With the New Year here, many people are going to take down their holiday decorations before settling in for the remainder of winter. If you have a natural tree in your house, there are a few options available to dispose of your tree in an environmentally friendly manner.
One easy way to put your tree to use once it leaves your house is to turn it into fish habitat. Numerous fish species rely on structure to help them stay hidden from predators and some species use cover as an ambush point to find food.
While many water bodies are not frozen enough right now to support somebody walking on them, you can set your tree outside until the ice is thick enough. Tie something to the tree that will make the it sink and then drag it out onto the ice so you can leave it close to where you want it to end up. Once the ice melts, the tree will sink to the bottom and provide cover for fish for a few years. Only do this on private water bodies where you have permission to do so.
Adding some sort of flagging or warning near it wouldn’t hurt, especially if people might be riding ATVs or snowmobiles and could run into the tree when it is laying on the ice. It might be worth asking your neighbors what they are doing with their trees so that you can create a good-sized hang out for the fish.
Another option is to put the tree in a location where wildlife can utilize it. While balsam fir (probably the species that is most popular for a Christmas tree) is not usually eaten by deer unless they are on the brink of starvation, the cover provided by the branches can be utilized by numerous species. Rabbits can hide in it to avoid being seen by hawks. If things do get bad enough, deer might come eat the buds and any needles that are left. You can stand your tree up outside with a stand and then hang bird feeders in the tree.
If you are a hunter, leaving your tree near your ground blind locations will leave you with something to help conceal your blind this fall. When I was in high school, the late waterfowl season ran into mid-January in the Western Zone. The guy I learned to hunt from would always bring his tree to our duck blind after Christmas. We would cut limbs off from it to help hide the blind from incoming ducks and geese.
A third way to get rid of your tree is to bring it to one of the three sites of the Chenango County Department of Waste Management. With all decorations removed, they will accept natural trees for no charge. The trees are chipped and turned into mulch. The mulch is usually available for county residents to take for personal use in the spring and summer, just call ahead to check.
If you want to use as much of your tree as possible yourself, you can remove the limbs and use them as an insulator on gardens or flowerbeds to prevent damage from extreme cold to any overwintering roots of perennials. Then you can use the trunk as firewood for a bonfire this summer. If you are more crafty, you can use slice the trunk to make coasters or candle bases. Use a sealant to make sure the wood does not ooze sap. If you want any more inspiration, just run a quick search online.