Arbor means tree in Latin, and Arbor Day is a holiday where we take time to plant trees. The first Arbor Day was held on April 19, 1872. Today, over 30 countries observe a form of Arbor Day. If you’re interested in celebrating this holiday, or planting a tree, your first stop should be the website of the Arbor Day Foundation at ArborDay.org.

The idea of this observance is for individuals and groups to plant trees. And planting a tree seems simple enough; go to a plant nursery or local home and garden store, buy a tree and plant it in your back yard.

But it’s really not that simple. If you are going to plant a tree in your own yard, it is best to do a little research. You need to find out what types of trees grow best in your area. It’s important to choose a tree that will not need too much maintenance or that you have to water via your own irrigation, because it’s important to conserve water.

Another important factor to consider is where exactly to plant a tree. Read about the specific species you are thinking of planting and see what their characteristics are. Perhaps they will grow too tall, or drop too many leaves in the fall. And don’t forget to consider the roots. How big will they grow and spread, and is there any plumbing or foundation work that might be damaged by the roots? For example, in the town where I live, they planted olive trees along the downtown sidewalks. It seemed like a great idea. The trees would offer shade and the shops and restaurants downtown would get more pedestrian traffic. Unfortunately, when the trees grew, the roots broke up the sidewalk and the canopies blocked the awnings of the businesses along the street. Pretty soon, a great idea had turned into a bad one. 

Read Related: For Earth Day & Arbor Day: Growing a Garden With Your Children

If you do not have a back yard or a place that could use a tree, you should look up your local environmental groups like the Sierra Club, or perhaps gardening groups, that will no doubt be organizing events for Arbor Day. Also, check your city or county government website, since they might have plans to plant a number of trees in empty lots, parks or near local waterways, and are probably in need of volunteers. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often get involved in planting trees for Arbor Day.

Planting trees is important because they not only beautifies your neighborhood, but trees make oxygen. The more trees we have, the healthier the air we breathe. Also, trees offer a place for birds, squirrels and other small animals to live. In a way, we are creating habitat for creatures that were here before we humans took over. It’s our duty to be stewards of the earth, and something as simple and easy as planting a tree goes a long way to help build a healthy environment for everyone. And also, it is an eco-friendly way to bond with your kids!