How some zoos are using leftover Christmas trees to enrich their elephants' lives.

Every so often, as I'm driving out in the country, I pass one of those Christmas tree farms.

You know, the ones just off the side of the road, their little bushy pines set up in rows like children lining up for school?


Image from Tedder/Wikimedia Commons.

But it's now more than two weeks after Christmas, which, unless you're really looking for a bargain, probably means that any trees left over aren't going to be gracing anyone's living room any time soon.

But that doesn't mean they're not still useful.

Some trees get a second chance at greatness, not as Christmas trees, but as a winter treat for elephants.

Elephants will totally eat them.

GIF from Totally Flabbergasted/YouTube.

Many zoos like Oakland Zoo or Prague Zoo like to give their animals — including elephants — unused Christmas trees as a midwinter snack.

Elephants don't usually munch on pine trees or other conifers, but they seem to like them just the same. And actually pine needles are really high in vitamin C, so they're kind of like health food too.

And it's not just elephants who'll eat them. Giraffes, deer, and other plant eaters also like a little nibble.

Plus, these trees have many other uses too!

It can be an elephant back-scratcher...

GIF from AP Archive/YouTube.

A polar bear pool toy...

GIF from bighonkinwalrus/YouTube.

Or a pillow for a midafternoon catnap.


GIF from Linton Zoo/YouTube.

A lot of different animals might like a tree, including the ones at a zoo near you.

Some zoos will even take trees donated from private homes, but you might want to check before traipsing down to your local zoo. Searching their website is a great start to find out what guidelines they suggest.

Many commercial Christmas trees are treated with chemicals these days, so zoos have to be careful where they get their trees from.

Probably not gonna work. GIF from wootchannel/YouTube.

This kind of treat is called enrichment.

When properly maintained and managed, zoos can help animals in a lot of ways, including giving homes to animals and species that wouldn't survive in the wild. And animals in zoos can serve as ambassadors of their species — helping to inspire people to learn more about conservation.

By giving animals enriching toys, foods, and events, zoos keep the animals active and interested in their environments.

Enrichment is a really important part of modern zoos and is required by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums before they'll give their stamp of approval. AZA accreditation is very rigorous and means that the zoo really understands how to do right by their animals.

The different toys or tasks offered to the animals are based on things they would encounter or do out in the wild. Lions can listen to the sound of zebras. Sea otters, who have to search for and puzzle out how to eat hard-shelled animals like clams, can be given brainteasers. And walruses, who are surprisingly musical animals, can learn to whistle.

Combining that with recycling? It's a match made in zoo heaven.

The Earth only has so much to go around — when we can find clever ways to reuse what we have, we're all enriched for it.

Watch Totally Flabbergasted's 2014 video of elephants eating Christmas trees in the Berlin Zoo below.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.