A Tennessee professor is calling on Santa Claus to give seaweed instead of coal to children who have been naughty, not nice.

Doing so could save delivery of up to 5,000 tons of coal to children’s stockings worldwide, estimates Gerald Smith, PhD, a professor of religion and environmental studies at Sewanee: The University of the South.

Seaweed, he says, has several advantages over coal, while still delivering a message to naughty children that Santa is displeased with their behavior.

“Seaweed is green, natural, wholly organic and decomposes without harmful residue,” Dr. Smith says. “It also has the advantage of being slimy, yucky and totally disgusting, which makes it a good stocking filler for bad kids.

“Also, seaweed is available on a worldwide basis, so Santa can replenish his supply locally using fair-trade elf labor rather than have to transport it long distances or purchase it from multinational mega-conglomerates.”

Each Dec. 24, Santa delivers toys to the world’s good little girls and boys. To naughty children, he traditionally leaves a lump of coal. No precise records are kept on the number of children who are naughty, not nice.

But with the world’s total population estimated at 6.6 billion, Dr. Smith says up to 1 billion children are probably on Santa’s list this year. He further estimates 99% will get toys, which leaves 10 million children expected to get coal. At one pound per lump, this translates into a delivery tonight of 5,000 tons of coal.

Coal is a leading cause of acid rain, smog and air toxins. Burning it, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, produces carbon dioxide, the primary human cause of global warming; sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain; mercury, which makes fish unsafe to eat; arsenic; nitrogen oxide, which leads to the formation of smog; hydrocarbons, which form ozone; toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium; and small airborne particles that cause or aggravate bronchitis and asthma.

Seaweed, Dr. Smith says, offers none of these disadvantages. He cautions Santa, however, to avoid using container-raised seaweed now being grown and marketed by some chain stores.

“Container-raised seaweed contains many pollutants, requires fertilizers which may leach from containers into the sea and is sometimes grown in large sheds along the seashore, which then require artificial light to complete photosynthesis, thus greatly increasing the carbon footprint of the seaweed,” he says. “Farmed seaweed also lacks the texture and rich aroma of natural seaweed and is much less effective in teaching either a moral lesson or raising ecological awareness than good, old, basic, natural, slimy, fresh-out-of-the-sea seaweed.”

Seaweed is also recyclable and can be used as fertilizer, so moms don’t have to flush it or add it to the garbage.

“Santa! Go green,” Dr. Smith pleads. “Give them seaweed.”