Celebrate National Arbor Day
Not only do trees provide oxygen, clean the air, offer habitat for wildlife, and provide food for humans, but they also cool our streets and help us save water and energy. Did you know that planting carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling? In colder climates, evergreen trees provide shelter from winter winds and may reduce heating costs. If you’ve been thinking about updating your home’s landscaping or planting a few trees, why not use National Arbor Day (always on the last Friday in April) as your inspiration.
The idea of a day dedicated to planting trees dates back to 1872, when Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska journalist, proposed that a special day be set aside dedicated to tree planting and increasing awareness of the importance of trees. Morton and fellow pioneers realized trees were needed not just as fuel and building material, but as windbreaks and shade from the hot sun. If you live in the West, the idea of climate-appropriate landscaping is probably not new to you. But regardless of where you live, planting appropriate, native trees and landscaping in carefully thought-out ways can help you save energy, while also boosting the value of your home.
The Benefits of Trees
- The shade and moisture from a big canopied tree can reduce the surrounding temperature by 10 to 15 degrees.
- Deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in winter) planted on the south and west sides will help keep your house cool in the summer, but let the sun shine through in the winter.
- Plant trees, vines, or shrubs to shade your AC unit – but make sure to allow air circulation around the unit and access for service. This will keep the unit cooler and running more efficiently.
- Can’t plant trees to the west and south? Vines grown on trellises can provide a quick source of shade.
And even better–trees can help increase the value of your home. Surveys show that mature trees in a well landscaped yard can increase the value of your house by 7 to 19 percent. Another study showed that houses with street trees– those planted between the sidewalk and the road– sold for as much as $7,000 more than the average. Many cities and utility districts offer free street trees or shade trees. Search the internet for “free trees <your city/county>” and see what is available in your area. Here are a few tips and resources to help you get started:
- Find the best trees and shrubs for your area
- Planting trees to maximize summer shade
- Landscaping for energy-efficient homes
Arbor Day Facts
- Arbor is the Latin word for tree.
- On the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.
- Other countries celebrate Arbor Day (or similar holidays that celebrate trees) on different days. Japan celebrates “Greenery Week,” while Mexico has “Day of the Tree,” and Iceland observes “Students’ Afforestation Day.”
- Many U.S. states also celebrate trees on different days (Hawaii celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday in November because of its planting season).