Why we celebrate Arbor Day

Why we celebrate Arbor Day

Julius Sterling Morton

For many of us across the United States, Arbor Day comes and goes with little fanfare or recognition. In fact, most people aren’t even aware of when and why it’s celebrated.

The first official Arbor Day celebration took place way back on April 10th, 1872 – some 147 years ago. During this inaugural celebration, it was estimated that Nebraskans planted more than one million trees to commemorate the event. A dream turned reality for J. Sterling Morton, who was a newspaper editor and former Nebraska governor who loved trees.

The Father of Arbor Day

Julius Sterling Morton spent much of his adult life writing and speaking about environmental issues and how it unified our lives. Morton and his wife were lovers of nature – filling the acreage around their Nebraska home with lush trees, shrubs and flowers of numerous varieties.

He once remarked, “Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.”

He ultimately believed that every individual in American society should set aside at least one day to plant a tree. Could you imagine if everyone in your neighborhood, in your community all planted one tree each and every year what that would mean for our planet’s struggle against climate change?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

The National Wildlife Federation states that there are about 60–200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year and saving $4 billion in energy costs.

Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday back in January 1872 in front of the State Board of Agriculture. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and April 22, Morton’s birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance (eventually moving to the last Friday in April when it became a National Holiday).

Perhaps one of his greatest efforts was to educate our youth on the importance of trees in our lives and our world.

In science class he encouraged the study of ecosystems of one particular tree. In social studies one could learn about the trees of different cultures. In math class students could understand how to measure a tree’s height, crown and overall diameter. In English he hoped students would write letters to community tree planters thanking them for their efforts.

Whether you need to choose a variety of trees and shrubs for a major landscape renovation or a single tree to shade your home and lawn, remember Julius Sterling Morton.

A pioneer of his time who understood the benefits for everyone walking the earth of taking one day just to plant a tree.

For questions on lawn and tree care, contact SavATree today!