Christmas Tree Composting

Christmas Tree Composting Ad (1)
Christmas Tree Composting Ad 2- Preparation

Options to Reuse and Recycle Real Christmas Trees

Once the holiday season is over, there are plenty of options for properly disposing of your Christmas tree:

  1. Participate in the City of Charleston's Tree Recycling Program. It's FREE and easy.  Trees are picked up curbside to be composted during a specified time period after the holidays. 
    • 2024 Dates: Christmas tree collection will start January 8th and the final collection will take place the week of February 10th, on your scheduled trash day. 
    • Trees must be free of any and all decorations and tinsel. 
    • Trees must be placed curbside so that are equipment can reach them, preferably alone or near yard debris. 
    • Please, DO NOT put trees in food scrap carts, nor put artificial trees next to real trees curbside.
  2. Compost it in your backyard compost system and reap the benefits of a fresh soil amendment in the spring.
  3. If you have a wood chipper, chip the tree for free mulch.
  4. Use the needles for crafts like evergreen potpourri, the trunk for natural coasters and more!
  5. Strip the tree bare and use it to build a frame for vine-y garden plants like beans, cucumbers and flowers.
  6. Donate it to a local goat farm (check with them first!) — look up goats eating Christmas trees videos and you'll see why this is such a fun option.

Comparing the Carbon Footprint of Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

Real Christmas trees are a more eco-friendly choice.  Small-scale Christmas tree farms are often sustainable, with sections harvested annually while others are preserved for new growth. Growing an average-sized tree takes about 7 years, during which they absorb carbon and use 10x fewer resources than artificial trees. For every tree cut down, 1 to 3 new seedling trees are planted, as per the Association of Christmas Tree Growers.

tree emissions

  • REAL TREES: When disposed of properly (composted), real trees have a carbon footprint of 0-3.5 kg CO2 footprint, depending on factors like age and location.   However, this increases to 16 kg if sent to landfills.  Real trees typically sequester enough carbon to offset their resource use.  Pro tip: Replant your Christmas tree for a negative carbon footprint!
  • PLASTIC TREES: Fake Christmas trees are made with plastic, which is produced from crude oil.  While reusable, they have an estimated carbon cost of 40 kg if discarded. To match the eco-friendliness of a real tree, an artificial tree would need over 12 years of reuse and it is yet another piece of plastic in our landfill for future generations.  
    • Disposal of Artificial trees: These cannot be composted and should be disposed of with your trash, separate from live trees that will be composted. Use an artificial tree as many times as you possibly can and try to buy these second hand to reduce impact.  

If you’re still concerned about your holiday impact, consider planting a tree to offset your Christmas tree!  

Many places now offer live Christmas trees with root balls in tact that can be replanted.  Remember, we celebrate ARBOR DAY in SC in December because it's the best time to plant a tree so its roots can get established before our harsh summer heat.