Arbor Day 2017 – Hug a Tree, Plant a Tree

Linda Poppenheimer The Unlikely Environmentalist at Green Groundswell
Author hugging a tiny fir tree on Mount St. Helens, WA in August 2014

In honor of National Arbor Day on April 28, 2017, hug a tree and then plant a tree.

“He who plants a tree plants a hope.” —Lucy Larcom

Arbor Day Beginnings

Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska pioneer from Detroit, Michigan was instrumental in bringing about the first Arbor Day. He advocated planting trees for practical reasons and probably because he and other pioneers missed the trees they had left behind in their more forested native states. The first Arbor Day was on April 10, 1872. Nebraska gained nearly a million trees that day.

The Arbor Day movement grew and spread to other states and to other countries. At some point, the last Friday in April became the official day to observe National Arbor Day. However, dates vary by state and country to coincide with the best tree-planting weather.

Trees Give Life

Trees are beautiful in their own right. They collaborate with other trees, plants, and wildlife to form complex and self-sustaining ecosystems. People know that trees are important but we do not necessarily understand how everything ties together.

Long before people came along, trees were growing in most places on Earth.

Once we arrived on the scene, our ancestors soon discovered how to make use of trees whether it was just enjoying their shade on a hot day, harvesting fruit or nuts for food, or gathering twigs and branches and burning them for heat and cooking.

At some point, people realized they could cut down trees and make a myriad of things from wood like buildings, furniture, and paper. We also figured out that certain trees contain medicinal properties and produce useful items like latex and resin. Later we learned about how trees grow and function, that they take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, store carbon, prevent erosion, filter water, and influence rainfall.

So you would think, or at least I would, that we would protect the trees growing now and replace the trees that have been lost through natural causes or our own folly.

I am trying to do my part on our little plot of land and supporting tree planting in other areas. Please do your part by either planting a tree yourself or enabling someone else to plant one on your behalf.

I was a Tree Hugger before I became a Tree Hugger

Trees have always been fascinating to me. Each one is unique. Trees are beautiful swaying in the wind or silhouetted black against a fading sunset. They make their own music with the rustling of dry leaves, the whispering of pine needles, or the roaring of trees whipping back and forth in a windstorm.

Trees are smart working with other nature community members to the benefit of the whole. They are also competitive and strong. The trees that grow towards the sun and spread their branches the fastest get the most sunlight. If injury or illness befalls a tree, it will attempt to heal itself even giving up a limb if necessary.

I talk to trees and I have hugged quite a few trees. It would be cool if trees could talk to people. Maybe trees can talk, but we do not understand their language, yet, or perhaps they choose not to talk with us.

It would be interesting to hear the stories trees could tell about what has occurred around the location they have occupied for decades or even centuries.

Imagine living your entire life in the same location. I do not mean the same house or the same town I mean the same exact spot. That is what a tree does.

A bird, bee, animal, the wind, or gravity transports tree pollen or seeds to a location. If something or someone does not eat it and the conditions are favorable, a tiny seedling sprouts. Healthy soil, adequate water, sufficient sunlight, lack of predators, and genetics all contribute to helping the tree grow and live to a ripe old age. When the tree dies, it nurtures the soil and wildlife where it lived, completing the circle.

I observe trees and wonder about things like how does a tree feel when its neighbor falls over in a storm and ends up tangled in its branches. Is the tree wishing it could shrug off the fallen tree? Does it try communicating the tree equivalent of “Please get off me?”

Does a tree feel sad when a tree that has been standing next to it for 75 years dries up and withers away during a drought? Does it feel survivor guilt? When seedlings appear beneath a grown tree, does it happily welcome them as new members of the family?

Where I live now, in the heart of struggling forest of Monterey pine trees that have suffered 5 years of severe drought, I feel bereft whenever a tree dies and joy whenever I spot a new seedling.

I love trees, yet I am a heavy user of wood and paper. What can I do? What can you do?

  1. Go hug a few trees and thank them for everything they give us.
  2. Be mindful and grateful for the things you use that are made of wood and paper, and do not waste them.
  3. Make planting at least one tree an annual tradition. If you cannot plant a tree yourself, then support someone who can. If Arbor Day is not a good tree-planting day where you live, then pick a day that is.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.” —Aldo Leopold

Related Posts

Resources

Greening Your Laundry Habits

Freshly Washed Towels with Bottles of White Distilled Vinegar

Greening your laundry habits may be easier than you think. Laziness and using fewer products are the keys to success.

Doing laundry is a habit, something you do routinely without giving much thought to it. Over the course of your lifetime, you will either do or contribute to thousands of loads of laundry. When you consider that everyone else around the country is also doing thousands of loads of laundry, you realize it all adds up.

Laundry Habits and the Environment

Each load of laundry uses water, electricity, and possibly natural gas. So does making washers, dryers, and laundry products and their containers. If you use liquid laundry products, which consist mostly of water you are paying for diesel-powered semi trucks to transport extra water and then flushing it down the drain. Recycling plastic and cardboard containers are better than tossing them in the trash, but recycling also uses energy and creates waste.

All the substances that you flush down your washing machine, toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub end up in at a sewer treatment plant, unless you have a septic tank in which case your wastewater percolates into the ground. Sewer treatment plants primarily attempt to remove solids and kill pathogens before pumping the remaining effluent into an ocean, lake, river, stream, or aquifer. Although many natural and synthetic compounds are broken down in water, not all are. The more substances wastewater treatment plants have to deal with the more energy and chemicals they use to clean the water.

Here are some easy actions you can take to green your laundry habits.

Laundry Laziness Policy

My sons introduced me to the concept of laundry laziness.

Upon arriving at their college dorm rooms, the quickly abandoned most of the laundry habits I had taught them and laundry piled up until they would run out of clean clothes. When I asked them why they did not do their laundry every week, they responded with something like, “I have better things to do or I’m lazy.”

That got me to thinking about my own laundry routine. One thing led to the next, I began questioning everything about laundry habits and wrote about it in the post Laundry – Laziness is Good.

The drought in California forced my hand. At one point, our small town’s water supply was running dangerously low so conserving water was critical. My sons’ laundry laziness strategy seemed like a good water saving measure so I began doing only full loads of laundry and only when it became absolutely necessary.

I discovered that I could actually survive without doing small loads of laundry to wash my favorite jeans.

Laundry laziness is easy to implement because all you need is a slight change in mindset. Doing fewer loads of laundry might even save you money.

Using fewer laundry products will also help you green your laundry routine.

Use Fewer Laundry Products

Depending on how many different products you currently use to wash and dry your laundry, using fewer or in some cases, different products can substantially reduce your laundry environmental footprint.

One of the unexpected results of the drought was that I was laser focused on what we were putting down our drains. That is why I ended up standing in front of my laundry cupboard one day surveying its contents and sighing.

My collection included several different laundry detergents (you know for different fabrics), bleach, color safe bleach, an oxy additive, both a stick and a spray for pre-treating stains, liquid fabric softener, and washing machine cleaner (for the high-efficiency washer).

As I stood there, I asked myself “Do I actually need all these products to get our laundry clean?”

The answer was “I doubt it.” My next thought was “Why did I buy all this stuff in the first place?” followed by “Aha, advertising got me.” I see myself as an intelligent woman capable of making informed choices, but apparently, I had been easy prey for shrewd laundry product advertisers. Thank goodness, I came to my senses before laundry scent booster found its way into my shopping cart.

I decided to try using fewer products, which would mean fewer chemicals and other substances going down our drains or being in contact with our skin 24/7.

The first challenge was using up the products I had on hand. I did not want to dump the products I no longer wanted down the drain or toss them in the trash because that would not be environmentally sound and would waste money. Since I had bought some products in bulk, and am I now using them sparingly, I probably have enough bleach and pre-treating spray on hand to last for at least a decade.

Ditching fabric softer for distilled white vinegar was a major change for me. I buy vinegar by the gallon and transfer some into a smaller bottle which makes it easier to pour into the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine.

Vinegar effectively removes odors and acts as a softener. The towels and clothes might not be quite as soft and fluffy, but they are soft and thankfully, they do not have that cloying “fresh laundry” smell. When static cling occurs, I just shake it out. Vinegar also keeps the washing machine clean.

I wish I had changed to vinegar years ago, but oh well.

Go look at your own laundry shelf or cupboard and then decide what products you can do without and which ones you want to change to a more environmentally and people friendly version.

Consider adopting a laundry laziness policy and then enjoy having extra time to do fun things instead of laundry.

Reader Note: If your washer is over ten years old, you could be using twice the amount of water of newer more efficient washers that also use less electricity. Old electric or natural gas dryers are also less efficient than newer models. However, I am not advocating replacing appliances that are currently in good working order. When it is time to replace your washer and dryer, consider buying water and energy saving models. Look for the ENERGY STAR label.

Related Posts