Now that the holidays are behind everyone, it's time to start taking down the decorations, getting the house back in order and getting rid of that old Christmas tree.

But wait. Don't just toss the tree onto the curb. Your town, county or local nonprofit might have use for it.

Tim Dillingham, executive director of The American Littoral Society, said the coastline in New Jersey is always shifting and it's gotten worse over the years due to climate change and rising sea levels. The organization uses natural materials, such as old Christmas trees, to protect the coastline.

Projects include using the trees to rebuild sand dunes and break waves that are eroding salt marshes.

The organization is working on a project in Point Pleasant where they are using recycled Christmas trees to help protect the salt marsh at the Slade Dale Nature Reserve.

Poeple can drop off their trees at The Friends of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Point Pleasant.

He also said it's a good idea to grind Christmas trees down into wood chips and put the organic matter back into a garden. Many municipalities pick up trees from the curb and turn them into mulch.

In Island Beach State Park, trees are sued to create habitats for small birds and control beach erosion.

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The Ocean County Parks System can also use old Christmas trees. The trees are grinded down into wood chips. They are then used not only on lands surrounding the parks system, but residents can use the wood chips for their own purposes. So the trees are not going into a landfill, it's not costing taxpayers any money and it helps the environment, Ocean County Commissioner Joe Vicari said.

Vicari said towns on the oceanfront can use the trees for the beach dune systems. He said they bury the trees on the beach, put sand on top of them and when there's a nor'easter, a hurricane or any other kind of storm, it holds the land and the sand together.

One town that's a leader in this kind of beach dune resiliency with the use of Christmas trees is Berkeley.

All residents need to do is bring their old Christmas tree to any county park from now until the end of the month. Just be sure to strip the tree of lights, tinsel and ornaments.

Vicari said this tree recycling  saves Ocean County a lot of money. They don't have to spend cash to buy wood chips or peat moss for the parks. This is something the parks have been doing for many years and he wants to continue the Christmas tree recycling tradition.

The Cape May County Zoo can use your old Christmas tree for the animals. Parks Director Ed Runyon said the trees are put in the animal exhibits for enrichment. For example, the bison interact with the Christmas trees. This is something different in their exhibit with its different smells and different textures. They like to play with the trees, nibble on them and carry them around. He said this interaction keeps their minds fresh. The lions also enjoy playing and tugging on them, as they are attracted by the tree's smell.

Runyon said the zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and park hours are from 7 a.m. to dusk so people can drop off the trees in big trucks that are on hand. Runyon said there should be nothing on the trees such as ornaments, tinsel, garland, lights or ribbons. These items are dangerous for the animals if ingested.

Runyon also said the Christmas tree use does not stop there. Once the animals get tired of playing with them, the maintenance staff breaks the trees down into chips, which are then used on the parks' bike paths and hiking trails.

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