Here are a some ideas for disposing of your Christmas tree in the greenest possible way. Be sure to take off all the decorations before you try these.

1. Prop it up and hang food for the birds on it. Tree farmer Walter Gooley suggests suet, aka animal fat. The low-rent version of that comes from the butcher’s trimmings at your local supermarket, or you can pick up bricks of it at places like Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth. Maine Audubon staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox suggests hanging homemade edible decorations on the tree – pine cones rolled in peanut butter and then seed mix. Even if you don’t hang anything for them to eat, the birds will appreciate it. “It’s almost like creating habitat,” Hitchcox says. “Birds are going to look at that as shelter.”

2. Deposit the tree in your own home compost heap (or start one with the tree carcass). You can break it down by cutting it up, but to really jump-start the process, Mike Skillin, owner of Skillins Greenhouses, suggests burning the tree in your firepit (he means outdoors!) and then using the ashes as part of your compost.

3. Feed it to the fish. Well, not exactly. But the Maine Christmas Tree Association suggests sinking trees in private fish ponds to create refuge areas for the fish.

4. Eat your tree. Or lick it, as the case may be. Press Herald food writer Meredith Goad collected recipes from area chefs, including one for spruce ice cream.

5. Give it to the goats. Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook would appreciate your old Christmas trees; their goats love to eat fir trees (well, anything really). “I think we got 600 trees last year,” says Smiling Hill farmer Warren Knight. Not sure which farmers in your area keep goats? Travel-Maine.Info has an online list of goat farms in the state.


6. Yes, the ground is frozen, but it’s never too soon to start planning for next year’s garden. Use the boughs from your Christmas tree to protect your perennials over the winter, then cut the trunk into small rounds to use as a garden border when you’re ready to plant again. “About the time you’re looking to get rid of that Christmas tree, the ground is pretty hard and it’s time to get a covering,” said Skillin. “The tree comes in real handy for that.”

7. Take it to the curb. Or if you miss that, check your municipality’s website; often they’ll accept trees that get dropped off after the pickup dates. What will happen to your tree? In cities like Bangor, they’ll be chipped and some of those chips will be used as mulch and erosion control in public spaces. In Bangor, the remainder will be sold as biomass.

8. Use it as a barrier against erosion. That’s one of the recommendations of the Maine Christmas Tree Association, which recommends it on beaches and river beds.

9. Multiply it. This one only works if you’ve bought a living tree, but planting it greens up your yard for at least another year. If you “harvest” it yourself, a few years later for another Christmas tree, make sure you leave some boughs on the bottom. Gooley, who is also a former forester, says he’s been known to get four harvests out of one tree this way

– Mary Pols

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