Arbor Day: Bringing Trees Back

Celebrating trees is deeply integrated into our company mission, but we’re always glad when the rest of the world gets a chance too! April 29th is Arbor Day, an entire day to give trees all the attention, joy, and love they deserve. Let’s talk about the history of Arbor Day and how trees are crucially woven into regenerative agriculture systems. 

A Brief History

Arbor Day has its roots in Nebraska, where in 1872 J. Sterling Morton advocated for a tree planting holiday to be held. The public rallied behind the idea and the first Arbor Day was held on April 10th, 1872. It is estimated that over 1 million trees were planted on that first Arbor Day. 

Arbor Day became an officially recognized holiday by the state of Nebraska in 1874 and permanently set for April 22nd. The idea spread quickly, and soon all 50 states recognized Arbor Day as a holiday to celebrate and plant trees of all kinds.  

Today, Arbor Day is celebrated worldwide from Canada to South Africa. The dates for Arbor Day are all different, to account for varying climates and the best time to plant trees in each. Although federally recognized in the United States as the last Friday in April, each state within the U.S. has a different day set for their own Arbor Day, to make sure trees are planted during the best time of year for that state’s climate. 

Trees and Regenerative Agriculture

We love Arbor Day, because it is an official day to recognize trees that are such a crucial component to our regenerative agriculture model. One of the tenants of regenerative agriculture is biodiversity, planting multiple types of plants that enhance the farm ecosystem and contribute to its growth. Since 2015, Alter Eco has been working with organic and fair trade cocoa cooperative UNOCACE in Ecuador to plant about 15 different species of trees, plants, and legumes within the cocoa fields.

These trees are a crucial part of the farm, not only enhancing biodiversity, but also stabilizing the soil, providing shade, absorbing carbon, and adding yet another income source for the farmers.  

Carbon Insetting vs. Offsetting

While many companies and other organizations talk about planting trees as a way to “offset” their carbon emissions, we prefer to focus on the power of trees for carbon “insetting”.  

With carbon offsetting, companies are focused on investing in environmental assets anywhere, often outside the regions where they source their material inputs.  This implies the indiscriminate planting of rows and rows of trees, anywhere and with anyone.  

Carbon insetting takes a different approach by focusing on environmental restoration projects directly within a company’s agriculture sourcing communities.  This is a community and region-based approach, enhancing the specific ecosystem and community an organization sources from.   

We know from first hand experience that strategically planting trees and weaving them into the fabric of regenerative farms creates a tremendous amount of value.  When part of a well-crafted forestry plan, trees have the power to not only lock away carbon and restore biodiversity, but also increase the economic well-being of regenerative farmers around the planet by providing multiple income sources.  

Since 2008, AlterEco has been working with PUR Projet to partner with our cacao farmers from the ACOPAGRO Cooperative to ‘inset’ our carbon emissions. From 2008 to 2018, we planted over 27,000 trees directly into our supply chain, and we have plans to do many more. These trees are a part of a comprehensive agroforestry plan that provides both biodiversity and economic diversity to our farmers’ land. Many farmers call these trees their “retirement plan” for when they mature large enough to provide another source of income. 

Trees are an amazing part of our world. They provide beauty, shade, carbon sequestration, and economic resources for communities in every part of the globe. This Arbor Day, we hope you take time to appreciate the trees in your life and get involved in planting and fostering their growth in a way that enhances both your local community and ecosystem.

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