Friday, January 21, 2011

This Week I Will Plant a Tree

Yesterday was Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish new year just for trees. How cool is that? On Tu B’Shevat we celebrate trees. We are thankful for what they give us and appreciative of how important they are to our survival. We acknowledge their slow growth and long lives. We wait patiently for young trees to bear fruit. We affirm our commitment to protect existing trees and plant new ones. We eat lots of fruit. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, in a Jewish household, but somehow Tu B’Shevat didn’t make it onto my radar until my kids came home from Sunday school with flyers about planting trees. Now, I celebrate Tu B’Shevat in various ways. This year I will write about the importance of our forested lands and this week I will plant a tree. Oh, and this bit about being good to trees, it comes from the Old Testament.

Why do we need trees?
Sounds like a silly question, but when I started gathering facts, some of the answers were astounding. For example, according to the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. forests sequester 827 tons, or nearly 10% of our CO2 emissions each year. Also, trees are so important that deforestation is the second biggest contributing factor to global climate change. That’s huge.

Here are a few more points adapted from Twenty-nine Reasons for Planting Trees compiled by Glenn Roloff, USDA Forest Service (

  • 1 acre of new forest will sequester about 2.5 tons of carbon annually.
  •  Trees can absorb CO2 at the rate of 13 pounds/tree/year.
  • Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years.
  • Planting 100 million trees could reduce the amount of carbon by an estimated 18 million tons per year and at the same time, save American consumers $4 billion each year on utility bills.
  • Trees prevent or reduce soil erosion and water pollution.
  • Shade from trees can reduce utility bills for air conditioning by 15-50%.
  • Windbreaks around homes shield against wind and snow and reduce heating costs by as much as 30%.
  • One of every four pharmaceutical products used in the U.S. comes from a plant found in a tropical forest.
  • Trees provide habitat for wildlife.
Where will I plant a tree?
I don’t know yet. There’s nowhere to plant on my property right now, so I will look into the organizations that will plant a tree for me. In the past I have done this through the Nature Conservancy and through the JNF. Many organizations will plant trees in honor or memory of a loved one and will send you a certificate to keep or give as a gift. And planting a tree won’t break the bank; you can spend as little as a dollar a tree. Here are a few organizations that will plant a tree for you or help you plant your own:

Friends of the Urban Forest

The Nature Conservancy

Jewish National Fund

United Nations Billion Tree Campaign

Arbor Day Foundation

Happy planting!

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

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