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'cause it's easier being a green sinner than a green saint . . .

Christmas Tree Composting

If you have a live Christmas tree, what do you do with it after the holidays are done? The halls are un-decked and the decorations are put away, so what happens to the naked, needle-dropping tree still sitting in the living room? 309/365 - Dead Christmas Tree

If you live in the City of Pittsburgh, don't put your Christmas tree out to the curb. Although in past years Pittsburgh has had a curbside pickup for Christmas tree recycling, they're not doing it this year. (So, if you put your tree out to the curb, it will just get put in the same garbage truck as everything else and go to the landfill.)

Instead, take your tree to one of the city's recycling centers. The city accepts yard waste at four different recycling centers where they compost and mulch materials. Here are the details of the 2012 Christmas tree program (pdf) with locations. The Department of Public Works also has more information on yard waste collection. Be aware: if you take a car or SUV, drop-offs are free. But for a pickup or trailer, you pay $20 (or more for large dumptrucks, etc.), and you have to pay by money order (no checks or cash). Which is a real pain, so chop the tree into a couple of pieces, or strap it to the roof of the car.

If you live elsewhere, check with your local government for what to do with your tree. If you live in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Resources Council is a great place for information.

You can always compost the tree yourself, as well, in your own home compost pile. To do this effectively, you're going to have to chop it up. The easiest way is with a power chipper/shredder, but you could also do it manually with some pruners. Just cut the branches from the trunk and cut or break them into small pieces. (Leave the thick trunk out of the compost and use it for a bonfire in the spring.)

Or, you can use the tree as a wildlife habitat. I'd really only recommend this if you live in a rural area, because in urban areas you might attract wildlife that's less cuddly and enjoyable (like rats, for example). But you can drag the tree into your yard in a wooded area and let nature take its course. The branches will provide a place for birds or small mammals to shelter, and eventually the tree will compost naturally. (Sometimes trees are also used underwater in ponds to provide similar habitats for small fish.)

Whatever you do, if you choose a live tree, make sure it doesn't end up in the landfill, so we can have lots of happy holidays to come.