I consider myself an ardent environmentalist (I ought to be, right?) Even though I recycle and reuse almost everything and have been known to take things out of the trash that my husband threw away to recycle them; even though I always turn off lights when I leave the room and never leave the water running when I brush my teeth;
English: Compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Even though I have replaced all my light bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs; even though I unplug small appliances when I’m away and use an energy-saving power strip that has made turning the television on even more complicated; even though I rarely eat meat and buy organic and local produce (just to name a few of my eco-habits), I was shocked when I recently took the Ecological Footprint Quiz and found out that I need 3.5 planets to sustain my current rate of energy consumption! The quiz, sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Economy, asks 27 questions about your lifestyle and the answers determine how much “nature” your lifestyle requires. It estimates “the amount of land and ocean area required to sustain your consumption patterns and absorb your wastes on an annual basis” and allows you to compare your ecological footprint to others’. My footprint was lower than “others”, but 3.5 planets is horrifying! Naturally, the quiz is not totally customized to your lifestyle. For instance, there was no place to put that I drive an electric car or that my husband drives a biodiesel one, nor that we have planted over 2000 trees on our farm where we are developing a life off the grid. Surely, this would have at least knocked one planet off my consumption level. Nevertheless, it was eye-opening and scary to say the least to see how much energy I actually consume and need in my daily life.
Go to myfootprint.org to take the quiz yourself. Sometimes a dose of reality is exactly what one needs to make positive changes in life. The quiz offers lots of energy-saving tips. Let me know what changes you plan to make!
Ecological Footprint Quiz Results (Photo credit: acordova)
With Earth Day over (though everyday is really Earth Day), it’s on to Arbor Day. The last Friday in April is Arbor Day, a national holiday dating back to 1874 when J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and editor of an important Nebraska paper, founded it. (Arbor Day does vary in some states based on the best tree planting time.) His idea was to set aside a special day for tree planting; it is estimated that more one million trees were planted that first Arbor Day in Nebraska. The tradition began nationwide in 1882 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.
Tree (Photo credit: Adnan Yahya)
Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exotic invasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change. Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits are numerous.
- They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
- They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
- The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
- Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase property values.
- Trees help us save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
- Trees offset our carbon footprints.
- Large and majestic trees are a major asset to any community.
This Friday, Arbor Day, plant a tree, learn how to care for a special tree in your yard or neighborhood, read a tree identification book, conduct a big tree search, or simply take a walk and appreciate their beauty, especially this time of year. For group activity ideas, go to arborday.org.
The large and majestic trees along our streets, on your property and in parks make up the urban forest. While we are aware of their beauty and benefits, we might not realize that many of our larger trees are suffering from environmental stress and neglect.
Unless we protect them, a majority of our heritage trees will disappear within twenty to thirty years. Air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, construction injury, exotic invasive insect pests and limited water, oxygen and nutrient availability has taken a toll. Mother Nature also causes stress with sudden ice storms, high winds, extreme low temperatures, a devastating spring snowstorm or summer drought. Many new large growing trees are planted in confined spaces with soil devoid of essential micronutrients. And the life expectancy of newly planted street trees is only 25 years; it is unlikely they will ever reach the grandeur of the majestic trees today.
Trees are slow to respond to wounding and stress. It’s not unusual for a tree to die years after an adverse situation and unfortunately, an arborist is typically called when it is usually too late to save it. Root and branch dieback, decay and foliage scorching are all symptoms of stress and put the tree into a weakened condition. Weakened trees are more susceptible to insect problems and disease.
Image by sergies pics Flickr.com
There are several proactive and organic approaches to prolong the life of a tree and maintain its good health and vigor.
- Fix the soil with organic supplements. Raking our leaves removes vital organic matter; toxic chemicals and high nitrogen based fertilizers deplete the soil of important nutrients. We need to replenish the soil with amendments or compost. Healthy, nutrient rich soil determines how well your trees grow.
- A tree needs to be periodically inspected for structural defects, insect pests and disease.
- Trees should be pruned properly and focus on removing dead, dying, diseased and broken branches.
- Proper irrigation and mulching, especially in times of drought, are essential to maintain a tree’s good health.
Trees are not living statues – they need care and protection just like any other living thing. Trees play a critical role in the health of the planet. Please help preserve them.
Information compiled from Bostontreepreservation.com