That’s how many trees, shrubs and grasses have been planted since National Tree Day was established in Australia 23 years ago. Why does this day exist? And why have close to five million volunteers given ten million hours of their time to a cause which forces them to get their hands dirty?
Ian Darbyshire, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, says that National Tree Day is a cause that resonates because it affects both people’s health and the environment.
“Aussies are spending more and more time inside and in front of a screen, disconnected from the natural world, but research from here and overseas show there are real health and wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside and in contact with nature.”
These benefits include a lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, reduced stress, and increased happiness, wellbeing and productivity.
For the planet, a five percent increase in tree cover can reduce nearby daytime temperatures by 2.3 degrees Celsius, which could be crucial as heatwaves cost more lives than all other climate change impacts combined. A large, healthy tree can also sequester (remove and store) up to 93kg of CO2 emissions and 1.4kg of air pollution a year.
With all these benefits, protecting our trees seems a logical priority. Sadly, it doesn’t always end up that way.
Over the past 200 years, more than 75% of Australia’s native vegetation has been destroyed or degraded. Darbyshire says that destructive human activities such land clearing, urban expansion and logging are to blame, as well as climate change impacts, invasive species, pests and diseases.
“Extinction of species can have unforeseen effects with widespread consequences for ecosystems, native wildlife and for people. Our futures are linked. We need to work together to restore rainforests, woodlands and bushland across Australia.”
The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife supports on-ground projects that protect habitat, rehabilitate native bushland and increase biodiversity for Australia’s threatened species. One such project is National Tree Day, which is celebrated every year on the 28th of July as a positive, community-based activity aimed to bring native plant communities back to into the Australian environment and connect people, especially children, with nature.
Each year, 300,000 people volunteer their time, making National Tree Day Australia’s largest annual tree-planting and nature care event.
Darbyshire says participating is easy: “There are many ways to get involved, such as collaborating with a local community group to host a tree planting event, or you can make a donation to enable others in the community to conduct planting activities.”
Running a tree day activity in your workplace is also great team building initiative, which at the same time makes a difference to the community, fosters a love of nature and creates positive environmental change.
For more information on planting sites near you, call the National Tree Day Hotline on 1300 885 000. If you can’t plant a tree yourself, the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife can plant one for you through the Plant a Tree for Me! Program. For more information, visit www.plantatreeforme.org.au.
[Header image: Josh Withers / Unsplash]