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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Couple uses wedding day to plant more than 1,000 trees in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Zena Khalil, a Lebanese recycling artist and environmental activist, wanted to create a sacred memento for her brother's wedding. She joined an ongoing native tree planting project initiated by the American University of Beirut's (AUB) Nature Conservation Center for Sustainable Futures, (IBSAR) - aimed at raising the guests' interest in Lebanon's environment.

"Growing up in Nigeria my brother Nidal and I developed a special connection to the land," says Zena Khalil. "Since we were flying people in from all around the world, I thought it would be a great idea to plant trees for each of the over 1,000 guests attending my brother's wedding."

The whole idea started while Zena and Nidal were making preparations for the wedding.

"Nidal was worried about all the waste we were creating and we started to question what we were doing because we've always been concerned about aiding the environment rather than destroying it," adds Khalil.

After Nidal suggested planting a forest, Zena immediately contacted IBSAR's outreach coordinator, Arbi Sarkissian, to assist in planting 1,000 trees.

Speaking to IBSAR, while driving along the natural scenery of the Chouf Mountains on her way to her brother's wedding reception; Khalil highlighted the importance of awakening Lebanese consciousness to environmental issues in her native country.

"We wanted to start a trend and usually trends in Lebanon start with drinking and dancing, but we thought with the trees we could make the idea interesting enough that it would inspire others," says Khalil. "The tree gift brochures and small wooden tree silhouette souvenirs, donated by IBSAR, aided us in raising awareness among our guests."

More than 2,000 hectares of Lebanon's forestry were destroyed in October 2007 after almost 240 fires engulfed Lebanon's southern, central and northern regions. Lebanon has lost almost 40 percent of its tree cover in the past 40 years.

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The painting is by Laura Tasheiko

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