7 creative ways to repurpose your real Christmas tree

While everyone from Pinterest to Martha Stewart is full of advice about decorating Christmas trees, it's a bit tougher to find inspiration when it's time to take a natural tree down. 

RELATED: Feeling crafty this holiday season? 5 artsy ideas that can bring in cash

But there's no need to kick the tree to the curb.

Instead, be crafty, creative and environmentally friendly with these seven ideas for repurposing your Christmas tree: 

Make a bird sanctuary

If you're willing to redecorate, the birds and squirrels would love to have a second celebration with your tree. This Old House recommends placing the discarded tree in its stand outdoors. "Fill bird feeders and hang them from the boughs, or drape the tree with a swag of pinecones coated with peanut butter."

Simmer up some pine needle potpourri

You can keep enjoying that piney scent with a simmering potpourri. The idea is similar to mulling spices on the back burner during the holidays. The Green Divas advise using small clippings from the Christmas tree (as many as will fit in the pot you're using) and adding lemon and orange rinds, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves and other spices - fresh rosemary is the Green Divas choice, but juniper berries, rose hips and nutmeg are other ideas. Cover them with water and simmer for hours to scent your home and drive away the January blues. 

Make coasters and trivets

This is a particularly nice project for young kids (and sentimental parents) who are having a hard time saying goodbye to the tree and the Christmas season. "Cut thin slabs off the trunk, sand them smooth and apply a thin coat of polyurethane to keep the sap off tables and glassware," instructs This Old House.

Donate it to the zoo

If you live in an area with a zoo, see if they need discarded Christmas trees for the animals to play with and eat. Same goes for local nature centers, which often use the trees as shelter for birds or even fish. If you need inspiration to take the extra step of completely undecorating the tree and arranging for pickup or transporting it yourself, check out this video of elephants in Vienna joyously consuming a Christmas tree

Make a tabletop tree

While fresh-branch tabletop trees are a holiday crafter's staple, the idea works after the holidays too. SILive provides directions for inserting cut branches in a soaked oasis floral form to create a small tree. It's best to place it outside so the shedding doesn't become a bother. As for decoration, consider white lights and red ornaments in honor of Valentine's Day, or tiny suet balls tied with ribbons for the birds to feast on.

RELATED: How to make your Christmas tree last longer this year

Add needles to the compost

You can finally quit worrying about needles falling on the carpet and make use of your tree's tendency to shed. Place the tree on a tarp until it's done shedding and then pour the brown needles into the compost. According to Extension.org, the website and blog for America's land-grant universities, needles will compost in about five or six weeks, which is slower than lots of other materials. But since it's winter, you won't need to worry too much about needing the composted soil before it's ready. 

Use needles to mulch

Extension.org also noted that pine needles make good mulch, though you'll want to wait to tilling them into the soil. "Because of the high carbon content, be cautious about burying [needles] in the soil before most of the decomposition has taken place [or] the microorganisms associated with them will consume nitrogen from the surrounding soil as the high-carbon material continues to decompose."

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