Archive for December, 2017

An Artificial Christmas Tree?! You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did We Get Here?

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

We bought an artificial tree. I do ask myself the question posed by the Talking Heads: “How did I get here?”

I bought it with an almost out-out-of-body sense of “this is so not-me.” I’d never, ever imagined we’d own an artificial tree.

But when my fifteen-year-old dude asked that we buy one— for environmental reasons— I had to at least consider it.

I did not buy one of these trees, available at the local hardware store. (See the spindly one in the middle— what is that? A Charlie Brown Christmas tree?)


The argument he made was that fresh trees consume water while being grown that’s effectively wasted when we toss our single use fresh trees after the holidays.

He has a point. There are other points in his favor as well. When a tree is cut down— any tree—as much as 100 pounds of heat-trapping CO2 is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Then when the tree decomposes in the landfill— if it’s not mulched or composted— it releases even more potent, damaging global warming gases into the atmosphere.

However, this point is offset by the fact that fresh Christmas trees are renewable. They can be— and are— replanted every year. Those new trees absorb heat-trapping CO2.

And there are points against artificial trees. They’re made from petroleum. In our household, we try to keep our use of petroleum in any form as low as possible. Also, a plastic will take years to breakdown in the landfill. Then there’s the notable off-gassing of fumes from the tree. The bag it comes in for future storage has that telltale, nostril-flaring “aroma” that cues me to let it air out outside. I’m running the kitchen fan, near the family room where the tree is, 24/7 to try to vent the toxic gases.

As with many environmental decisions, there are trade-offs!

When he first saw the tree, my thirteen-year-old dude said, “What?? I can’t believe you bought an artificial tree!” However, he does get a kick out of the fact that you can make the tree expand and contract with push of a button, which is pretty hilarious. It also looks remarkably real, doesn’t it?


I miss the aroma of a fresh tree.  I miss the idea of a fresh tree. I console myself that the cost of fresh trees is rising– and predicted to rise more in the next few years.  And the artificial tree in our family room is yet another act of parental love.


December 17, 2017 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

CA Burns…My Sister’s Family Evacuates

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

I’ve been scared this week. Really scared. My sister and her husband along with their two young kids— my sons’ cousins— live near Ventura, California. This week, they evacuated from the home they’d only recently moved to from the east coast.

I’m grateful that my sister is a pretty cautious person. I doubt that she and her family will move back home before the danger from the fires has passed. This time.

But I’m worried for their future. For their safety.


Last night I heard a firefighter on the radio say there doesn’t seem to be a fire “season” anymore in California. Now, any time of year, dangerous fires can rage. What used to apply no longer holds. This is what I call “global weirdness.”

With the changes in our climate— among other factors— fires have been increasing, in California and elsewhere

My sister— and her husband, and my niece and nephew — have been lucky, all things considered. So far. They haven’t lost their house.

Many others have not been so lucky. They’ve lost their baby’s photo albums, their pets, their grandmother’s wedding dress. To say these losses are stressful is an understatement.  Losing a home makes us feel unmoored.

These fires deepen my commitment to do everything I can to minimize the eco impact of our family’s lifestyle, and to keep using my voice as often as I can. I will continue to use my voice as a voter.  And even though the personal and professional demands on my time have been impossible lately, I’ve rededicated to blogging here, using my spheres of influence.

I love my kids fiercely and I want the best possible future for them. For their cousins. For all the kids, near and far, who shouldn’t have to worry that they might lose their homes to floods, or fires. My wish for all children– here and around the world, is for them to have homes where they can feel like they have their mooring spot.

December 10, 2017 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

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