There are lots of ways to put a tree to good use.
If you purchased a real Christmas tree this holiday season, then you'll have to figure out what to do with it eventually. Perhaps, if you're lucky, your town has curbside pickup and will collect trees for mulching in the week after Christmas. But if not, you'll have to get creative with how to make that tree disappear. Assuming your tree is free from sprays, paint, and tinsel, here are some suggestions.
1. Make firewood.If you have a wood-burning stove or a fire pit in your backyard, it makes sense to use the tree you've got to make firewood. The branches will likely be quite dry after spending a few weeks in your house and could be used as fire starter immediately, but the trunk will be wet. Cut into lengths and stack them in a covered place to dry. By next summer they'll be ready to go.
2. Use the greenery.
If the evergreen branches are in good condition, use them to make a winter wreath or garland, or to fill out urns and window boxes. They can also be used to edge garden beds, or you can shake the branches into your garden beds to dislodge the needles and provide mulch.
3. Use the tree for craft projects.
You can slice the trunk into thin rounds, dry and seal them, and use as coasters. A length of trunk can be drilled out to make a rustic bird feeder. You can make these cute log stump men, as suggested by Empress of Dirt. Just search for repurposed wood crafts on Pinterest and you'll find a million ideas.
4. Decorate the tree again – for the birds.
This postpones having to deal with the tree, but it has the benefits of drying out the tree during the winter while providing food and shelter to wildlife in your yard. You can enjoy its beauty longer (without having to vacuum up pine needles) and turn it into firewood later. This article in Wilder Child explains how you can make suet cakes, birdseed feeders, and dried fruit slices and hang them on a tree.
5. Contact a wildlife conservation center.
Sometimes these centers accept old Christmas trees as toys for the animals housed in their facilities. For example, Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia, had a "bring a tree, get in free" day last year, when it collected trees as "entertainment and enrichment for the large animals, like tigers, lions, elephants and rhinos." So did another center in Scottsdale, AZ. It's worth a phone call if you don't see anything advertised.
6. Sink it in a pond.
We've written about this before on TreeHugger, how old trees can be dumped into ponds to provide habitats for fish. Some districts collect trees for this purpose, but if you have access to a pond on your own property or a lake nearby, why not give it a try?
7. Fight beach erosion.
If you live along the East Coast near sand dunes, see if a local organization can use your old tree to help fight erosion. In Fort Macon State Park, North Carolina, "Christmas trees have been used to repair damage to sand dunes caused by foot traffic and strong winds and to prevent the natural material from going into landfills." When hurricanes hit, the trees "catch the sand as the wind blows it down the beach [and] work better than a sand fence" (via Coastal Review).