Archive for December, 2010

Photo by Julie Jigsaw

I am a high school teacher.  Before I taught high school I was really worried that the kids would be so smart, and mature, and think I was the dumbest person on the planet.  I thought this because when I was in high school, my friends and I were mature and scholarly.

One of my duties as a teacher is to supervise in the hallways between classes.   When the kids in my hallway were sophomores, they liked to make chicken, cow, and sheep noises.  Last year, those same kids stood around punching each other in the arm.  This year, as seniors, they love to yell at the top of their lungs, “It’s Friday!” even when it’s Tuesday.

They are maturing.

There are perks of standing in the hallway.  My favorite is getting a chance to talk to my Spanish teacher friends.  Another perk is that we can talk to some of the students outside of class.

Today, in the last class period switch of the day, a couple of Freshmen girls came scampering out of Mrs. Phillips’ Spanish classroom.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

“Mrs. Phillips, your room smells like Christmas trees,” said one of the girls.

“It really does!” said another.

“You should smell it,” commanded the third.

Unable to resist the urge to smell the Christmas spirit in Mrs. Phillips classroom, I poked my head in to smell the pine boughs for myself.  It sort of smelled like Febreeze.

“I don’t smell Christmas trees,” I said to Brooke.

Mrs. Phillips went to smell her room.

“Maybe,” she said to the girls, “but not so much.”

The leader of the pack said, “It smells like when you take the Christmas tree out of the box for the first time.”

“Oh, so you mean it smells like burned plastic,” Brooke said to me.

I laughed, and then I wanted to cry.

I understand that loads of people have artificial trees.  It’s easier, there’s less clean up, and there is the fire safety issue.

But kids should know that evergreen trees smell like pine needles, that sap is sticky, and pine needles get dry and drop off trees.

They should know this not because they should have real Christmas trees in their house.  They should know this because they’ve experienced trees out in nature.

Kids should have the opportunity to connect with nature.

Today’s hallway giggle and weeping moment reminded me of a great book that I read a few years ago called, “Last Child in the Woods.”  I highly recommend it for anyone that is concerned about our kids’ connection with nature.  If we (and by we, I mean all of us) don’t make connections with the world around us, it’s hard to care and make a meaningful difference in the world.

As I try to instill in my Environmental Science students, everything is connected back to the health of our environment, even if we choose to ignore it.

Back to the Christmas Trees

As for whether or not to have an artificial tree, I’m not going to tell you what you should have in your home but here are a few tidbits to consider if you want to make your tree purchasing decision based on which option  is best for the environment:

Artificial Trees

  • can be more cost effective for your pocket book
  • are made from metal, PVC, petroleum based plastic, and may even have lead (and lead dust) in them
  • are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, and will stay in our landfills indefinitely
  • 85% of artificial trees come from China-a pretty high ecological footprint for transportation alone.

Real Trees

  • Usually grown with pesticides and fertilizers but…
  • are biotic (living or once alive) and are biodegradable (they WILL break down and return nutrients to the soil)
  • An acre of pine trees on a Christmas tree farm can absorb 1.4 metric tons of CO2 (the greenhouse gas that we have too much of in the atmosphere) and produces enough oxygen for 18 people per day.
  • Can be recycled and ARE recycled (93%) through municipal recycling programs to make mulch for playgrounds, trails and underwater habitat for fish.
  • For every Christmas tree cut down, 1-3 new ones are planted.
  • 100,000 Americans work in the Christmas tree industry.

Other Options:

  • A potted live tree
  • Plant more evergreens than you need on your property, and chop them down for Christmas when they start to get too big and crowded.
  • A nice real wreath
  • Scrooge it, and don’t have any kind of tree

Personally, I love the smell of a real tree at Christmas.  And I sort of like the sticky sap that sticks to my clothes.

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