Friday, December 18, 2015

Capitol Adorns Christmas Tree with Marine Debris

It's that time of year when my kids and I turn the dining room table into a factory for small handmade gifts constructed from reused materials. We've done penguins, snowmen, and Santa ornaments from old burned out light bulbs, refrigerator magnets from bottle caps, and stationary (note cards, envelopes, and notebooks) from old calendars, magazines, and cardboard.

Just a few of our creations. Henry the Light Bulb Penguin (left) serves an "elf on the shelf" function for my kiddos.

So I was delighted to read that some of the ornaments on this year's Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C. are made from reused materials--and better yet, they're made from plastic marine debris in order to highlight the ocean plastic pollution problem.

The Capitol tree comes from a national forest in a different state each year, and is decorated by residents from that state. In 2015, the tree is from Chugach National Forest in Alaska, and artist Bonnie Dillard was selected to create ornaments after submitting a prototype of a fish made from plastic waste reclaimed from the sea.

According to, "Her trashy tree ornaments were constructed by Alaskan schoolchildren this summer from ocean refuse picked up along the Alaska coast by members of a preservation organization." Awesome! These ornaments not only represent an important part of Alaskan culture and economy (fishing), but also provided an important experiential learning opportunity for the students who made the ornaments and for everyone who views them. This is real plastic pollution from the shores of state that provided our tree--not photos of floating plastic with a lack of context that makes it easy for our minds to categorize them as part of the Mythic Land of Away. Bravo, Ms. Dillard, for helping us face the waste we generate and fail to dispose of properly.

Read the full story on And to learn more about marine plastic pollution and what you can do about it, see and

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