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The Christmas tree fairy

This time of year we spin tales of a jolly man with a big white beard, a bright red suit, and a team of reindeer delivering gifts to children everywhere. And when Christmas is over, we tell ourselves stories of another magical helper — the Christmas tree fairy.

Throughout December evergreens are adorned with lights and ornaments, and prominently displayed in the window most seen by passersby. But then the new year rolls around and the trees are kicked to the curb. Like the tooth fairy, the Christmas tree fairy sweeps up your discarded organic matter and whisks it away to a better place. Or just away.

Here in San Francisco, come early January trees start to pile up on street corners, sometimes stacked three or four high. I did a little research and learned that these trees are actually picked up by the recycling company, sent through a wood chipper and used for mulch. Nirvana.

If you’re ready to face the reality that there is no Christmas tree fairy, here are some things you should know:

* Most trees are too acidic to compost in your backyard.
* In California, tossing your tree in the woods can spread Pitch Canker Disease, which can be devastating to native species.
* Never burn your tree in a fireplace or wood stove.
* Contact your local recycling center to learn about turning your tree into mulch.

What about the carbon? Recycling a tree by turning it into mulch or burning is carbon balanced. One could even make a case that you end up storing more carbon overall because a young growth tree farm sequesters more carbon than an old growth forest.

Got trees? What are you doing with yours this year?

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