The Aftermath

When all the holiday fun is over, be responsible: Don’t send your Christmas tree to the landfill. Either recycle it in your own garden by cutting it into pieces for use as garden mulch, or drop it off at Wood Waste Management (7315 NE 47th Ave, 503-493-3370) for a small fee. Visit Metro’s website ( for curbside recycling resources and a list of nonprofit groups that recycle Christmas trees. Do not burn your tree in a woodstove or fireplace, as conifer wood is very resinous and can cause creosote buildup and chimney fires.


Ultimately, choosing a live tree or a cut tree boils down to a combination of aesthetics and practical concerns. Whether cut or living, a tree’s carbon footprint is determined by how sustainably it is grown, how far it travels once harvested, and what is done with it after the holidays. Shop for a live tree that is organically and locally grown, and pick a place to plant it where it will thrive. Maluski cautions, “Most folks don’t know where to plant their tree. City lots are small, and there are power lines crisscrossing the neighborhoods. You don’t want to have to cut it down later.”


If you want to plant the tree permanently in your garden, select the species with care, evaluating its ultimate height and its growth rate as well as the love factor: Will you still like it when it’s 20 feet tall and shading your vegetable garden? Be sure to take into account power lines or that long, overhanging eave. If your yard is small, consider buying a slow-growing conifer in a large pot, such as a dwarf form of pine or fir (see accompanying images).These can be maintained outdoors, lightly pruned, and brought in for the holidays over a number of seasons.

Depending on the height of the tree, its root system may exceed 24 inches in depth or width. Container-grown trees can be lighter and easier to lift than the notoriously heavy balled and burlapped (B&B) trees, but they may cost more.