Published on 12/08/17

Deck the halls safely this holiday season

By Michelle M. Lewis

I always feel festive when I see trees decorated this time of year. If you decide to put a tree up in your home or office, follow these safety tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to keep you, your family members and friends safe.

If you decide to purchase a live tree, choose one that is fresh. Your tree will shed some of its needles, but that is okay. If you find a tree with a lot of shedding, pick another tree, even if the price is good.

Make sure that your tree stand is the correct size. Before trying to place your tree in the stand, cut approximately 2 inches off of the bottom of the trunk. Make sure that there is always water in the stand so that your tree won't dry out. Avoid placing your tree near a fireplace or other heat sources, such as radiators, heating vents, lights or candles.

Another way to celebrate with a live tree is to buy a balled-and-burlapped tree so that it can be replanted after the holiday. The same safety precautions apply for a live tree as previously mentioned for a cut tree. Visit your local nursery or big-box home improvement store to see what is available in your area.

If you decide to use an artificial tree, there are other safety precautions to consider. Make sure that the tree is made of flame-resistant material, and if the tree is pre-lit, make sure it has a UL-listed label.

Never use electric lighting on a metal tree. Doing so can create a charge to the tree and cause electrocution.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions before assembling an artificial tree. It's never a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Never use frayed or damaged tree lighting or extension cords, and do not cover electrical cords with rugs.

Do not place the tree too far from the wall, as children may run behind it and trip. Do not use more than three strings of lighting on a single tree.

Once the holiday season is over, leave your live tree at the curbside if you live in the city. Recycling options include taking the tree to a location that grinds trees into mulch or creating a fish attractor by weighting the base of the tree and sinking it in a pond or lake.

Before recycling, remove all decorations. Live trees are biodegradable. Most decorations are not. For more ways to repurpose a live tree, visit

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