Happy Arbor Day! You probably see this special day listed on the calendar each spring, but how much do you really know about it? While Arbor Day might get the majority of its well-deserved recognition just one day a year, the Arbor Day Foundation works behind the scenes all year round to celebrate the role of trees in our lives and help make the world cleaner and greener. Learn more about all they do for the planet, why their work is so important and how you can celebrate this year.
The History of Arbor Day
In 1872, the first formal Arbor Day celebration in the U.S. took place in Nebraska when the State Board of Agriculture approved a resolution by journalist Julius Sterling Morton to set aside one day to plant trees. Over time, Morton’s idea spread as more states began to follow Nebraska’s example. Eventually, all 50 states, Puerto Rico and some U.S. territories passed legislation to adopt Arbor Day. While National Arbor Day takes place the last Friday in April, many states celebrate on the date most appropriate for tree planting in their region.
Arbor Day Foundation Work and Mission
Founded in 1972 on the 100th anniversary of Arbor Day, the Arbor Day Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees. The foundation has over 1 million members, supporters and partners, and has planted or distributed over 250 million trees worldwide.
Among the organization’s ongoing projects are efforts to replant forests, recover trees in communities after natural disasters, and improve the livability of cities and towns through planting trees. The Foundation also works to educate communities around the world on the importance of trees to our planet. Current goals include the Time for Trees Initiative, a commitment to plant 100 million more trees around the world in time for the 150th celebration of Arbor Day in 2022.
How Can Trees Save the Planet?
Trees truly are environmental superheroes that help our planet in so many ways. Here are just a few of the many reasons to celebrate Arbor Day this year by planting a tree:
Clean Air and Water
Trees help to reduce pollution in the atmosphere, which improves our air quality and overall health. According to the Rainforest Alliance, more than 20% of the world’s oxygen supply is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. In addition to clean air, forested watersheds provide clean drinking water to 90% of the world’s cities.
On farms and ranches around the world, trees play an important role in keeping the soil healthy. Trees help preserve topsoil for future harvest, which improves farmers’ crop yields and helps to conserve water and energy at the same time. Forests also provide livestock with a more diverse diet. The rotational grazing, in turn, helps cycle minerals back into the soil.
Combating Climate Change
Trees absorb carbon dioxide in order to release oxygen back into the air. In about one year, an acre of trees can offset the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a car driven 26,000 miles. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the process of photosynthesis offsets about 10-20% of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year, helping to combat climate change.
Trees planted around buildings to provide shade can reduce the need for air conditioning by about 30%. The evaporation of water from trees also helps to cool the surrounding environment. In fact, trees can cool cities by up to 10 degrees F by providing shade and releasing water vapor. This not only helps to protect the environment but also allows business and homeowners to significantly reduce their energy bills.
It might seem strange, but research shows that trees have helped lower the crime rates in many U.S. cities. In Baltimore, for example, the crime rate decreased by about 12% following a 10% increase in city trees. In Chicago, 25% fewer acts of violence are reported in public housing areas with nearby trees and natural landscapes.
Want to celebrate Arbor Day near you? Find out what’s happening in your state here.