What Happens To All Those Discarded Christmas Trees?

You’ve probably already forgotten about your tree, but did you know it’s still out there, helping people?


While many Christmas trees end up quietly decomposing in a landfill once the holiday season ends, others go on to lead rich, fulfilling, uh, deaths. Here are just some of the things your tree can get up to when you’re done using it as a place to store tinsel.

Keeping the Beach Intact
It’s not uncommon for beachfront communities to use leftover Christmas trees to keep their protective sand dunes in good shape, since the trees are the ideal material to catch blown sand and give dunes something to coalesce around. In New York and New Jersey, the trees were used to rebuild the protective dunes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, which swept away half a million cubic yards of sand. If you’ve ever found a stray bauble on the beach, now you know why.

Protecting the Baby Fish
The above tactic is also used to help shore up lakes and rivers, but many trees also end up in the lakes themselves. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in particular, like to sink the trees to the bottom of certain lakes to give small, vulnerable young fish a place to hide from predators while they grow (and, presumably, exchange gifts).

Building Homes for the Needy
As one of the world’s most famous Christmas decorations, you’d think that the Rockefeller tree would go somewhere more dignified than the scrapheap each year, and you’d be right. For the last ten years, the enormous spruce has been turned into lumber and used in construction projects for Habitats for Humanity. We can only pray that at least one became a kick-ass treehouse.

Helping Your Hike
Many trees collected by curbside pickup get turned into mulch, which has a variety of uses. Some gets given away to locals; some gets used as fuel in power-generating plants; and others get used to soften the surface of hiking trails. Ever wondered why some trails are pleasantly springy underfoot? You can thank that helpful tannenbaum.

Feeding the Zoo
You know who really likes Christmas trees? Giraffes. But they don’t keep their gifts under them (obviously—they’re giraffes, they wouldn’t want to do all that bending down). Instead, they eat them, as do the elephants, camels, zebras and goats in neighboring enclosures. So next time you feel bad about throwing out your tree, you can console yourself by knowing that you just bought a giraffe lunch. And that’s awesome.