Keeping America Beautiful: How Your Business Can Honor Arbor Day

Arbor Day, which originated in Nebraska during the late 1800s, has evolved beyond just planting trees, which leaves your small business with plenty of options for celebrating in April.

How Arbor Day Started

The seeds for Arbor Day began with Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska City newspaper editor. Morton often shared his knowledge of trees with readers and praised their ecological importance to Nebraska.     

In January 1872, he took his enthusiasm for trees and their care to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture, suggesting a day be set aside for tree planting across the state. The board agreed with his idea.

"The first ever Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872 and was a wild success," according to the History Channel website. "Morton led the charge in the planting of approximately 1 million trees. Enthusiasm and engagement was aided by the prizes awarded to those who planted trees correctly."

Sparklight®, a partner of the Arbor Day Foundation, has pledged to plant trees on behalf of customers who switch to paperless billing. The partnership has resulted in 110,000 trees being planted in Sparklight markets. It is helping further the Foundation's Time for Trees® initiative – a commitment to plant 100 million trees in forests and communities worldwide by 2022, the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.

Beyond Nebraska Forestation

By 1885, Arbor Day became an official state holiday in Nebraska. Within 20 years, almost every other state in the U.S. celebrated trees and Arbor Day. 

The holiday spread further with the help of fellow agriculturalist Birdsey Northrop, who introduced the concept of Arbor Day to Japan in 1883, and "continued to influence the creation of Arbor Days across Europe, Canada and Australia," says the History Channel website.

In 1970, Arbor Day was recognized as a national holiday. Some states celebrate Arbor Day at different times of the year to accommodate the various seasons and ensure the right environment for the trees to flourish. However, the national observance always falls on the last Friday in April.

How Your Small Business Can Honor Arbor Day

From planting trees to holding events, here are several ways your small business can honor this year's Arbor Day.

Invite customers and community members to a planting event. While you may not have the space or land to accommodate the planting of a new tree, you could still create an Arbor Day event that centers on a tree or planting that occurs at a different location.

Instead of a large tree, consider other types of plantings your business could build an event around in the spirit of Arbor Day, such as a shrub.

Look for possible locations in your community, such as a park, trail, or other green spaces that might welcome a new tree or other greenery sponsored by your company. Or find another small business to partner with for an event - ideally one that could offer a space for the actual planting.

Once you identify a viable space, involve your employees and knowledgeable arborists to research details on purchasing and planting a tree or shrub. You might discover late April is not the right time of year in your area for a new tree. If that's the case, you could make your Arbor Day event the occasion to "celebrate" a future planting date.

Create a tree-themed social media campaign. This is a great way to engage your customers and employees on Arbor Day without planting trees.

For example, run a tree photo contest on social media and give the winner something connected to your business, such as a free item or a coupon discount for a service or product. 

Or make a campaign centered on a series of posts with educational content about planting and caring for trees and shrubs specific to the climate where your business is or targets. 

Organize a nature walk. If you have employees and it's a feasible option, take your staff outside for an Arbor Day activity.

"Search for the biggest tree, the oldest tree, and different tree species at a nearby forest, in a local park, or along city streets," suggests the Arbor Day Foundation.

If you're looking for ideas, contact a parks and recreation department in your area, an extension office, or a scout organization.

Encourage reuse, recycle and energy savings. Create Arbor Day messaging encouraging "green" activities or ways your business could be more energy (and cost-) efficient.

"Reduce, reuse, recycle. Save money AND trees by creating a campaign to reduce paper usage," the Arbor Day Foundation says. "Be sure to recycle what you do use!"

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