While the holidays are coming to an end, you should hang on to your Christmas tree.
According to The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), keeping your tree in your backyard can beneficial for the environment, as opposed to sending it to the landfill.
"When we think of protecting nature, we don't necessarily think of our own backyards, and by extending the life of the Christmas tree and recycling it, even for four or five months, you're giving birds a fighting chance to survive our tough winter climate," Andrew Holland, national media relations director for the environmental group, told Daybreak South's Brady Strachan in 2019.
CHRISTMAS TREE PROVIDES ANIMAL HABITAT, FOOD
The first step is to put it anywhere in the backyard. Prop it up near another tree, against a fence or lay it in your garden.
Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist, says leaving it in your backyard over the winter has many benefits for backyard wildlife. The tree can provide important habitat for bird populations during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms.
“Evergreens offer a safe place for birds to rest while they visit your feeder,” says Kraus. “Another benefit is that if you leave the tree in your garden over the summer, it will continue to provide habitat for wildlife and improve your soil as it decomposes.”
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To make it more inviting for animals, people can put peanut butter on the tree and pine cones to make a food source for birds and squirrels. However, before you put peanut butter on, it is recommended you check to see if your area has a rat problem.
It is recommended to keep your tree until the spring. Photo: Nature Conservancy of Canada.
HOLD ON TO YOUR TREE UNTIL SPRING OR SUMMER
The biggest environmental benefit is the diversion of trees away from landfills, where trees can catch fire and release methane, Holland said. He recommends keeping your tree until the spring, when many municipalities send crews to collect yard waste.
But this doesn't necessarily mean it will take untik to break down, and in fact, most of the time the tree will decompose before then, he added.
"The tree branches and those needles will break down organically the same as a tree does in a forest. It's the same principle," said Holland. "That's good for your soil. So that might help out with fertilizer and stuff, save a few bucks on that."
To speed up the process, you can drill a few holes into the tree, which may help draw insects. "This is a very small act of backyard conservation in nature that people can do that can really make a big difference."
Another option in the spring, when the tree will have lost most of its needles, is cut the tree branches, lay them where spring flowers are starting to emerge in your garden and place the trunk on soil, but not on top of the flowers.
Leaving the tree in your backyard over the winter has many benefits for backyard wildlife. Photo: Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Kraus says the tree branches and trunk can provide habitat, shelter wildflowers, hold moisture and help build the soil, mimicking what happens with dead trees and branches in a forest. Toads will seek shelter under the log, and insects, including pollinators such as carpenter bees, will burrow into the wood.
As well, there are other uses for Christmas trees. Several municipalities have drop-off sites where trees are chipped up and composted, or used as trail bedding. Some communities place the trees on shores to help prevent coastal erosion, and some pulp and paper companies will burn them for a fuel alternative to oil.
Thumbnail courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada.