5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

iStock.com/Andrew Gardner
iStock.com/Andrew Gardner

What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree farms are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way to treat a Christmas tree would be to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so that you never have to dispose of it. Of course, then you wouldn't have one in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. When it's time to say goodbye to this year's Christmas tree, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods?

1. Turn your Christmas tree into mulch.


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If you’re lucky enough to have access to a large wood chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Woodchips make a great decorative landscaping material (giving you a head start on spring).

2. Get crafty with your Christmas tree.


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If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas—get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles—all of which is much easier to do than it probably sounds.

3. Use your Christmas tree in your garden.

Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses. You can also strip the branches off your tree and use them to protect delicate plants from snow.

4. Recycle your Christmas tree.


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Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood chips or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.

5. Donate your Christmas tree.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it into a lake to create a new fish habitat. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25

Amazon/shopDisney
Amazon/shopDisney

Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17

ZJHAI/Amazon

These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12

Aerwo/Amazon

This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16

Dazonge/Amazon

These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)

Disney

Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22

Joyin/Amazon

This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17

GeeFuun/Amazon

This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22

Joiedomi/Amazon

This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17

meiguisha/Amazon

Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18

amenon/Amazon

This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

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Norwegians May Hold the Secret to Braving a Winter Lockdown

Some people can change their winter mindset.
Some people can change their winter mindset.
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A combination of COVID-19, the flu, cold weather, shorter days, and spending time indoors already has some Americans dreading the winter season. Health experts have also expressed concern over peoples' mental well-being, as opportunities to engage socially continue to be limited. In August, a Centers for Disease Control survey revealed that 41 percent of respondents were dealing with mental health issues due to the pandemic.

But the prospect of a long and isolating winter isn’t without precedent. In Tromsø, Norway, residents are virtually without sun from mid-November through mid-January. And they might hold the key to coping with the season.

Writing for The Guardian, David Robson recently profiled Kari Leibowitz, a psychologist who visited Tromsø to better understand why its citizens are, broadly speaking, pretty happy people despite the harsh weather and lack of sunlight. What Leibowitz discovered was that the people of Tromsø don’t dread the polar night—they look forward to it.

Leibowitz found that their appraisal of a “lockdown” wasn’t at all downcast. Instead of applying negative thoughts to it, they considered all the things that would bring them comfort. Using a “mindset scale,” respondents who stated they enjoyed certain aspects of winter, cozy time spent indoors, and seasonal changes were comfortable. Those who considered winter boring or limiting were more likely to be unhappy.

Anecdotally, Leibowitz also found that residents of Tromsø were genuinely excited about the opportunities the season brings, from skiing to resting under a blanket. Rather than feel restricted, they opted to appreciate what was possible.

"Most people don’t realize that their beliefs about winter are subjective,” Leibowitz said. “They feel like they’re just someone who hates the winter and there’s nothing they can do about it ... But once you put it in people’s heads that mindsets exist, and that you have control over your mindset ... I think that that’s tremendously powerful."

For some people, like those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a change in attitude isn't so easy. But for others, shifting their thinking away from a cold and dark season to one full of potential might be one way to find the warmth in winter.

[h/t The Guardian]