Merry Christmas! Hopefully you’re in the middle of a warm, wonderful family celebration and won’t even see this until after the fact. I love celebrating Christmas, but I can’t say the same about putting all of the Christmas decorations away. And then there’s the tree.

A few weeks ago, your family drove happily to the tree lot, or your local Home Depot, or (if you’re really lucky) to the mountains and chose the perfect Christmas tree for your celebration. You lugged it home, set it up, decorated it, and enjoyed its beauty.

But right around the time Christmas day begins to wane, the Christmas tree begins to wane, too. The branches droop, the needles fall, and the tree gets so dry you worry it might go up in flames at any moment. At that point, getting rid of the tree becomes priority number one. No one wants a sad, ugly tree in the middle of the living room, much less a potentially dangerous tree.

Christmas tree recycling seems like a simple and obvious process, but it has really only gained momentum within the last decade or so. With about 30 million Christmas trees sold in the U.S. alone each year according to the National Christmas Tree Association, recycling them saves a huge amount of landfill space and can do some real good.

Cities and counties across the country use recycled Christmas trees as mulch in community parks and trails, keeping the areas beautiful while saving money. Some agencies near the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana have even started using recycled Christmas trees to rebuild coastline areas. I know of several people that have live Christmas trees in their homes and then plant them after the holidays are over.

Many communities will pick up your Christmas tree as part of an ongoing trash and recycling program, so check with your city’s solid waste department first. You’ll also find a searchable database of Christmas tree recycling programs at Earth911.com.