christmas tree recycling
A holiday tradition
Every winter, families across Louisiana gather to celebrate the holidays. Many of them bring Christmas trees into their homes. For many years, unfortunately, those trees would eventually be discarded and taken to landfills. With the support of CRCL, parishes and municipalities throughout south Louisiana have changed that. A number of them have developed programs that recycle trees to help protect our coast while engaging volunteers in understanding the importance of coastal restoration. It’s become a holiday tradition.
Since CRCL helped create the first Christmas tree recycling program for coastal restoration, more than one million trees have been used to help our coast.
Only green trees can be recycled. Artificial, flocked or painted trees are not eligible. Before dropping off or putting your tree at the location of your regular garbage collection, make sure to strip off any lights, tinsel, garland, ornaments, tree stands or plastic bags.
CRCL partnered with St. Charles Parish in 1989 to begin the first Christmas tree recycling program in coastal Louisiana. It was so successful that 15 coastal parishes soon joined the effort with funding from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The state no longer funds the projects, leaving it up to individual parishes to foot the bills.
The idea for using brush fences came from a Dutch graduate student, Roel Boumans. Brush fences are the main tool for using Christmas trees to help our coast. Brush fences are built like a corral for the trees, holding the trees in place to allow sediment in the water column to settle and buffer the shoreline from waves.
This was an important turning point for connecting science and volunteerism. This was the first major effort to get the public involved in coastal restoration.
Benefits of recycling Christmas trees
- Slows erosion by creating a protective barrier
- Traps sediment to help build land
- Provides a buffer that slows down wave action
- Keeps trees out of landfills
- Shows the public how simple steps can accomplish big things
CRCL has also partnered with the Francois de Lery Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution to recycle wreaths from Chalmette National Cemetery. This is a pilot project; we are not accepting wreaths from the public as part of it. The more than 1,300 wreaths placed at the cemetery as part of Wreaths Across America will be gathered in January 2024 and transported to CRCL Restoration Headquarters in Violet. University of New Orleans professor Maddie Foster-Martinez is working with students to design and implement a project in which the wreaths will likely be strung on a rope or cable and anchored in Quarantine Bay, in the Neptune Pass outfall area in lower Plaquemines Parish. The intent is to slow down water so sediment settles and builds land more quickly.
CRCL has also partnered with the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, Glass Half Full, Common Ground, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and others to deploy trees into the water at Pointe-au-Chien. CRCL volunteers will later be planting trees adjacent to the Christmas trees. Non-flocked natural trees can be dropped off at our Restoration Headquarters at 6207 East St. Bernard Highway, Violet, on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are other drop-off sites for this project, and Glass Half Full even offers curbside pickup.