Don’t feel bad. It’s a factoid that lots of people don’t know – which is a shame, considering how badly our planet needs more trees to be planted every year to make up for the ones that are being pulped for papermaking or burned to clear land for grazing or farming. On average, a healthy, mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a year, capturing 13 pounds of solid carbon in its woody biomass. So planting trees is one very effective way for individuals to do something constructive toward reversing global warming, not to mention air pollution.
The problem is that the US is a very big country, spanning many climate zones. So when the National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF) tried to promulgate a single day for people to plant trees across the country, they quickly discovered that what works for Maine doesn’t work for Florida and vice versa. Consequently, although 28 states (including New York) celebrate the holiday on the last Friday in April, others have to wait as late as the third week in May or are ready to get started in November, December or January. In the US Virgin Islands, in fact, Arbor Day happens fully half a year away from most of us: on the last Friday in September.
So, to answer my own question, Arbor Day in our neck of the woods this year falls on April 29. And on that very day, rain or shine, Bard College – along with lots of other schools in our region from kindergarten on up – will be holding a tree-planting ceremony that is open to the public. Bard, which has not only has a Landscape and Arboretum Program to maintain the 540-acre campus’ outstanding tree collection, but also an ongoing partnership with the New York Botanical Garden to offer courses in horticulture to the community at large, is justly proud of its plantings. Earlier this month, NADF honored Bard, for the second year running, with a ceremony in Albany conferring Tree Campus USA status: academia’s equivalent of the Tree City USA placards that one sees posted at entry points to cities that maintain high standards of civic beautification and planning and zoning guidelines that foster urban reforestation.
Tree Campus USA is a relatively new undertaking for NADF. With financial support from Toyota, it was launched in 2008 by planting nearly 1,000 trees at nine college campuses throughout the nation. It has since grown to the extent that Bard is one of 114 colleges and universities in the US to have earned the status of Tree Campus USA in 2010. To qualify, colleges must meet five core standards of tree care developed to promote healthy trees and student involvement: establishment of a campus tree advisory committee; evidence of a campus tree-care plan; verification of dedicated annual expenditures on the tree-care plan; involvement in an Arbor Day observance; and a service-learning project aimed at engaging the student body in sustainable efforts.
On Friday, April 29, Bard is hosting an Arboretum Open House in the Bertlesmann Campus Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and an Arbor Day Celebration and Tree-Planting Ceremony on Kline Lawn at 2 p.m. The trees will be added to the historic “Elm Walk” between Stone Row and the Chapel. Arbor Day visitors to campus will be able to learn about the Landscape and Arboretum Program; pick up free tree information and brochures; learn about the horticultural classes at Bard presented by New York Botanical Garden staff; take home free tree seeds; purchase locally made tree tee-shirts and bags; and learn how to become a Friend of the Arboretum.
For more information about the event, contact the Arboretum Office at (845) 752-LEAF (5323), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://inside.bard.edu/arboretum. To see a complete list of Tree Campus USA colleges and universities, go to www.arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.