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Environmental Professionals Network

School of Environment and Natural Resources


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree - How Sustainable Are Thy Branches?

Dec 4, 2018, 7:15am - 9:30am


When the winter holidays come around do you purchase fresh cut greenery for decoration? Do you dig out last year’s reusable items from the attic? Have you thought about the impact that these items have on our environment and our culture? We are excited to collaborate with The Ohio Christmas Tree Association and Ohio State’s Forestry Forum student organization to explore the environmental sustainability trade-offs between real and artificial Christmas trees. Mr. Blake Rafeld (former president of the National Christmas Tree Association) will share market statistics, sustainability implications and cultural trade-offs between real vs. fake trees. Dr. Elizabeth Toman will present a life cycle analysis of real and artificial Christmas trees that highlight the local and global supply chains of winter holiday decorations!


7:15 a.m. Doors open at Ohio State 4-H Center; coffee served Autumn SENR Senior Capstone Poster presentations in the registration area

7:40 a.m. Breakfast buffet served

8:10 a.m. Jeff Sharp, PhD, director, School of Environment and Natural Resources provides welcome remarks as well as an overview of the Capstone Posters featured during the networking session

8:15 a.m. Spencer Calhoun, president Ohio State’s Forestry Forum (a student chapter of the Society of American Foresters) provides a sales overviewof their 2018 Christmas Tree sale

8:20 a.m. Valerie Graham, Ohio Christmas Tree Association, introductory comments and an introduction of speakers

8:25 a.m. Blake Rafeld will present the case for displaying real trees at Christmas

8:50 a.m.  Elizabeth Myers Toman, PhD will present a life cycle analysis of real and artificial Christmas trees

9:10 a.m.  Audience Q&A

9:25 a.m. Dr. Jeff Sharp closing comments and program concludes


Blake Rafeld, landscape architect, co-owner Sugargrove Tree Farm (Ashland, Ohio), and former president of the National Christmas Tree Association

Mr. Blake Rafeld is a landscape architect, tree farmer and stockholder/partner of Sugargrove Tree Farmand served as the President of the National Christmas Tree Associationin 2014 and 2015. His term as an Executive Officer in the association expired in December 2017. Mr. Rafeld has been a landscape architect consultant in private practice since 1988. He worked as a land planner and landscape architect for a small landscape architecture firm at which he was responsible for design development. Mr. Rafeld also worked for a large architecture, engineering, and planning firm at which he was responsible for land planning, community planning, downtown revitalization, and site development. He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Rafeld has been active in numerous high visibility community projects. He chaired the Theme and Program Committee of AmeriFlora ‘92, and is a past member of the Upper Arlington Tree Commission. He served nine years as a member of The Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning. Mr. Rafeld is a graduate of Ohio State’s College of Agriculturefrom which he received both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree. He has been an Ohio Registered Landscape Architect since 1986.Mr. Rafeld spent hischildhood on theSugargrove Tree Farm (near Ashland, Ohio) but not growing Christmas trees. He converted the farm from a traditional livestock and crops family farm of the 1950’s and 1960’s into a Christmas tree farm. He planted his first crop of trees in 1976 and hasbeen actively growing trees since then.

Elizabeth Myers Toman, PhD, lecturer, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University

Dr. Toman’s research interests lie in the broad areas of forestry, hydrology, and transportation, and in what occurs when and where these spheres meet. She studies the influence of land management activities such as road construction and use, forest harvesting or vegetation removal, and oil and gas exploration, on stream water quality. Topics include sediment production from heavy use of low-volume roads, unbound aggregate road design for improved environmental performance, open channel hydraulics and stream crossing design, water quality impacts from urban streamside vegetation removal, and implementation of best management practices for forest roads. Dr. Toman received her PhD (dual degree) in Forest Engineering and Civil Engineering, and her Master of Science degree in Forest Hydrologyfrom Oregon State University. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from Utah State University.