How To Celebrate Arbor Day Without Planting A Tree

When you think of Arbor Day, you probably think of planting a tree. OK, sure, but what if you're really busy or you live in a big city, and you don't know where you can even legally plant a tree? If you're trying to figure out how to celebrate Arbor Day without sticking to the same old boring ideas, there are lots of easy, creative ways that don't involve planting trees.

Arbor Day was started in 1872 in Nebraska, a state that was pretty much devoid of trees at the time. Local journalist and nature enthusiast Julius Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline decided to fix that. More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first-ever Arbor Day. The holiday is now celebrated in all 50 states and around the world. In the United States, it usually takes place on the last Friday of April, but some states pick a different day depending on the best time to plant trees for that area, so use this Arbor Day calendar to double check.

The heart of Arbor Day is about environmental stewardship, not just planting trees. Think of it in broader terms, like leaving a better Earth for our future children than the one we currently have. That opens up a world of new ways to celebrate. It's time to branch out. Here are six ways to celebrate Arbor Day that don't involve planting trees.

1. Organize an Oldest Tree Hunt in Your Community

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Whether you get a bunch of friends together and go for a hike or you organize a big event with local schools and environmental groups, get outside and go find the biggest, baddest, oldest tree in your area. This Community Tree Contest Guide shows you how to measure trees and turn this into an educational activity for kids.

2. Hold a Read-In at the Library

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There are some incredible, ancient trees around the world. Take an hour to learn about them with a book like Beth Moon's Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time. Take it a step further and talk to your public librarians and help them make a display of books about trees. Volunteer to read a book about trees or the environment to young kids. Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a classic.

3. Clean Up a Public Space


Have you ever noticed a median or park that always has trash on the ground? Take just a few minutes and clean it up. You could volunteer at a local nature preserve or reach out to your city government to find more ways you could help make the Earth a little bit cleaner this Arbor Day.

4. Work on a Farm

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Last summer I discovered CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) worker shares. When you do a worker share, you volunteer your time for a certain number of hours each week on a farm. In return, you get a share of the vegetables, fruits, or whatever the farm produces for free. Learn how to find a CSA near you. Obviously this commitment spans past Arbor Day, but it's a great way to reconnect with nature and get a first-hand look at how your food is produced. Plus, you get lots of fresh produce for free!

5. Make a DIY Bird Feeder

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Provide extra food for birds and enjoy their colorful visits to your deck or patio with an easy DIY bird feeder like this one. All you need is a tin can and some twine.

6. Make Your Garden Bumblebee Friendly


You've probably heard what's going on with honeybees; they've been dying in droves over the past few years. They've flourished for 50 million years and they pollinate about one third of our food supply, but bee colonies have been disappearing at alarming rates lately. In the spirit of Arbor Day, make your garden friendly to bumblebees by adding flowers that attract bees like honeysuckle, lavender, catmint, and snapdragons. If you already have a garden, use this handy tool from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust that will analyze your garden's variety and suggest bumblebee-friendly additions.