AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the holidays end, many families look for eco-friendly ways to dispose of their Christmas trees.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, keeping those trees alive will benefit everyone by keeping the amount of carbon in the air down, supporting local businesses and tree farmers, and filling your home with the smell and feel of a real tree.

“As Christmas trees grow, they provide many of the same benefits our urban and natural forests do, such as clean air, soil stabilization and carbon sequestration,” said Alison Baylis, Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Urban Ecologist. “Further, buying a Christmas tree can help support a business or your local economy.”

According to the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, there are 175 Christmas tree farms in Texas producing over 200,000 trees each year.

“Even though trees are a renewable resource, we should opt to recycle or dispose of them in a way that helps the environment and gives our trees a second life,” said Baylis. “By recycling Christmas trees, we can reduce our carbon footprint and support a more sustainable holiday season.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service has several ways to dispose of Christmas trees.

  • Recycle

Real trees are biodegradable, and many communities have tree recycling programs.

For example, the City of Austin begins its tree recycle program on Dec. 26.

  • Mulch

The Forest Service says the most common recycling option is chipping Christmas trees into mulch, which can be used for a variety of needs around homes and yards.

Mulch can be placed around the base of trees and gardens as an insulator to help plants withstand cold temperatures and prevent soil erosion and compaction.

  • Pond and wildlife habitat

According to the Forest Service, you can also place Christmas trees in yards or nature landscapes or in bodies of water to create habitat for wildlife.

When Christmas trees are sunken into water bodies, they increase the complexity of the aquatic habitat.

Woody debris provides a place for aquatic species to flourish, which increases overall biodiversity.

If you do not have a pond or lake on your property, contact local officials to see if there is a suitable body of water in which you can properly dispose of your tree.

You can also choose to set your tree in your yard, creating a wildlife habitat. Birds can use your old Christmas tree as a shelter.

Enjoy the view by tying bird feed, orange slices, popcorn and other bird-friendly treats to your tree and watch the birds fill the branches.

  • Crafts

And the Forest Service says, you can also use parts of Christmas trees to make fun family activities such as tree cookies and coasters.

Cut the trunk of your tree to make coasters or other decorative accent pieces in your home.

Go a step further and let kids paint the tree cookies for one-of-a-kind artwork.

As the joy of having a Christmas tree in your home comes to an end this season, use one of the many ways to sustainably dispose of your Christmas tree to prevent it from ending up in a landfill.

Make sure to remove all decorations such as ornaments, lights and ribbon.

If the tree is sprayed with flocking or fake snow, it should not be recycled.

Tree limbs are a great way to insulate garden plants, and some cities even have free mulch available after the holiday season.

For more information on how to sustainably recycle your Christmas tree, contact your Texas A&M Forest Service district office. Visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/ContactUs/ to find contact information.