that there are more eco-conscious ways to say goodbye to the holiday season.

Those trees can be recycled.  

Below are our recommended ways for successful tree recycling. End your holiday season on an eco-conscious high note!

What kind of tree do you have?

When it comes to holiday trees there are options – some more eco-friendly than others.

It’s alive
Purchasing a Christmas tree with the roots intact (ball and burlapped or containerized) is an option that most people aren’t aware of. So why choose to have a living Christmas tree in the future? The best part of getting a living tree is that it’s possible to replant it.

Why enjoy your tree for only one month when you can enjoy it, planted in your yard or on the grounds of a company courtyard, all year round? Not only is this an environmental gift, but next Christmas you can choose to bring it back indoors to decorate all over again. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!


  • If you plan on planting it is a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late Fall before the ground freezes.
  • Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates, than in a northern area.

It’s fake

The popularity of artificial trees has grown in recent years (about 77 million were sold in 2017). But according to Recycle Now, artificial trees can’t be recycled due to the combinations of materials they are made from. On the upside, these trees can be reused year after year. This eliminates waste and can be more eco-friendly in the long run.

It’s cut

If you are one of the nearly 30 million annual cut tree buyers keep reading. This article is for you!

Before we get into the ways to recycle your cut Christmas tree let’s go over the incredibly simple preparation.

Cut Christmas tree recycling preparation

  • Put a tarp under the tree before you begin to handle it. This will prevent needles from shedding on the floor (pine needles can wreak havoc on a vacuum cleaner).
  • Remove everything you added to the tree after you brought it inside. This means all ornaments, lights, tinsel, etc. Oh! And don’t forget the stand.

Basic Recycling Methods

  1. Communicate with your haulers
    Just putting your tree on the curb won’t cut it… pun fully intended. Check with your local haulers and service providers to make sure your tree is prepped and ready to make their job easier. For instance, if your tree is being recycled and picked up curbside it may need to be cut into smaller pieces – large trees (taller than 5 feet) might have to be cut in half so they will fit in the truck. There might also be restrictions for flocked trees, and some communities even have a special day where haulers specifically drive the neighborhoods for trees only.  

NOTE: If you aren’t sure who recycles trees in your area start by checking out recyclenow’s directory.

  1. Put the tree back on top of the car and drop it off
    Most areas across the country will have drop-off locations. This is usually a free option and will keep your sad Christmas tree from sitting at your curb post-holidays.
  2. Shred it, chip it, and reuse it!
    Mulching your tree can benefit your entire community! Check with your local department of public works to see if they offer chipping, shredding, and composting services.  
  3. Think nonprofit
    Having your tree picked up by a local area nonprofit can be a very convenient and socially conscious way to say goodbye. Often you can set an appointment for pickup ahead of time and your tree can go to a very good cause! Boy Scouts of America will pick up your tree for a small donation to the organization.

Nature Lover Tree Recycling Method

1. Feed the fish

This may seem like a long shot but… if you know anyone with a private fish pond, your tree could be sunk in it and used to take refuge, breeding and feeding areas for the fish.

2. Feed the birds

Set your undecorated Christmas tree in your garden or backyard to be used as a bird sanctuary. If you feel like adding a little incentive you can place some fresh orange slices or popcorn within the branches to attract the birds and let them know they have a new shelter in the winter months.

3. Make hikers happy

Do you know any outdoor enthusiasts? If you will recall the mulching method – some areas use shredded trees as a renewable and natural material to cover well-traveled paths to fight erosion. This makes both the environment and the hikers happy!

Whatever you do DON’T BURN IT!

According to you should NEVER burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. “Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils.  Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.”

To read more pieces about how to live more sustainably, check out our blog!