From Pygmy goats to garden insulation: Everything you need to know about how to repurpose, reuse or recycle your live Christmas tree

BUCKHANNON – What do Pygmy goats, fish, pine trees and recycling have to do with one another?

More than you would think!

Did you know you there are multiple ways you can not only recycle, reuse or repurpose your live holiday tree while simultaneously bringing food, shelter and comfort to goats, fish, rabbits, birds and many other wildlife animals?

The Christmas holidays are drawing to a close and the fresh Christmas tree and pine boughs you gathered have added beauty and freshness to your holiday decorations.

But now, you may be wondering about the best way to dispose of the greenery that served the season so well. The best advice would be to recycle, reuse and repurpose these items.

In past years, many folks have recycled their Santa Bushes at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Christmas Tree recycling events; however, this year, the WVDEP announced it will not be conducting these annual events in January due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In their release announcing the discontinuation of the recycling event, the WVDEP’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan officials recommend residents use green alternatives such as composting and mulching of the trees rather than merely taking them to the landfills.

In Upshur County, local resident Jennie Barnette is looking for live pine trees to feed her goats, adding that the trees cannot have been treated with any chemicals.

Barnette has five Pygmy goats and said she uses the trees not only to feed her goats but also as a fish habitat.

Pygmy goats wait patiently for their Christmas ‘tree-ts.’ Jennie Barnette drags used Christmas trees free of any pesticides, preservatives and flocking for the goats to eat. Barnette said as soon as the goats gobble down the pine needles, the trees will go into their pond to provide food and shelter for the fish in the pond. / Photo courtesy Jeannie Barnette

“We have been collecting trees for our goats for the last five years,” Barnette said. “After the goats eat all of the pine needles from the trees, we put the trees in our pond for use as fish habitats.”

“We have to make sure that the tree has not been sprayed with anything and that icicles have not been used to decorate the trees,” she added. “Both are poisonous to the goats.”

Materials typically applied to Christmas trees that are poisonous include pesticides, flocking and preservative sprays.

Barnette said the best way to contact her to donate your live Christmas tree is to contact her on Facebook Messenger. There is a post about her accepting Christmas trees on Misty Post’s Buckhannon Events page.

Or, why not recycle your Christmas tree back to where you purchased it? Matilda Fowler, owner of French Creek Christmas Trees said they are accepting trees back after the holidays. Trees can be dropped off back at the farm and left on the front side of their driveway. Fowler said the trees will be dispersed through the farm and will be used by the animals, such as quails and rabbits, for their habitats.

Our neighbors in Tucker County at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge also offered an answer to the question, “Where can I put it (my Christmas tree and holiday boughs) when it’s done bringing us holiday cheer?”

In fact, they took to their Facebook site to make the following suggestions for using your holiday tree to continue bringing joy through the winter months:

  • As a fish feeder. Trees are an excellent opportunity for a reserve for fish. The heavy tree sinks and algae begins to form and it provides a great feeding ground for fish while providing protection from predators. They advise to check with local officials before dropping any trees in public bodies of water.
  • Use as firewood. They recommend stripping the branches for kindling and cutting the trunk to use as fire logs for a warm outdoors fire. They advise against using the evergreens for indoor fires as the sap is flammable and creosote buildup is dangerous for indoor use.
  • Use as mulch or compost. Officials say the mulch is a great way to keep backyard trees healthy and moist during the winter season, adding that pine needles enhance the pH of soil which allows it to breathe. If using for compost, officials advise using water to douse the pine needles and recommend they are mixed well into the compost pile.
  • Use it to insulate your garden. Cut branches from the tree and lay them on your garden bed which will provide a more consistent temperature during the winter months. They said it also protects from frost.

Finally, they recommend using the tree as a wildlife shelter for your yard. Suggestions include making or hanging bird feeders in the tree to attract birds and other small animals as well as laying the tree on the ground to provide shelter for ground dwellers such as rabbits.

If none of these options fit for you, never fear. Buckhannon City Waste Collection Supervisor Jeff Wamsley said trees can be picked up inside of the city limits.

“Residents can call Buckhannon City Hall at 304-472-1651 and arrange for the Buckhannon Street Department to pick up the Christmas trees,” Wamsley said. “They do the pickups beginning in January on the first and third Fridays of the month. Just call City Hall and make an appointment for the tree to be picked up.”

Wamsley said after the trees are collected, they are taken to the Waste Transfer Station and are burned.

“The ashes are then used in composting,” Wamsley said. “We have also had some calls from folks who want some of the trees to use for wildlife in the area.”

Residents in the city limits are also invited to bring their live Christmas trees to the Transfer Station, located on Mud Lick Road during their regular hours of Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 to 11:45 a.m. No appointment is necessary when dropping of Christmas trees at the Transfer Station.

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