It can be easy to take trees for granted. They have been a presence on earth since before the evolution of the human race, and they are found in nearly every corner of the world. Yet their importance cannot be overestimated. Their benefits include energy, water and soil conservation, climate change prevention or reduction and air quality improvement.
With this knowledge in mind, in 1872, the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by J. Sterling Morton and declared April 10 Arbor Day. Each year, state officials would recognize the occasion with ceremonies held in its honor. Morton was an early advocate of environmental stewardship and spread awareness through his position as editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. The establishment of Arbor Day was significant for the state of Nebraska, which suffered from a lack of trees at the time. Other states followed suit, and by 1920, more than 45 states joined in the celebration. Today, Arbor Day is recognized not only in all 50 states, but around the world under various titles. In the United States, it is celebrated on the last Friday in April.
Considering the many benefits trees offer, the widespread observance or Arbor Day is no mystery:
- Trees save energy by providing summer shade, winter warmth and winter windbreaks.
- They reduce carbon dioxide emissions by decreasing the amount of fossil fuel consumed by utilities.
- Trees are a powerful, natural source of oxygen, releasing it into the atmosphere as they simultaneously remove carbon dioxide.
- Without natural tree cover, the absorbing effect of vegetation and soil is lost, allowing storm water runoff to pollute waterways with harmful substances like heavy metal particles and oils.
- Farmers, ranchers and acreage owners plant trees to improve crop yields and preserve topsoil for future abundant harvests. They also value trees for their ability to attract wildlife, sequester carbon and aid in flood control.
There are many ways that individuals and organizations can celebrate Arbor Day in addition to planting trees. The Arbor Day Foundation offers a gift of 10 free trees with a new membership. Members can select the type of trees they want, and the Foundation will send them directly to the member or the recipient of their choice. Visit the Foundation’s website at www.arborday.org to learn how to identify the right trees for your area, as well as obtain planting and care directions. Participants can then help spread awareness by sending a photograph of the planting crew to local publications.
Individuals or organizations can host Arbor Day ceremonies to honor the environmental stewards in their community. Recipients may have initiated or completed projects like planting an arboretum, starting a tree planting or recycling program and raising funds for a learning center. Some municipalities have been designated a Tree City USA. Municipalities that have received this recognition can acknowledge it during the ceremony, and those that wish to work toward it can use the opportunity to solicit help for the effort.
Getting creative and involving elementary and middle school students is an effective way to spread awareness while educating the next generation on the importance of trees. Ideas that are fun and promote engagement include producing a play about trees. Each and every student can get involved by writing the screenplay, casting the roles, designing and building the set, playing the parts or sending invitations out via email. Parents and educators can expand on this idea further by challenging students to make promotional posters and enter them in the Arbor Day National Poster Contest. Planting trees in their honor is a fitting way to honor contest winners.
And this is not the only way to educate and engage children. Younger students, especially, will enjoy tree related crafts and activities like making decorations from recycled household items, decorating watering cans, making bird feeders, writing poems or stories and drawing pictures of a tree that is meaningful to them.
Adults and students alike can learn a great deal about environmental stewardship by visiting a local business committed to practices that support preservation. For example, Arbor Mills conserves wood products, recycles wood chips and takes measures to save energy in its factory on a daily basis. In fact, the company is so devoted to preservation, it is an active part of a local TRUE certified environmentally stewardship program. Those interested in Arbor Mills’ efforts are welcome to visit the factory and learn more.
Arbor Day related education can also take place via the traditional route – classes. While this idea may sound formal, it does not have to be complicated or difficult to execute. Recruit the help of a few individuals who are knowledgeable about trees and divide their responsibilities into classes on topics like tree selection, planting, pruning and identification. Classes that cover products derived from trees like paper and wood, and their many uses, are a powerful way to drive home the impact trees make on a daily basis. Charge a small registration fee and use the money to buy items like tree seedlings that will encourage students to plant trees.
Additional ideas to commemorate Arbor Day include:
- Holding a concert with songs about trees, songs that mention trees and songs that feature tree names in the title.
- Organizing a tree identification hike with guides – anyone from certified experts to informed Boy or Girl Scouts – who identify and educate participants on various tree types a well as unusual and historic trees.
- Hosting an open house, field day or fair at a local nursery or garden center.
- Sponsoring a tree trivia contest.
There are nearly as many ways to celebrate Arbor Day as there are types of trees. It is an occasion suitable for all ages and all municipalities, from rural villages to big cities. And with spring officially here, trees are reaching the height of their beauty and the weather is ideal for outdoor events held in their midst.
Join Arbor Mill’s efforts to preserve trees by participating in Arbor Day and planting your free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.
Visit the Arbor Mills showroom to learn more about how the company supports environmental stewardship.