One Tree, One Child


In Lausanne, every child who is born in the city has a tree planted in his/her name the following year. On Saturday, we participated in “One Tree, One Child” with our 19 month old.

The tradition started in 2001 with the explicit goal of emotionally connecting the people of Lausanne to the local forest. The city is extremely organized. We received letters in August with the date of the event and a schedule of free shuttles for those traveling by public transportation. All you had to do was email to confirm your attendance and let them know when you were planning to go. They had shuttles every half hour.

The forest is only about 15-20 minutes away, and it was pretty hilarious to be on a “baby” bus — all families with babies and toddlers born in 2014. Once we arrived, M had a blast tromping through the woods. Andrew and I realized that while we take a lot of walks down by the lake, M really hasn’t experienced trees and trails the way we did in New England.

We picked out a baby oak and were led to a mostly empty area in a group of five or six families. The foresters demonstrated how to use a pulaski to break up the dirt and roots and how to dig a deep enough hole for our trees. They showed us how to pack the dirt in tightly around the tree and told us to replace the stakes so that they’d know it was the location of an intentionally planted tree and not a weed.


The foresters are working on the seventh stage of a hardwood forest. They pointed out oaks that were 30 years old and others that were 80 years old to either side of where we were planting our foot-tall babies. It’s rather astonishing to see what will happen in a few decades and to imagine this barren area becoming green and shady and alive. I’m not sure how many babies were born in 2014, but last year they planted 1,575 trees in honor of the births in 2013. Not all will survive, of course, but we were creating a new section of forest.

M was really into the process. His dad picked the spot and dug the hole, and I showed M how to fill in the area around the tree with dirt.

Photo Oct 03, 3 13 50 PM

All three of us patted it down while a forester took a few photos and checked our work. Andrew pounded the stake back in. M promptly picked up a small stick and also tried to pound in the stake and then dig another hole.


After the tree planting, they had some local nature displays and refreshments. The variety of mushrooms from our area was really cool.

Photo Oct 03, 3 26 48 PM

Of course they had baguettes and Gruyère cheese along with local grapes and pears and chocolate chip bread (the Swiss staples of bread, cheese, and chocolate!). One lovely touch was the wine from 2014 served in commemorative wine glasses to celebrate the year our children were born (with fresh apple juice as a non-alcoholic option for those children).

Photo Oct 03, 3 38 17 PM

Yesterday I was thinking about how nice it was to be in the woods and how we should go more often. I was going to suggest that we go to Sauvabelin, which is about 30 minutes from where we live by bus. Then Andrew said, “Hey, how about we walk some of the nature trail behind our building with M.” Oh. Right. The woods that are conveniently next to us.

We didn’t go far because M isn’t used to walking so much yet and is quite little, but he loved it. He found a big stick and immediately tried to dig a hole and plant it, as one does.

Photo Oct 04, 5 22 14 PM

© 2016 Anindita Basu Sempere. 
All Rights Reserved