When I retired and moved back to live in Maine again, I was rejoining the sea, coffee flavored ice cream, L.L.Bean, clam chowder, blueberries, maple syrup, pickles and trees. And four acres on the Kennebunk River to build on. Pure heaven.

As I handed over the tube of toothpaste and my credit card, the conversation was terse:

“That’s two-seventy-nine. Do you want a receipt?”

“No. Let’s save a tree.”

“What tree?”

I was so stunned by the level of ignorance I didn’t know where to start, so, I just said, “Meh,” and that did the trick. A receipt was not forthcoming.


Old Growth Forests Protection Ruling

Eschew the receipt and save a tree, writes Orrin Frink. Rick Bowmer file/AP

Trees keep us alive. Their leaves absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale along with our other waste products and put oxygen back into the air so we can breathe. Just try breathing without oxygen. If you are stubborn and try very hard and give it the old college try … never mind. Not recommended.

Trees give us shelter from the storm and shade from the sun. Their roots hold our soil in place, so it won’t all wash away into the ocean. They give us material for building our homes. They give us apples, and apricots, oranges, grapefruit, plumbs, pears, peaches, tangerines, cherries, bananas, dates, walnuts, pecans, olives and olive oil, cinnamon for our sticky buns and mulch for our gardens.

And the receipt for your toothpaste?

To get the paper for printing the receipt for your toothpaste, you cut down a perfectly harmless and otherwise very supportive tree, grind it up, clean it up with strong acids, soak it, wash it, float it as a sheet, roll it out thin, bake it, cut it up in strips, and roll it up into the paper rolls that infest your cash register. Et voila! A receipt!

And the solution?

The Arbor Day Foundation, located in Omaha, Nebraska, will plant some young trees in your name, if you become a member, or send them some money. But there is no way a foundation that size can plant and raise to harvestable maturity enough trees to reverse the gradual decline of trees on a world-wide basis.


I’ve been to Omaha, Nebraska, and as you drive from Iowa across the bridge, past the Henry Doorly Zoo and drive up Main Street past one of the best French restaurants in the Midwest and a great Indian or Pakistani restaurant, you will see several trees. But planting baby trees in California, where forest fires are an annual event and a boon for trees that flourish when burned down on a regular basis, is foolish.

During the course of a year, my mail brings me at least 35 fat packs of the most ugly greeting cards I have ever seen as a guilt-trip come-on for Easter Seals, the Chlebbonister Sisters of Christ, Braille books for blind children, and church-assistance for starving children of the Appalachian wilderness, with every greeting you can imagine from Mazel Tov, Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, Get Well Soon, and Missing You.

The cards are so ugly I have taken to surreptitiously moving them to the next town’s post office, where there is a rack of modest greeting cards for sale and leaving mine at the table near their racks in the hope that somehow someone will use the ugly ones and the trees will not have given their lives in vain.

If the number of unwanted greeting cards that I receive is more or less representative of how many the other 200 million other folks who get mail in our country receive, simply convincing the advertising industry to stop printing and mailing out the unwanted cards would go a great deal further in saving trees by my saying “No, thanks, I really don’t need a receipt.”

Orrin Frink is a Kennebunkport resident. He can be reached at ofrink@gmail.com.

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