Arbor Day 101
Arbor Day is an international holiday that encourages celebrating participants to plant and care for their trees. Did you know that the word arbor is the latin word for tree. The first Arbor Day celebration was organized in a small town in Spain in 1594, but the first recognized celebration in the United States was in the Kansas Territory in 1872 where an estimated 1 million trees were planted.
Across the world, Arbor Day has been celebrated at different times due to the rotating nature of the seasons affecting the prime date for planting trees. For example, New Zealand honors Arbor Day on June 5, while in Namibia, the holiday isn’t celebrated until October 8.
Jim will be the first to tell you the importance of trees, whether they’re incorporated in your farm via agroforestry practices or simply providing shade on a hot day.
In fact, Arbor Day was only considered a regional holiday in the US until 1970, when, of all people, Richard Nixon initiated a national observance to take place on the last Friday in April (for this year, April 24, 2020).
*On a local note, late April is a perfect time to plant trees in Minnesota.*
Here, you can see Dave maintaining the HUG Campus forest farm.
Why do we observe Arbor Day?
Are trees really that important? You bet! Here’s only a short list of what they do:
Trees are veritable lungs for the planet – Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) floating naturally in the environment. With more trees planted, the more CO2 pulled out of the air. Too much carbon in our atmosphere can heat up the planet through a greenhouse effect, so having more trees to gobble up that dangerous gas means a happier planet.
Trees are filters for water, too! – Did you know about watersheds? When rain drops hit the ground and flow to a water source, like a lake or river, it picks up pollutants and nasty things. This is called runoff and can do serious damage if not removed. That’s what trees and other plants are built for! With their system of roots, they drink up the runoff and filter out any of the bad stuff. How cool is that!
Trees make up so many things in our lives – Look around your room. You will most definitely find at least one thing made from a tree.
Arbor Day Celebrations
So now that we know that trees are absolutely integral to our ecosystems, now it’s time to learn what you do on an Arbor Day.
Plant a Tree
This goes in the No-Duh category. One of the best ways to celebrate all that trees do for our environment is to make more of them. You can follow the Arbor Day guide in proper methods to plant a tree, but it’s pretty foolproof.
Also, if you’re engaging in stay at home protocols or aren’t able to go out and find saplings, there are numerous ways to plant a tree “digitally”. You can add a Google Chrome Extension called Ecosia which plants trees while you search the web. There’s also the #teamtrees project which is dedicated to planting trees all over the world. You can also donate directly to the Arbor Day Foundation where for each one dollar donated, one tree will be planted. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices!
You don’t have to plant a tree to show respect and honor for our green giants. You can simply be outdoors and commune with nature by going on a hike, riding your bike on forested trails, geocaching, or even just climbing a tree. The more forest and trees become part of your rituals, the more respect you will inevitably have for them.
Geocaching is a great way to explore your forests and have a fun time while you’re at it!
This is an opportunity during this self-distancing period to show our children and family that trees (and nature in general) are worth become more familiar with. This helps teach responsibility for our environment and that it is something worth protecting. (And we’re not even mentioning the mental and physical health benefits of playing outdoors. Check out the link if you want to learn more).
Look for Arbor Day Events
The Arbor Day Foundation has a full list of ways to celebrate Arbor Day in your community, but a few fun suggestions range from pruning workshops to holding a “Town’s Oldest Tree” festival. If you can’t find one in your town, there’s always an opportunity to create your own.
Try Arbor Day Bingo to get to know your neighborhood trees. It’s a little more challenging to identify a tree without its leaves, but you’ll still have a blast!
However you decide to celebrate Arbor Day, the important thing to remember is to raise awareness for trees. Trees are great! They feed us, shelter us, provide homes for wildlife, and are darn pretty to look at.