National Arbor Day is April 30. Try these tree-hugging suggestions from reforestation activists for getting (and giving) back to nature.
CREDIT: CAVAN IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES
By Erica Sloan
With spring finally here, sunshine, fresh blooms, and outdoor activities are all on the horizon once again—a strong reminder of the planet's sheer beauty and the need to safeguard it for future generations. Earth Day, which is observed annually on April 22, may be the most popular holiday dedicated to just that, but there's another eco-conscious day worth celebrating, too: Arbor Day. Commemorating trees and their many contributions to Earth's ecosystems, the holiday falls on the last Friday in April, and although the pandemic has put the kibosh on many in-person events, there are a number of COVID-safe ways you can show your support for trees and all they do for us, whether outside in a distanced group or entirely virtually. We spoke to conservationists and activists at the Arbor Day Foundation and reforestation nonprofit One Tree Planted to put together this list of ideas.
Take a Hike
When you visit a national park or national forest, your admissions fee doubles as a donation: A portion of it will bolster crucial ongoing conservation efforts at that park. Looking for somewhere to start? Redwoods, sequoias, and Joshua trees are so iconic, they have national parks on the West Coast named after them, all of which could particularly use the support in the aftermath of last year's devastating wildfires. A few other parks where trees are the standout stars include Congaree National Park, in South Carolina, which boasts a breathtaking floodplain forest, as well as Olympic and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, in Washington and Tennessee respectively, which are both technically rainforests. And of course, there are the White Mountains and other surrounding hiking trails nearby!
Gift Some Green
For every dollar you donate to conservation and re-greening nonprofits like One Tree Planted and the Arbor Day Foundation, they'll root a new tree specimen in an at-risk region—a place that's suffered major tree losses in recent years due to fires, damaging industries, or invasive species. Another option: Shop at businesses that share proceeds with the National Park Foundation or other park programs, like Good & Well Supply Co. (where you'll find a collection of soy-based candles in scents reminiscent of popular national parks) and Pendleton (which sells national park-themed beanies, blankets, and more). Thanks to a new partnership this April between bamboo-based toilet paper company No.2—which sports 100 percent recycled-paper packaging—and One Tree Planted, every carton of the brand's TP sold will root a tree in one of California's fire-torn forests. You can also support eco-friendly efforts further afield via the Arbor Day Foundation's Heritage coffee series, which features small-batch beans cultivated by Honduran farmers dedicated to sustainable practices (and who receive quality pricing for their goods in return).
Grab a Shovel
Scout volunteer re-greening initiatives in your neck of the woods, and you can get your hands dirty planting new saplings in areas that could really use them. While many big group activities have been postponed due to COVID-19, small and socially distanced outings are still happening in full force nationwide. To find one near you, start by looking through the list of current opportunities posted by One Tree Planted. At these Earth Month events, you'll spend the day learning about local native species and doing a range of hands-on restoration work, as well as planting trees, of course. For Californians, TreePeople is another ideal place to start: In April, volunteer groups will head out to the Angeles National Forest, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the LA River Greenway to help remove invasive species, and care for native plants and trees. And you can find still other programs happening right in city centers through orgs like Trees New York, for instance, which is working to replenish the urban canopy in the Bronx, helping combat the heat-island effect and cut down overall energy usage.
Bring It Home
If you're the proud owner of a green thumb, level up from your regular houseplant or garden duties, and add a tree to your yard. To find a species fit for your zone, soil type, and sun exposure, visit the Arbor Day Foundation's tree wizard. This nifty quiz entails plugging in your zip code and specifications, and lets you filter by height, spread, growth rate, and other attributes (like whether you'd like the tree to bring pollinators or provide privacy) to find your ideal specimen. Once you have your seedling in hand, start it off on a happy note giving it all the love it deserves and keep it thriving for years to come.