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Zoo animals in Oakland, Calif., last year were treated to Christmas trees donated by local lots with excess inventory. Zebras, giraffes and some other animals eat the trees, while otters play hide-and-seek with prizes hidden in the branches.

Burlington, Vt., mulches its post-holiday trees, but that mulch is used to help power its city of roughly 41,000 people.

Mary Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Burlington Electric Department, said residents leave their trees on the curb after Christmas and the public works department collects and puts them immediately into a chipper.

The chips head to a nearby 50-megawatt generating plant that gets its power from wood fire.

Though the mulch offers only so much fire power, the alternative is better than “having the waste go into a landfill.”

“It’s providing something useful,” Ms. Sullivan said. “It’s very small, but it helps close the loop.”