Man sitting on tree branch in forest

April is nearing its end, which means Arbor Day is upon us. What is Arbor Day, you ask? It’s a toast to trees! On this green holiday, everyone is encouraged to celebrate the important role trees play in our environment. Arbor Day is celebrated in the spring in countries across the globe, and in the United States, it’s observed on the last Friday in April.

Trees Matter

Unlike some really questionable days (National Blonde Brownie Day, we’re looking at you), this one is legit — trees most certainly deserve a holiday dedicated to their greatness. They are absolutely crucial in our environment for many reasons.

Perhaps most notable is the fact that they are nature’s air purifiers. During their respiration process, trees actually absorb carbon dioxide floating around in the environment. Carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that, when in the atmosphere, absorbs heat and causes a warming effect on the planet. Carbon dioxide finds its way into our environment primarily through the burning of fossil fuels that we use to power factories, power plants, and vehicles. Trees suck up this greenhouse gas and release oxygen, which we need to breathe.

Trees don’t just purify the air; they also clean water and help prevent erosion. When it rains, drops hit the ground and flow to the nearest water source in their watershed, picking up pollutants from places like farms and highways along the way. This contaminated rainwater is known as runoff. Trees and other plants often stand in the way of water sources, leaving runoff no choice but to squeeze through them. Once again, trees are there to save the day. They suck up the runoff, acting like a sponge, and naturally filter out any pollutants before they can enter the water system.

Trees also play a huge role in our daily lives, even when we don’t realize it. Look around you — it’s almost more difficult to find products that are not made from trees than those that are. Take your morning breakfast routine, for example — the cereal box is made from a tree, the milk carton is made from a tree, the coffee filter is made from a tree, the newspaper is made from a tree, and the list goes on. Gee, the house you’re in might even be made from trees. All that’s to say, trees and paper products significantly impact our livelihood and, consequently, our economy.

Show Your Appreciation

How that it’s obvious why we should be heartily celebrating our verdant environmental heroes, here are five ways you can honor trees this Arbor Day.

1. Enjoy the outdoors

Trees aren’t just crucial for the environment, they’re also beautiful. This Arbor Day, take a hike or visit a nearby arboretum and prepare to gaze in wonderment at the nature around you. The allure of the forest is sure to inspire you to protect it.

2. Recycle paper products

If each American recycled one of every 10 of their newspapers, we could save 25 million trees. Imagine how many trees we could save if we recycled all of our paper products. Recyclable paper products are all around you — they include magazines, cardboard, office paper, phone books, mail, and more. Fortunately, a hefty portion of the U.S. has access to paper recycling programs. Up your paper-recycling game now! Jump to our paper recycling guide to learn more.

3. Join an Arbor Day event

Arbor Day is heartily celebrated in communities across the world. Want to plan your own Arbor Day event? Get inspired and make a plan through the Arbor Day Foundation. Or, if you’d rather join an already-established event, look for Arbor Day work parties or other volunteer opportunities through environmental organizations in your area.

4. Clean up your community

Trees thrive in a pollution-free environment. Too much trash can restrict tree growth and even prove deadly. Take care of the greenery in your community by spending your Arbor Day picking up litter and debris in your town.

5. Plant a tree

This one seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it really is the perfect way to celebrate Arbor Day. You can buy a tree seedling — or two — at your local nursery and plant it right in your front yard to show off your Arbor Day pride. Feeling unsure about how to plant the right way? Follow this guide from the Arbor Day Foundation and you’ll be in good shape.

Maybe you aren’t one to get your hands dirty — we’re here to help. Check out these easy ways to plant a tree where it’s needed most by giving this green deed as a gift.

Feature image courtesy of Free-Photos from Pixabay. Originally published on April 27, 2018, this article was updated in March 2021.

By Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.