Grow Something Sunday- Let's Do This!

by - Sunday, April 03, 2016

What would happen if every person planted a tree this April?

I know it sounds pretty radical compared to my usual entry-level environmentalism. April has always been the month of Arbor Day, of the showers that bring May flowers, of growing and planting. I can remember Arbor Day and the general miracle that things grow out the wazoo in elementary school. We all did it, right? Went out and planted a tree or grew some hardy plants in the class room.

But since leaving elementary school, how often do we actually plant something? Some of us may still get our hands dirty, but I know I haven't done much planting since then. This month, I am going to change that, and I want you to join me! We don't have to spend all our time out planting trees, but if we each planted one, we could basically save the world. We could all be Captain Planet, or at least one of those kids that hangs out with him.

Why Plant Trees? 

This isn't some lame tree-hugging empty environmentalism. If you only do one thing for the earth this year (but do more, for goodness sake- you like breathing, don't you?), adding to the tree and larger plant population could have the most profound environmental effect. Why? Well friend, I'll tell you:

Each acre of tree provides clean air and shade for 20 people a year.

Forests and wooded areas house the majority of the Earth's biodiversity in plant and animal life. This biodiversity is absolutely vital to our own survival as a species. About 50% of the Earth's animal species live in the rainforests, even though they only cover 2% of the Earth's surface

Trees basically work as the lungs of our planet, breathing in the CO2 we put into the atmosphere and breathing out oxygen. It provides us our air, helps keep the water clean, and slows the dramatic climate changes we see taking place. An acre of forest can absorb 6 tons of carbon dioxide and emit 4 tons of oxygen. Even if you don't buy climate change, you can't deny that trees are doing a heck of a lot of the work keeping Earth habitable and clean.

In New York City alone, the trees absorb 272 tons of air pollution. And that's not that green a city!

They also keep immediate climates cooler- according to the US Department of Agriculture, a young healthy tree has the same cooling effect as 10 room-sized air conditioners.

Trees (especially mature or fruit-bearing) on your property have a positive effect on real estate values. It can change the perception of the house's value significantly.

Almost 50% of the Earth's tree cover is gone, and much of that damage has been done in the last 30 years (in other words, we are consuming and crowding out trees much faster than they can grow. This is a problem of our lifetime and it's our responsibility to fix it).

In short, Save the Trees, Save the Earth!

What I'm Trying

I want to try planting some of our own plants and trees, to positively contribute and to better appreciate how things grow. I know it sounds cheesy, but trees move so slowly, and we all move so quickly, it's easy to see how we can see them as unimportant, but I want to change my attitude. To counter one family car's worth of carbon emissions, we would have to plant more than a thousand trees, but I figure everything has to start somewhere!

We don't have a ton of room for more trees (we have two big ones in our backyard), but we are going to find the space, and I might start lobbying for a tree or two in our front yard. I think we can still fit a few on the property, and I feel like lots of us could add some, but don't.

The Arbor Day website has it's own very detailed and helpful instructions about planting trees in case you, like me, are new at this whole thing. Look at what resources are available locally as well- I have received some good advice about what grows best in the Seattle area, and I bet you can find lots of good information on what's best for your area if you look.

The goal? Plant things in our own space every Sunday in April leading up to a tree near Arbor Day. I also want to research where planting needs to be done in our area in Washington, and how to support reforestation across the country and the world. We have room in our yard, but if you don't, maybe check into community gardens near you! Every week in April, I want to do something, even if it is small. Join me one week or every week!

I feel really excited about the possibility that my children could think growing things is a regular part of life, not to mention that having more trees on the planet will just make the world around them better. I hope by the time they are making these choices, some of the big initiatives like "Plant a Billion Trees" will have already succeeded. This goal may seem quaint and small, but I believe they add up if we all get involved,

Don't have time to plant a tree yourself? Renting or living in a place with no outdoor space? No worries! I think we could all take the second step to fight deforestation on a larger scale by supporting organizations that reforest areas and fight deforestation. A lot of these options are the cost of one cup of coffee or one cheap meal out, so if every person who reads this contributed, we could again make Captain Planet super proud. Check out your option:

 Rather than going and planting something you can sponsor amazing companies like Plant a Tree USA, where you can sponsor a tree (or 3 or 6) in honor of someone. Check out the options here. I especially love the Arbor Foundation options, where you can buy trees to celebrate or remember people that you love while helping to clean out the skies and water of this country. I love it. If I die, you can all buy trees in my honor so my baby can breath clean air. Check out the options here.  You can also buy greeting cards of all types (made with recycled paper)- for every one you buy, they plant a tree! You can also donate to the Nature Conservancy "Plant a Billion Trees" Initiative, which currently only has 1% of the funds they need to rejuvenate national forests.

By funding tree-planting in this way, you can help with reforestation in areas that really need it (like the Washington mountains near we live).This may not be on your regular radar, but it's a really big deal. We spend so much time listing all the things we are doing but shouldn't (we shouldn't commute so long, we shouldn't eat so much meat, etc). April offers us a moment to think of how we can add to the solution, not just minimize our part in the problem.

So, what do you grow? Give me gardening tips- I don't know what I am doing! If you plant something, from a flower to a tree, send me a picture so I can marvel at your awesomeness! If you find other organizations that are out planting, let me know so I can pass the information on! It's time to do something radical- slow down and plant something!

If you want more info about what we're all about here, check this link. If you want some eco-friendly shopping lists, try looking here! Good luck with your planting and let me know how it goes/ if you actually become Captain Planet!

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  1. Mom likes to sponsor trees to send to playgrounds, so I always think of those catalogs and picking out ones we liked. I'm bummed that the apple trees we planted years ago finally started growing apples right when we moved out of the house.



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