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Area Christmas tree toss makes recycling even greener
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North Georgia Zoo and Petting Farm Christmas tree toss
When: 1-3 p.m. Dec. 29-30
Where: 2912 Paradise Valley Road, Cleveland
Cost: Free
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To help people dispose of unwanted live trees and entertain animals at the same time, the North Georgia Zoo and Petting Farm in Cleveland will host its annual Christmas tree toss Dec. 29-30.

From 1-3 p.m., zoo workers will place the pine trees in the animal enclosures, except for the reptiles. Guests then watch the action during a tour of the facility.

Jessica Hamman, the zoo’s visitor experience leader and large carnivore keeper, said once the animals see the new trees they act similar to children receiving a present on Christmas morning. She said they roll around in the pine needles, hide in the trees and some even eat it.

“The trees encourage natural behaviors in the animals,” Hamman said. “We even hide treats in the trees to encourage foraging.”

Hamman said more than 80 animal species live at the zoo, but two groups in particular take advantage of the trees.

“Our mammals and birds really enjoy the trees and the smell of the pine,” Hamman said.

Hamman explained the tree toss, now in its fifth year, allows residents to help the environment.

“This is a great way of recycling something that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and it’s fun for our animals,” she said. “After Halloween, we do the same thing with all the pumpkins.”

The zoo does have some exceptions. Trees can’t have received any chemical treatment and must be healthy, not brown or decaying. All tinsel, ornaments and decorations must be removed before dropping off the tree.

Visitors will receive $1 off admission when they bring a tree.

“We’re really lucky to have a wonderful community that continues to come out and support us,” Hamman said.

But the zoo is not the only place to drop off a live Christmas tree. Other places accepting trees are White County Farmers Exchange, Ash Brothers Feed, The Torch Worship Center and Clarkesville Vet Hospital.