Plant more trees, become a tree ambassador to help the environment

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I will admit that summer is my favorite season, no doubt about it. I love the warmth and the splendid array of colors, from the variations of greens in the fields to the trees to the variety of grasses and flowers blooming. 

I marvel at the sunsets and the sunrises, and I love the sounds of birds, the croaking of frogs and insects chirping. I feel overjoyed and cannot get enough of this time of the year. Even the heat or an occasional thunderstorm does not phase me, as I know how blessed I am, living here in Ohio. 

However, for some reason, lately, I have had this feeling of guilt. Maybe it’s because we have it too good, and I have not escaped the realities of my country or the rest of the world. 

Many of our fellow Americans are living in a drought or under the threat of a wildfire. And that weighs heavy on my mind. Sometimes I feel bad for having it so good. I look around and see the beauty of all things green, and think what would I do if this was gone? 

How to help

It’s really hard to imagine what others are going through. I know I want to help, but I’m not sure how. The first thing that pops into my mind is to plant more trees.  

If you have the property and the required space, by all means, plant a native tree. Trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees, according to a recent study. Trees provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals — 80% of land-dwelling species rely on forests in order to survive.  

In addition, trees provide windbreaks and help stabilize and anchor the soil with their root systems. We all know that trees help our air quality by releasing oxygen, but they also help by sequestering CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems and leaves while they grow, and in wood products after they are harvested. Trees are so beneficial to the environment. 

Losing trees

Sadly, we are losing trees at a very fast rate. Every 1.2 seconds, man destroys an area of forest the size of a football field. There are many reasons our tree canopy is declining, including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects, disease, logging and urban and agricultural development.  

This year, wildfires out west have wreaked havoc. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon was said to spread about 24,000 acres per day on average, which is an area larger than the area of Central Park each hour, or a rate of a football field burned every 5 seconds for 10 days. I cannot even imagine that. 

Although we may live far away, we still are connected, by air, climate and by our environment. We must help our fellow citizens, and future generations and this beautiful place we call America. So, I go back to the question of, what can I do? 

My answer is, if I can’t plant a tree, I can become a tree ambassador. 

Tree ambassador

What exactly is a tree ambassador? Basically, you help plant trees by joining a cause or by donating. You can donate a little or a lot. You can be very involved in your community or your school or just be your own proud self — whatever suits you. 

One website has an app that allows you to tie in your bank account or credit card, and then every purchase you make will be automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar and donated to plant trees. 

There is the Million Tree Challenge geared toward large businesses, and for teachers and school children, there are lessons and activities. Anyone who promotes and helps get more trees and plants growing for our future is a tree ambassador. 

My recommendation is to check out onetreeplanted.org and americanforests.org/ if you are interested in becoming a tree ambassador. The more I become involved, the better I feel, and even though I am so far away from the crisis out West, I feel my efforts will help. 

It’s just like I tell students: if everyone did a small part, all the small things would add up to big changes. I know my part makes a difference, and whatever you do on your part will make a difference, too. 

It’s called conservation, saving and protecting our natural resources. I hope you can appreciate the green, enjoy your blessings and become a tree ambassador.

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Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from the University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org.

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