Do you know what significance April 22 and April 29 have this year? No guesses, let me help you out! April 22 is Earth Day and April 29 is National Arbor Day, of course! Do you know the importance of each of these days or how they even got started?

Let me give you some background and also some ways you can do your part to protect our environment on these days and every day of the year.

Let’s start with Earth Day coming up later this week. According to earthday.org, Earth Day was first observed and celebrated in 1970 thanks to the efforts of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who was a strong advocate of protecting the environment and bringing about awareness of environmental issues. Prior to 1970, it was very hard to find any legislation concerning environmental protection nor was there much in the way of conservation practices. In the 1960s, Americans were driving cars which had low fuel efficiency, industry used coal to power their factories which polluted the air, and it seemed that air pollution was the “smell of prosperity” according to earthday.org.

The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, which highlighted the impact of pollution and pesticides among other things on the environment, was one of the launch pads for environmental conservation.

When Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, nearly 20 million Americans joined in to demonstrate their support for the cause in cities and on university campuses nationwide. By the end of 1970, Americans saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, as well as the Endangered Species Acts by Congress.

For his efforts toward organizing Earth Day and pushing environmental legislation through Congress, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our daily lives while also promoting planting and care of trees. The Arbor Day Foundation writes that it was first observed in 1872 in Nebraska, but that festivals celebrating trees are nothing new as it has represented a symbol of life all throughout history.

J. Sterling Morton is credited with getting the Arbor Day tradition started as pioneers were moving into the Nebraska Territory. Morton and his wife Caroline were true nature enthusiasts and worked to plant trees, shrubs and flowers in their new home in the Nebraska Territory and could spread his enthusiasm given that he was an avid journalist, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Nebraska State Board of Agriculture passed a resolution in 1872 to “set aside one day to plant trees, forest and fruit,” declaring April 10 as Arbor Day while also offering prizes to individuals and counties who planted the largest number of trees, writes the Arbor Day Foundation.

It was not long after the initial celebration that other states around the country decided to follow suit and passed their own legislation to observe Arbor Day each year and by 1920, nearly 45 states and territories had passed legislation to celebrate Arbor Day.

The Arbor Day Foundation says it best in that this day is about looking toward a bright future and planting trees to provide resources for future generations to enjoy.

Arbor Day is celebrated on April 22 as this is J. Sterling Morton’s birthday.

So now you might be thinking, what can I do to celebrate these two important days? There are numerous answers which could come from this question. The Arbor Day Foundation offers a few tips to get started.

• First, an obvious answer might be to plant a tree. Most important is to remember to correctly place the tree as well as care for it properly after planting. Why stop at one tree? It never hurts to plant more!? • Choose a park or other public place to clean up. Be sure to recycle of what you can and properly dispose of the rest. Don’t do this by yourself! Get your friends, family, and neighbors together and do some spring cleaning! You will feel good and so will nature!? • Ride your bike or walk to work/school. Do Mother Nature a favor – leave the car parked at home and enjoy a nice walk or bike ride to work, if that is an option for you. If that is not an option, why not try carpooling with a friend or neighbor who may be heading in the same direction as you?? • Volunteer with a local tree planting organization. This will give you a great opportunity to meet some new people while making a difference.? These are just a few ways you can help our planet today and every day and ensure our natural resources are here for future generations to utilize. Happy Earth Day and Arbor Day!