What To Do with that Old Christmas Tree

So another holiday season is nearing its end. The yule log has burned low, the carols have quieted, and the hangover is slowly fading.

Soon it will be time to pack up the ornaments, dump the rancid eggnog, and try to remember which projects you left uncompleted at the office.

Also, you have to figure out what to do with your Christmas tree now that the season is coming to an end. If you’re like most Americans (the ones who move real evergreens into their homes during the holidays, at any rate), your approach is likely to haul the old Christmas tree out through the a door far too narrow, dropping countless needles you will be finding well into the summertime, and then unceremoniously toss the tree — that same tree you festooned with tinsel, lights, and love — down onto the cold, hard curb to wait for its final destination… a municipal pile of trash. Sigh.

Hey, instead of callously discarding your old Christmas tree, why not breathe some new life into that old, dead hulk by thinking of some new ways to use it? An old Christmas tree offers myriad opportunities for new uses if you think about it cleverly enough.

Pathetically Easy Coasterscoasters

Everyone likes rugged, rustic wooden coasters, right? Well, most people. Many, at any rate. Provided you had a Christmas tree with a decently hearty trunk, all you need is a good miter saw and some lacquer, and you can make multiple charming coasters by cutting the thick base of the trunk into discs. I recommend slicing them into sections about a third of an inch thick. You might want to let the discs sit for a week or two after cutting them to let any residual sap bleed out. Then cover the discs in a thick, generous layer of store-bought lacquer. Finally, suspend them (over a thick sheet of cardboard or a plastic bag) from a string with a little brad nail tapped into one edge of the disc and let the lacquer drip and dry. There, you just made awesome coasters from your old tree’s trunk.

Pine Needle Fire Startersfire-starter

The thousands of dried pine needles your old Christmas tree sheds can be a serious headache to clean up, but they can also be a seriously fine source of fire. (Or a fabulously dangerous fire hazard when said needles are still attached to the tree and the tree is still in your home.) This is simple stuff here, people; all you need to gather are:

  • Lots of dried pine needles
  • Some empty egg cartons
  • A bunch of wax

The type of wax does not matter; use old candles, order a bag of paraffin, use beeswax from your own hive, whatever. The egg cartons need to be cardboard, not styrofoam. Cool? Cool. Break the pine needles up into smallish pieces and then fill the cups of the egg carton(s), packing the needles down gently. Now melt the wax and fill each cup of needles up to just below its brim. Let the wax cool for a few hours, and then there you go, great, slow-burning fire starters that create a Christmas-y smell.

Make Mulch/Compost Aplentycompost

If you have a wood chipper, a ground up Christmas tree makes amazing mulch. Once it’s fully dried, just chop that ol’ tree into pieces and spread it about wherever you need some ground cover. And even if you don’t have a chipper, the needles and smaller branches can still be added to a batch of compost. They are a rich source of all-important carbon, which a compost pile requires in much greater volume than nitrogen. Don’t put the trunk in there — that just won’t help.

Brewing With Pinetea

You can brew all sorts of great stuff using pine needles! Actually, just tea and beer, really. But hey, tea and beer! Those are great! For a batch of pine needle tea, you can just toss a handful of needles (provided they are still green) into a cup or two of boiling water, cut the heat, add some lemon slices, and let everything steep for about five minutes. But a tastier idea is to mix about one part pine needle with five parts black tea and then steep as normal. (Great source of vitamin C, by the way, those pine needles!) As for brewing beer with pine, consider adding needles with each hop addition for an IPA or steeping your grains with a handful of pine when making an ale or a robust lager.