Many companies, churches, organizations and homeowners have live Christmas trees for the holidays. Live trees are a personal preference and can add an unmistakable fragrance to your place of business, or home. However, at the end of the season you can’t just put it back in a box like an artificial tree. You need to consider some viable options to disposing of the tree properly instead of trying to toss it in the garbage, or the nearby woods where it can become a fire hazard later in the year.

There are several options for your live tree:

  1. Recycle- if your area provides curbside recycling pick up for you tree you are all set. Take advantage of it. The tree is biodegradable and it’s a great source of mulch. If you don’t have curbside options check with your local recycling center and see if they grind your tree up if you drop it off at a local center.
  2. Firewood-use your tree in an outdoor fire pit/fireplace. Do not burn live trees in an inside fireplace. The creosote in your tree could cause a fire and a lot of smoke inside. Remove the ornaments and shake it off outside. If you can cut the branches off and then cut the tree into logs. You can burn all of it in your outdoor fireplace or fire pit. Just make sure you aren’t burning the dried out tree when there is “no burning,” or high winds in your area as burning embers can travel up to a mile. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, or water hose nearby when you burn the tree in sections, not all at once.
  3. Make Mulch-cut up your tree and spread the mulch in flower/shrub beds, or around your trees. Pine needles are an excellent source of mulch.
  4. Volunteer Organizations Collection-in many communities there are volunteer drop off centers for organizations that recycle, mulch, or compost Christmas trees. Google your city and see if anyone is offering the service.
  5. Compost-use the tree as a base for a new compost pile if you compost. The branches and evergreens are perfect to build a new compost pile upon. You can then add in your meal waste, vegetable and fruit scraps to the pile. Compost is a great fertilizer and planting mix.
  6. Fish Magnets-People that fish have known the value of a sunken Christmas tree for years. The trees are a great attraction for Crappie, Bluegill and Bass. Make sure you have permission to put them in your lake. If you don’t have a lake contact a pond owner in your area, or your local DNR office to see if they would like your tree to attract fish. Make sure you remove any decorations from the tree. Christmas trees provide excellent forage and breeding spots for fish.

Whatever you do, please don’t dump a Christmas tree into the woods, or on the side of the road. While it’s fully biodegradable, landfills are not the place when there are so many other options that can get far more use out of the tree than breaking down in a landfill. Be sure to vacuum the area where your tree has been when you take it down. Check fabric, rugs, nearby flooring and furniture for sap that has leaked onto them from the tree. Live trees produce sap despite having been cut down and the sap can spread. Let your tree give back to the environment by being responsible with its disposal.

Mike Watts, President
Pinnacle Environmental Services, Inc.

Images: Vancouver Courier; Eugenivy at

If your company is presently enrolled in an active waste management, or recycling plan you know how to recycle and conserve. Leading companies are recognizing that a strong carbon imprint is not something you want to leave succeeding generations. Instead, they are environmentally conscientious and want to leave the next generation with viable options for waste. Many companies have undergone Total Waste Management audit and developed a TWM plan for their company. They cover the gamut from hazmat waste to the disposal of cardboard, plastic, water management, etc.

How are you doing in your home? Do you participate in curb recycling through your waste management provider, or city services? Companies exercising judicious actions in regard to recycling and waste management efforts are committed to the future. However, there are far more homes, apartments and single family dwellings than there are companies across the country. If every home participated in some form of recycling we would be far ahead of the game in terms of a commitment to zero waste.

Does your family recycle plastic, paper, cardboard and other recyclable designated packaging? What about water conservation in your home? Are you brushing your teeth without a running sink? Are you careful about the amount of water you run when doing dishes, or cleaning? Do you make sure the dishwasher is full before running a cycle? Here are some home recycling materials to consider:

  • Newspaper – 4ft. stack of recycled newspaper will save a 40ft. Fir tree
  • Magazines, newspaper insert ads, phonebooks, mailers, can be put together
  • Corrugated cardboard is a gold mine for recycling. Stack it, or bunch together separately at the curb. Try to keep it dry, so if it’s going to rain the night before your pickup, set it out in the morning.
  • Plastic-lined drinking cartons are acceptable by most municipalities now.
  • Plastic goods are assigned different numbers to grade them for recycling: #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) for containers, #4 (LDPE) for bags, #7 for mixed plastics such as polycarbonates that are not recyclable. Almost all recycling centers accept plastics #1 and #2.
  • Plastic bottles are typically made of #1 PET plastic which can be spun into fleece fabric.
  • Plastic grocery bags are a Type-2 recyclable plastic. Check with your grocery to see if they accept used bags to recycle. Glass-many municipalities have stopped collecting glass because the recycling of glass costs more than the donations received. Simply put it boils down to simple economics. However, many grocery stores receive glass bottles (clear, green, blue) in separate collection bins. Save your bottles and drop off to glass friendly recycle collector.
  • Lightbulbs like CFL’s are welcome at most home hardware/service centers. Most of the large box stores receive these in bins at their locations. Separate these glass products from your bottles, or jars. (Recycle tips by
  • Aluminum cans are one of the best recycling materials. Save flip-top tabs for your local NICU hospital unit, or the nearest Ronald McDonald House.

By simply making an effort to recycle at home you will enhance your total carbon imprint and help improve the environment as opposed to doing nothing. Get your kids involved and make it a game to collect recycling. Reward your children when they get it right! Recycling and waste management is a lifestyle and it has to be taught, caught and applied. Our future depends upon it.

Grass clippings from your yard can be used for compost piles. It’s even better if your neighborhood has a community compost pile and everyone contributes, but you can do this on your property alone. Compost is spectacular for future growing seasons for flower and vegetable beds. Turn in used oil from lawn mowers and other landscaping equipment to be recycled. If possible, conserve lawnmower exhaust by using an electric mower, or share a mower between several neighbors.

Turn lights off in unoccupied rooms to conserve energy. Brush your teeth and shave without using running water. Instead of letting your shower heat up try stepping into the shower as soon as you turn it on. The wakeup factor will be more than worth the effort and you will conserve water. Make sure you take electronic waste (monitors, old tv’s, etc.) to your local recycling center. Turn in old cell phones to your provider.

Contact your waste management contractor or municipality to learn more about your local recycling options.

Having a plan at home will only help the environment and teach your children to be good environmental stewards for the future.

Mike Watts, President
Pinnacle Environmental Services, Inc.