Instead of trashing your Christmas tree, consider giving it a second life

After the eggnog is drunk and the ornaments come down, most families leave their Christmas tree on the curb to be picked up and disposed of at a municipal landfill. But this year, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has another suggestion.

Adorn tree with bird feeders or trim branches for added soil nutrients, conservation group suggests

The Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests, instead of sending your old Christmas tree to the dump, put it outside until May, for birds, bees, insects, toads and all sorts of other creatures to take shelter. (Submitted by Andrew Holland)

After the eggnog is drunk and the ornaments come down, most families leave their Christmas tree on the curb to be picked up and disposed of at a municipal landfill. But this year, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has another suggestion.

"Throw it out in the backyard, just give it a heave off the back deck," said Andrew Holland, the head of media relations for the conservation advocacy group.

Leaving the tree outside on the lawn can have many benefits for people's yards and the creatures that call it home, he said.

"It can provide shelter and warmth during these upcoming weeks and months when birds try to hack our cold-winter climate."

Those birds include finches, blue jays, cardinals and others that winter in Canada rather than migrate south. Trees can also act as a food source for some birds.

Do some outdoor tree decorating

Holland said Canada and the U.S. lost 2.9 billion birds over a 50-year period, in part due to a loss of habitat, so leaving a tree in the yard can help prevent further loss.

He suggests leaving the tree out for at least three to four months after the Christmas season, such as until Mother's Day, but recognizes some may not want to look at a decaying tree in their yard.

Andy S. keeps his dog Stella warm inside his jacket at a rest stop along the Rideau Canal Skateway on its opening day last season in Ottawa, on Jan. 28, 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Former Christmas trees are often used along parts of the skateway, especially at rest spots. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

One solution, he recommends, is decorating the tree with bird feeders.

"We think of feeding birds other times of year but we don't think of it in winter and that's when they really need it the most," he said.

Another option is to trim some of the branches off, which can then be left on the lawn to provide nutrients to the soil. Most municipalities will take the branches in the spring as part of leaf and yard litter collection, Holland said.

The other NCC, National Capital Commission, also suggests people can give their Christmas trees a second life by dropping them off at Colonel By Drive, just west of the Bronson Avenue Bridge, so they can be used along the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Holland notes that some areas also have a program where trees can be recycled into lawn fertilizer for the spring, which he says is another way to give it a second life.

"The idea is just to reuse that tree than unceremoniously dumping it out to the side of the road," he said.

With files from Kimberley Molina


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