A person plants a pine tree sapling in the ground. Camerique / ClassicStock / Getty Images
Arbor Day is America’s oldest environmental holiday, but how can you participate in the 148th celebration of this tree-planting festival when many Arbor Day events have been canceled to stop the spread of the new coronavirus?
The Arbor Day Foundation has the answer: a social media campaign that lets you plant trees from the safety of your own home. All you have to do is post a picture of a tree on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #ArborDayAtHome and tag @arborday, and the foundation will plant a tree in a U.S. forest. The goal is to get to 50,000 trees by Arbor Day — April 24.
“Traditionally, Arbor Day is a time for people to come together and better their communities by planting trees,” Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. “The holiday may look different this year, but the spirit of Arbor Day remains strong. Now more than ever, trees are a reminder of the better future we can collectively build.”
The trees will be planted through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Replanting Our Forests initiative, which seeks to restore U.S. forests damaged by wildfires, insects, disease and extreme weather. The work is so urgent because wildfires have devastated forests in recent years, destroying millions of trees and scorching forests so thoroughly that they cannot recover on their own. But the cost of fighting the fires means the U.S. Forest Service has a backlog of more than a million acres that need to be replanted.
“It is imperative that these forests are replanted within a reasonable time after a fire, insect infestation, disease or weather takes its toll,” the foundation explained. “If there is too much delay, invasive species of trees and brush that are fire-prone could take over, wildlife will not have critical habitat and critical watershed areas will no longer be able to provide clean water.”
Since the campaign launched April 9, the Arbor Day Foundation has planted 320 of its 50,000-tree goal, and its Twitter feed is a virtual tour of the nation’s trees.
Some, like this Florida Jacaranda, are flowering.
Others, like these in Colorado, are still covered with snow.
Once you’ve posted your tree, there are still other ways you can celebrate Arbor Day while respecting social distancing measures. The foundation is still shipping potted trees if you would like to plant your own. It also suggests taking a hike through a forest, learning about trees online via its Carly’s Kid’s Corner, making nature-based crafts or drawing your favorite tree.
Or you could follow the advice of Iceland’s forestry service and go out and hug a tree to connect with nature and feel less alone.
“It’s good to close your eyes while hugging a tree,” East Iceland overall forest manager Thor Thorfinnsson said, as BBC News reported. “I press my cheek against it and feel the warmth and currents flowing from the tree into me… it starts in your toes, runs up your legs and through your body into your brain. You get such a good relaxing feeling and are ready for a new day and new challenges.”
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