Jason Offutt

Jason Offutt

We all love the mail at my house. Whoever gets to the mailbox first puts hands on envelopes that are most probably addressed to the person who owned our house 20 years ago (Lands’ End is persistent), but it’s the thrill of the unknown that keeps the United States mail exciting. 

What if it’s a check?

What if it’s a letter?

What if it’s a package of free samples and our name’s misspelled but that’s OK because it’s probably food?

The promise of free food is what keeps me going.

This week, the mail contained an envelope for the children, which is usually from their school administration; I can tell from the shaky print and tear stains.

However, this envelope was from the Arbor Day Foundation, which means someone probably accused our children of peeing outside. Does that count as ecoterrorism? Yes? It’s about time. I can only assume the Arbor Day Foundation has the authority to put minors in stocks for public punishment and humiliation, right? If not, where can we vote for it?

The Arbor Day Foundation is a conservation organization founded in 1972 in Nebraska “to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees,” according to its corporate mission. Arbor Day itself was founded in 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska, city motto “Where the hell is Nebraska City?” Or, maybe not. Maybe it’s something arborescent, like, “We have Dutch elm disease.”

Recently, to ensure our children are honest, productive and caring members of society, my wife decided they should donate some of their own money to a worthy cause. Notice I didn’t say, “my wife and I,” since I’ve already given up.

The children picked the Arbor Day Foundation because, you know, trees. The foundation hopes to plant around 21.5 million trees around the world due to the fact that we all need trees to breathe and for some reason humans think it’s pretty neat to cut them down.

Our 13-year-old opened the card and found a present from the Arbor Day Foundation. The present was a notepad. Notepads are nice to have around. They’re handy for, um, notes. They’re also flammable; you know, like a forest.

“Why would the Arbor Day Foundation give us paper?” the Girl asked.

Great question. Planting and saving trees doesn’t really scream “logging” or “paper industry.” This would be like the American Cancer Society thanking donors by giving them packs of smokes.

To get to the reason behind this, I put my journalist training to work and contacted the Arbor Day Foundation. The tree people got back to me within 15 minutes by email:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for contacting the Arbor Day Foundation.

We apologize if the notepad caused any confusion or frustration. All of our mailings, including the notepad, are printed on recycled paper, with biodegradable soy ink and film (when applicable). Each mailing is 100% biodegradable—

I stopped reading. I was hoping for an outrageous response, or at least a comment to my request to send us notepads made of recycled toilet paper. What I got was people being responsible, and I don’t know anything about that.

Jason’s latest book, “Chasing American Monsters,” can be found on his website, www.jasonoffutt.com, or Amazon.