15 Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day 2021

what is arbor day


Hot on the heels of Earth Day comes National Arbor Day. On April 30th, 2021, we all have the opportunity to celebrate and learn more about trees. An entire day dedicated to saving trees? That’s what we’re all about at Cloud Paper. Sign us up.

Celebrations make be a bit more socially distanced this year, but we’ve still found plenty of ways you can get involved. Read on to learn more about the history of Arbor Day, how the Arbor Day Foundation benefits trees, and how you can get involved.

What is Arbor Day?

Arbor Day is a national holiday created to promote the planting, upkeep, and preservation of trees in urban and wild spaces. Fun fact—the word “arbor” literally means “tree” in Latin.

In the long list of days devoted to celebrating our natural environment, Arbor Day is one of the few that’s focused on tree and forest awareness and appreciation. And it's also responsible for sparking similar celebrations and tree-planting efforts around the world.

The First Arbor Day

The history of Arbor starts in early 1870s Nebraska City. Julius Sterling Morton, journalist and enthusiastic tree-hugger, used his position as editor of the Nebraska City News to inspire readers to appreciate trees. He realized how important trees were to bring shade and other benefits to the flat Nebraska plains.

Morton and his wife practiced what they preached--they owned 160 acres of land in Nebraska City and during their time filled it with over 270 varieties of trees and shrubs. Today their property and home is a state park and open to the public.

But Morton also had bigger dreams. He had a vision for a day that would encourage masses of people to celebrate and plant trees. To fulfill that vision, he worked with the Nebraska Board of Agriculture on a monumental mission: organize people across the state to come together on one day and plant trees.

Originally named “Sylvan Day” from the Latin word for forests, Morton argued that all trees should be appreciated. And thus Arbor Day was born. On April 10th, 1872, people came together to plant approximately 1 million trees across the state of Nebraska.

history of arbor day

Arbor Day Through the Years

The first Arbor Day was a huge success. The following year, schools across the country participated in their own tree-planting efforts, and within ten years nearly every state had its own version of Arbor Day.

At the urging of conservationists Gifford Pinchot and Major Israel McCreight, then-President Theodore Roosevelt made a proclamation to schoolchildren on April 15th, 1907 about trees and deforestation (Oh hey, we’ve been making proclamations about deforestation, too!):

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetimes the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed.”

A bit stuffy but we agree with the sentiment.

Nixon declared Arbor Day a national holiday in 1970 as part of a frenzy of environmental protections—the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency included. Shortly after, the Arbor Day Foundation was formed to support the mission and fund tree-planting efforts.

By the time it became a national holiday, Arbor Day had inspired similar tree-planting celebrations in over 40 countries around the world, including Japan, Australia, and South Africa.

Arbor Day 2021 will be held on April 30th. But each state may celebrate on a different day in April to take advantage of ideal tree-planting time. You can look yours up here.

Why Do We Need Arbor Day?

Trees aren’t just pretty to look at. In urban, rural, and forested areas trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits.

The Benefits of Trees in Urban Spaces

Trees are good for cities and the people who live in them.

Here just a few benefits trees provide in urban areas:

  • Shield buildings from the sun
  • Reduce cooling costs and need for air conditioning
  • Filter pollutants from air and water
  • Supply oxygen: One large tree can supply a day’s worth of oxygen for four people
  • Reduce stress levels and blood pressure and improve immune system function
  • Boost home property values

The Benefits of Forests

Some people may live far away from forests, but we all benefit from them. Did you know for example that the Amazon rainforest drives global weather patterns?

Forests around the world provide the following benefits:

  • Support biodiversity for plants, animals, insects, fungi, microorganisms
  • Store carbon dioxide (one acre of forests stores 2 tons of CO2)
  • Regulate global temperature and weather
  • Supply ingredients for prescription medicines
  • Provide drinking water to over 180 million Americans via forested watersheds
  • Provide food, shelter, and income for Indigenous communities

We owe a lot to forests. We have them to thank for life-saving medicines, wellness benefits, clean drinking water, and helping combat climate change.

But the benefits won’t last  if we don’t stop the tree loss that’s happening worldwide. 

arbor day 2021

What’s Happening To Trees Today?

Trees around the world are in big trouble. 175 million acres of tree cover are lost in urban and other inhabited areas every year. And it’s estimated that 18.7 million acres of forest (about 14 city parks a minute) disappear every year. 

In urban areas, most trees are lost due to development and natural disasters. Fires, floods, insects, hurricanes, and other disasters claim trees in neighborhoods and city green spaces.

Forests next to populated areas are often subject to disappearing due to development. But the primary causes of deforestation globally are clearcutting for consumer goods (like toilet paper), agriculture, and wildfires. 

The effects are grim. Increased urban air pollution, a rise in global temperatures due to releasing carbon dioxide, loss of biodiversity, and polluted water are just a few of the effects of tree loss. 

We need trees, and we need organizations who champion the preservation and restoration of trees and forests.

The good news is that Arbor Day and the Arbor Day Foundation are working nationally and globally to restore trees to our cities and forests.

How Does Arbor Day Help Trees?

Arbor Day has grown from one state-wide effort to plant trees on one single day to a nonprofit foundation working in every corner of the world in 2021. 

Here are a few of the ways that Arbor Day and the Arbor Day Foundation are saving trees everywhere.

Community Tree Recovery

Natural disasters claim hundreds of thousands of trees from communities every year. The Community Tree Recovery program was created in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina left the Gulf Coast devastated. The Arbor Day Foundation works closely with community leaders to distribute trees at the right time after a natural disaster hits. To date, over 5 million trees have been distributed to impacted communities around the world.

Watch the video to learn more about Community Tree Recovery:

Rain Forest Rescue 

Rain Forest Rescue recognizes the importance of tropical forests to the entire world and aims to prevent further irreparable deforestation. Some of their efforts include working with Indigenous communities to help them develop rain forest-friendly businesses, replanting forests in Madagascar, and supporting shade-grown coffee farmers.

Time for Trees Initiative

Time for Trees is well overdue. The goal is massive: plant 150 million trees in forests and communities globally by Arbor Day 2022 (which happens to be the 150th anniversary!). The initiative also wants to inspire 5 million tree planters to continue the mission.

These are just a few of the ways Arbor Day benefits trees, forests, and communities worldwide. Want to get involved in Arbor Day's tree-saving efforts? Read on.

15 Easy Ways to Celebrate Trees On Arbor Day 2021

  1. Plant a tree! Plant a tree on your property or find a socially-distanced tree-planting party in your area.
  2. Support Indigenous rights to forest management and sustainable ways to make income. Consider donating to the Rainforest Action Network or the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
  3. Learn which trees are native in your area.
  4. Choose tree-free toilet paper and paper towels.
  5. Volunteer for a local park clean-up.
  6. Become an Arbor Day member and get 10 free trees to plant on your property.
  7. Take the kids on a hike and see how many trees you can identify.
  8. Create a nature scavenger hunt for the kids or download one here
  9. Volunteer for tree trimming in your neighborhood. Trimming/pruning trees regularly helps keep trees healthy and more resistant to strong winds and winter storms.
  10. Support other organizations working to plant trees around the world, like One Tree Planted.
  11. Gather fallen items from the trees on your property to make crafts with the kids.
  12. Read a book about trees. Two to get you started: The Hidden Life of Trees is a nonfiction book by Peter Wollheben. For an intense fiction read try The Overstory by Richard Powers 
  13. Find a class on tree care to learn how to keep your trees healthy. Here's one free online option.
  14. Volunteer for trail maintenance in your favorite local forest.
  15. Answer trivia questions to plant trees around the world. Really, it's that simple! Check out Plant the Peace for more information.

Bonus idea—share this post to encourage others to join in celebrating Arbor Day 2021!