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story.lead_photo.caption Christmas tree mulch can reduce garden weeds, modify soil temperature and help soil retain moisture. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

For those who celebrate Christmas, the first acts of the new year often revolve around the holiday as decorations are taken down and trees are disposed of.

The Missouri Department of Conservation offers ideas for how live Christmas trees can be recycled in ways that benefit the environment.

According to a recent MDC news release, live trees can be turned into mulch.

"Most live trees can be chipped and turned into mulch which you can use to return organic matter to the soil," MDC Community Forester Mark Grueber said. "As the mulch breaks down it helps keep soil moist and cool during the summer and warmer during the winter."

Christmas tree mulch can reduce garden weeds, modify soil temperature and help soil retain moisture.

Gardeners can also cut boughs and branches to cover perennial beds as protection from frost and snow — waxy pine needles are moisture and mold-resistant.

A tree can also serve as a brush pile providing cover for small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. In rural areas, a good location for a brush pile is near edges of overgrown fields, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Needles and twigs can be kept for us by campers as fire-starters.

Branches and discs cut from the trunk can be made into craft projects such as wreathes and potpourri, or dried and turned into art or coasters.

For landowners with ponds, trees tossed in the water can benefit fish like largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie. Small fish eat aquatic insects that live in the branches and hide in the branches from larger fish.

MDC recommends tying the tree to a cement block and submerging it four to seven feet deep for cover for fish.

According to DNR, trees should not be burnt in fireplaces or wood stove while still green as resins in green trees can cause a flue fire.

Before disposing of a tree, be sure to remove any decorations and strings of lights.

Old or broken strings of lights can be recycled. During the holiday season, many purchase or receive new electronics.

Used electronics can be donated to organizations such as schools, nursing homes and charities. Similarly, many manufacturers have take-back programs in place — check with manufacturer websites or electronic stores.

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