Repurpose that old Christmas tree- for the planet

  • This cut- up balsam evergreen Christmas tree ended up in a Lincoln County pond recently where it will be placed in deeper waters and provide a haven for freshwater fish and other life. Ledger photo by Andrew W. Griffin

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was 30 years ago this past Christmas season that a Time magazine reporter went to Colorado to do a profile on legendary gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson at his bucolic home – Owl Farm.

As reporter Sam Allis re-counted at the time, as strains of Cowboy Junkies’ “Misguided Angel” spookily rang out, providing a surreal, musical backdrop, the good “Doctor of Journalism” – wearing a fright wig and already boozed up on Chivas Regal and gin-spiked pink lemonades – squirted two cans of lighter fluid on his sad, dried-out Christmas tree and then shoved it into his indoor fireplace.

Needless to say, doing so was a terribly dangerous and careless thing to do. Thompson nearly burned his house down. And it should go without saying, burning your Christmas tree in a fireplace – or on an open fire of any sort, for that matter – is ill-advised. Not because of just how flammable evergreens are, but because of the tarlike creosote in the trees that can release a lot of dangerous smoke.

That said, you are probably wondering how to dispose of your Christmas tree this year. In some municipalities, trucks are sent out and pick up the trees on the curb. Trees are sometimes mulched by city workers, or simply thrown into a landfill, where the tough fibers of an evergreen can take a long time to decompose. Just be sure you remove all of the lights and decorations and don’t bag the tree, or it might not get picked up by your trash service. Same goes for tall trees. If they are seven feet or higher, you may need to cut it up first to be removed.

And while there are private services that offer to pick up your tree for you. In Lawton, the City of Lawton’s Solid Waste Collection Division, which can be contacted at 580-581-3428, can schedule to pick up solid waste, like a Christmas tree, by calling them directly and scheduling a pickup curbside.

Statistics from the National Christmas Tree Association, as Southwest Ledger reported in December, showed that the Millennial generation – young people born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s – were behind a big uptick in Christmas tree sales, with 5.4 million more trees purchased in 2018, as compared to 2017.

And with the current global pandemic, a yearning for the simplicity of yesteryear – and all of its trappings; Christmas trees included – has only increased in the past 12-plus months.


Over the past decade or two, there has been increased interest in recycling a Christmas tree by tossing it out into a lake or pond and letting it sink, thereby allowing for it to provide a lake bottom habitat for fish and other creatures to spawn and grow and keep the circle of life spinning in that particular body of water.

The Alexandria, Virginia-based pro-fishing organization, Keep America Fishing, is a big advocate of sinking old Christmas trees.

As they note at Keep “When it comes to fishing, habitat is one of the most important aspects to angling success. In water bodies lacking structure and depth changes, baitfish will be heavily scattered.”

As a result, notes the site, finding a desired sportfish can be difficult, as many fish remain inactive during the day when they don’t have refuge.

This is where the Christmas tree comes in. “As woody plant tissue decomposes, Mother Nature jumpstarts a whole new series of vegetation at the lowest levels of life such as phytoplankton and various algae.”

“Zooplankton, also known as water fleas, populate and forage on the new vegetation, attracting small insects, mussels, snails and crawfish which also eat on the phyto and zooplankton.

“The abundance of life then attracts small, non-predatory fish that eat on the small insects or zooplankton, and the larger, predator species we cherish. As the saying goes, “Find the Bait, and You’ll Find the Fish.”


One other nature-friendly use of your old tree is to use a handsaw or chainsaw and saw off branches of the tree, leaving the trunk. From there, you can saw the trunk into two-inch-thick rounds which can be used to line your spring garden bed.

While municipalities in southwest Oklahoma may have to chop up the trees into mulch, many cities do make the mulch available to citizens to use on the lawns and gardens. It is a great way to reuse the very tree that brightened up a room in your home over the holidays.

Other creative uses for the trunk is to slice the trunk into thinner pieces and using them as coasters. It is recommended that polyurethane be used to coat the tree-trunk coasters as sap and pitch may seep out otherwise.