By now we’ve all heard about the Christmas tree schemes where you rent a live tree in a pot that’s replanted in a forest each year. But depending on where you live, that’s not always an option - so many of us still opt to purchase a cut tree each December.
Across western Europe, as soon as it hits 6 January, our streets are lined with Christmas trees cast aside after their festive duties are done.
And if you also take into account the trees that are cut, but not sold, that’s an awful lot of trees being thrown away. Surely, there’s more that can be done with them?
Here’s a few ideas:
A tasty treat
Some city farms and petting zoos offer a tree collection service in exchange for a donation.
Kentish Town City Farm in London, the UK’s oldest city farm, uses the trees they collect to feed their goats. Not only do they taste good but they’re thought to be a natural de-wormer too.
Cut trees can be planted or buried on beaches to help support and heighten sand dunes.
Sand dunes help to protect land from flooding. They are also blue carbon ecosystems which means they store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests, and have stored 1/3 of global carbon emissions since the industrial revolution.
The trees are carefully planted into the ground and as the wind blows the sand, it’s captured in the branches of the trees and builds the dune back up.
Beach Guardian, an organisation based in Cornwall, UK, organises a whole army of volunteers who bring old Christmas trees to the beach to help protect the sand dunes. They have been doing it for three years now.
If you’re nowhere near a beach or have no local farm to give your tree to, many local councils or charities will take away trees and turn them into fertiliser.
Trees are shredded up and used to keep public spaces flourishing and green.
In Paris, the city council has set up drop off points throughout the city for trees to be collected, shredded and then spread across the city’s green spaces.
“Before, fir trees were burned in incinerators. Now, the material is biodegradable, it's natural, so there is no reason not to exploit it," says Nicolas Soules, a gardener for the City of Paris.
Playtime at the zoo
As well as a tasty treat for farm animals, Christmas trees can be put to good use at zoos, as part of enrichment programmes for a range of animals.
Elephants, gorillas and bison at Berlin and Prague zoo have enjoyed playing with, sniffing and nibbling at leftover trees.
"We get them from vendors, these are unsold Christmas trees,” explains Miroslav Bobek, Director of Prague Zoo.
“We do not collect used trees from households because they may contain tiny wires on which decorations and sweets used to hang, and that could be dangerous for the animals."
**Watch the video above to learn more about ways to give your old Christmas a new life in January. **