It could be said trees naturally call for attention as they climb toward the sky with their arms outstretched. Yet, it’s still easy for us to ignore them. As we bustle through our own day-to-day lives, trees seem to play the role of a backdrop. An insignificant set piece in the stage production of society.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Trees are instrumental to the quality and health of our lives, our homes, and our planet. Rooted to a single spot, they appear still. But that stillness is not synonymous with laziness. Trees are rarely idle. In fact, they are workhorses of the environment as the impact of their hard work carries miles farther than the ground in which they stand. As the CEO of the Arbor Day Foundation—the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to tree planting—I’ve seen firsthand the incredible transformation spurred by planting trees.
Globally, trees are the most scalable and cost-effective tool in the fight against climate change. Trees clean the air and vacuum up carbon. They foster biodiversity and support critical habitats. For example, ring-tailed lemurs are considered one of the most endangered creatures on the planet. A big reason why is that half of the forests they depend on in Madagascar off the East coast of Africa were cut down.
Lemurs aren’t alone when it comes to a dependency on trees. Trees are home to 80% of all animals, plants, and insects that live on land. That includes some butterflies, bats, bears, frogs, birds—not to mention the neighborhood squirrels seeking an escape from your dog in the backyard.
Though humans aren’t always dependent on treetops for shelter, trees can save our lives too.
Reports indicate in 2022 alone, heat waves across Europe caused an estimated 20,000 deaths. Scientists point to trees as a way to combat these urban heat islands, saying that increasing Europe’s tree canopy by 30% could prevent thousands of deaths. Being around trees can also improve a person’s blood pressure, mental health and boost creativity. In fact, doctors in Canada are so convinced of nature’s benefits for the mind and body, they started prescribing patients free passes to national parks (the world’s best medicine if you ask me).
Where there’s a need, trees can help fill it. In some communities, trees are an important food source. In others, they’re a symbol of resilience following a devastating tragedy. When planted near streams and rivers, they clean and filter the water. When planted in communities of need, they usher in equity. And a bonus for homeowners: trees can even save you money. That’s right, when planted in the right place, a tree can help you bring down energy costs for your home. No coupon needed.
Forget the backdrop—it’s time to put trees in the spotlight.
The Arbor Day Foundation is dedicated to this exact mission: inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. We know there’s never been a more important time for trees. And we know there’s never been a more important time for mankind to engage in its role as environmental stewards. This isn’t a one-sided relationship. What we give to nature we will receive in return, tenfold.
So as springtime arrives once again, take a moment and appreciate all a tree can be.
Dan Lambe is CEO of the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.