+

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.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less
Canva

Small actions lead to big movements.

Acts of kindness—we know they’re important not only for others, but for ourselves. They can contribute to a more positive community and help us feel more connected, happier even. But in our incessantly busy and hectic lives, performing good deeds can feel like an unattainable goal. Or perhaps we equate generosity with monetary contribution, which can feel like an impossible task depending on a person’s financial situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the main reason people don’t offer more acts of kindness is the fear of being misunderstood. That is, at least, according to The Kindness Test—an online questionnaire about being nice to others that more than 60,000 people from 144 countries completed. It does make sense—having your good intentions be viewed as an awkward source of discomfort is not exactly fun for either party.

However, the results of The Kindness Test also indicated those fears were perhaps unfounded. The most common words people used were "happy," "grateful," "loved," "relieved" and "pleased" to describe their feelings after receiving kindness. Less than 1% of people said they felt embarrassed, according to the BBC.


Keep ReadingShow less

She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

Keep ReadingShow less