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YDS Christmas tree exemplifies sustainable forestry

By Rachel Holmes

Editor's Note: Rachel Holmes, a co-leader of the Yale Earth Care Committee, is a joint degree candidate at Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She was profiled in the spring 2007 issue of Reflections – God's Green Earth: Creation, Faith, Crisis.

A long-standing tradition of the Yale Divinity School community is to decorate a Christmas tree in the Common Room just in time for the Marquand Chapel Advent service and reception. For many in the community, this year's imposing Christmas tree, which stands 12 feet tall, serves as a reminder that December is not only the time when we cram for exams and slave away over papers; it is also a time to reflect on the Christmas season. This year, the YDS Christmas tree also reminds us of the responsibility and opportunity we have to celebrate the season in an environmentally responsible way.

Students with Tree

For the second year in a row, Yale Divinity School students have worked with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) to acquire a sustainably grown, organic tree harvested from the Yale Myers Forest Christmas Tree Farm. The nearly 16-acre Christmas Tree Farm is nestled in the heart of the Yale Myers Forest, which is located in parts of Union, Ashford, Eastford and Woodstock in northeastern Connecticut. All trees on the farm are certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Certification of a forest ensures that it is operated in conformance with certain “sustainable” standards, such as, among others:

  • Maintaining and enhancing the long-term social and economic well being of forest workers and local communities
  • Conservation of biological diversity to maintain the ecological functions and integrity of the forest
  • Monitoring to assess the condition of the forest, yields of forest products, and social and environmental impacts

Each year, an FES student is hired to serve as the Christmas Tree Farm manager to ensure the sustainability of the farm and oversee the management plans for the farm, as well as coordinate the annual Christmas Tree Harvest, which is a highlight for FES students. The trees are then sold to the Yale and New Haven communities, and proceeds from the sale go directly to the Yale student chapter of SAF.

Under the leadership and consultation of 2007-2008 farm manager Zachary Parisa (Master of Forest Science candidate 2008), FES students selected a 25-year-old Blue Spruce tree that stood over 15 feet tall for the Divinity School. These students not only selected and cut the tree; they also transported and delivered the tree to YDS on their way back from the tree harvest. This is no small feat with a tree of such great size. With the help of three generous contractors working outside on Sterling Quadrangle, the tree was brought into the Common Room. It was then pruned down to 12 feet and placed upright , standing as a majestic tribute to the care and concern for the future health of the Earth felt by the YDS community, as well as the partnership that has emerged among YDS and FES students.

On Dec. 5, the Yale Divinity School Earth Care Committee hosted Parisa for a brown-bag lunch discussion to publicly thank him for the efforts of the FES students, and to provide YDS students with the opportunity to learn about sustainable forestry.


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