There’s only one time of year when millions of people chop down (or, if less lumberjack-inclined, purchase) a solitary conifer, prop it up next to the futon, and then toss it out with the garbage a few weeks later. All of those dead pines and spruces accumulate in landfills, where they act as a giant piles of kindling. In a drought-ridden place like California, this is not a hot idea — so a group of clever farmers and firefighters has found a solution … in goats.

Starting today, the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District in Truckee, Calif., is launching a Christmas tree recycling program in which 40 goats (of family-owned goat herding business Goat Grazers) will munch away at your tannenbaum’s highly flammable needles, leaving only the bare trunk. Once the trees are bitten down into scrawny trunks, the leftover wood is used to make mulch for parks.

This idea is enough to grow any Grinch’s heart three sizes. Here’s more from the Reno Gazette-Journal:

[Vince] Thomas, a longtime firefighter and goat herder, said his goats have helped eat fire-prone weeds.

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“We thought, ‘What a great way to get rid of the weeds,'” Thomas said. “With that being said, we had the idea of doing just that with the recycling program and we thought about the trees.

“And the goats are great employees, they love their job and they don’t complain.”

Although this plan is inspired, feeding our trash and leftovers to goats won’t work as a general fall-back plan for all our excesses. As Modern Farmer investigated last spring, goats don’t really possess that trash-compactor stomach of legend. Though the ungulates’ iron-clad digestive systems can handle some prickly pine needles, they cannot stomach, contrary to farm lore, tin cans. (So if you do throw your tree to the goats, make sure to take the tinsel off.)

If you want to get rid of the tree responsibly and you don’t have access to goat friends or friend-of-goat-friends, consider composting it, keeping it decked out in the family room all year-long, or recycling it with a local tree recycling program. Whichever method you choose, I think we can all agree that the goat method (especially when it employs the prancing baby ones) is indisputably the cutest.

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