Plant a Tree
Ooooh, this is a fun one! I love planting stuff and now I have a great excuse to blow my paltry paycheck at the local nursery :-)
For any of you who failed science class (or passed with a solid C-, like I did), you should know that trees do amazing stuff. Here's the basics, all dumbed-down for us, courtesy of Borealforest.org
The quality of our environment - the air, soil and water - depends on the roles trees play. Trees help create rain as they expel moisture into the atmosphere: their roots draw it from the soil and their leaves return it to the air. Trees clean the air we breathe by taking in carbon dioxide through the leaves and then giving off oxygen we need to breathe. If trees didn't breathe, neither could we. Roots help hold soil in place to prevent erosion which not only saves soil, but also keeps our waterways cleaner. You may have observed that water is usually cleaner when there is an abundance of trees. Trees provide shade in the summer to help cool our homes. In the winter, they block wind to help warm our homes.
Simply put, they breathe in our nasty carbon dioxide and exhale the oxygen we need to survive. Very good stuff. According to the USDA Forest Service, a single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. per year. If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. This is almost 5% of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.
The average American generates 20 tons of carbon dioxide every year. To offset this CO2, each and every American would need to be growing 833 trees. Fortunately for us, there are many protected forests in the US that help out. However, they're occasionally wiped out by wildfires, floods and politicians. So please help them out by planting one of your own.
Of course, if you live in an apartment or don't have the space for a tree, you can still have one planted. Buy a tree for a friend or relative for their next birthday and help them plant it in their yard. If you don't know people with space for trees, there are a lot of great organizations that will plant a tree in a forest for you. Some of my favorites are The National Arbor Day Foundation, American Forests, and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Check them out, they're pretty cool!
We planted a nice Japanese Maple out front. Picked it up at the local nursery this spring and planted it when we planted all our other stuff. Of course, we didn't know that FALL is actually the best time to plant a tree, but, hey, it's still alive.... and growing... and breathing. I counted the trees on our property today and we have 17 trees - including our little maple. Those trees are doing a great job removing 816 pounds of CO2 each year, but I think I want to do better. I'll be purchasing another tree this fall to plant out back.
Difficulty Level - 3 out of 5
You need the physical strength to wield a shovel (or a husband, friend or neighbor). Other than that, it's simple. If you need help deciding what kind of tree, talk to your local nursery folks. They can help you pick out a tree that will do well in your soil and the conditions of the location. They'll also tell you how deep to plant it, how much to water it, etc.