BE Like a Tree

Our monthly blog, edited by Dayenu (climate action and environmental justice) Circle members Chris Wynn and Sharon Smaller,  will give you ideas, information, resources, and things you can do to make this world a better place environmentally, tikkun olam. As a community, we can learn from each other, so we welcome your ideas and questions. Please share with us your successes in your endeavors to “go green.”

This month’s Green Maven is inspired by Tu B’Shevat. It’s more important than ever to celebrate and honor our trees. They sequester carbon, produce oxygen, regulate temperature, and prevent erosion. Trees also provide food, shelter, and resources for countless species of animals.

Because trees are just always there, standing silently, we tend to not think about them. They just keep standing there, doing their thing. But their “thing” is pretty important. Trees have sometimes been referred to as the lungs of the world, the kidneys of the world, and the world’s air conditioners.

In addition, did you know that trees can communicate with each other? They can share nutrients, warn each other of danger, and even send chemical signals to attract beneficial insects. Beneath our trees is a complex network of roots and fungi. They can also heal themselves and other trees. If these facts fascinate you, and you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

Five Ways to Celebrate Trees

If you haven’t had a chance to mark Tu B’Shevat, you can celebrate trees by focusing on the holiday’s environmental themes and use it as an opportunity to learn and appreciate trees’ critical role in your life and in nature.

Below are some ideas which were excerpted from David Suzuki’s latest newsletter, “Living Green Digest.” David Suzuki, a Canadian, is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology and has received numerous awards for his work, including a United Nations Environmental Program medal.

  1. Plant a tree. A traditional way to celebrate Tu B’Shevat is to plant a tree. Find a local organization involved in tree planting or plant one in your yard or community.
  2. Learn about the importance of trees. Take some time to learn about the many ways trees benefit the environment, including by providing oxygen, supporting biodiversity, and sequestering carbon dioxide.
  3. Take a nature walk. Be mindful of the trees you encounter. Try to identify them. What does their bark look like? What types of seeds do they have: pinecones, winged keys, pods, spikey balls, seeds with fluff to carry them in the wind, acorns, nuts or fruit? What do their leaves look like? Look and listen closely- trees are full of life. Look at which types of wildlife are using the trees: squirrel nests, woodpecker holes, and birds pecking for insects. Nature calms the brain and heals the body.
  4. Have a tree-themed meal. Feature foods from trees, such as fruit and nuts. Support local, organic sources if you can.
  5. Support organizations that work to protect trees. Consider donating to and/or volunteering for organizations that work to protect and preserve trees and forests.

How To Be Like a Tree

  1. Always grow toward the light. Live righteously and let your reach exceed your grasp.
  2. Provide refuge. Trees give food, shade and shelter. Be a source of comfort. Provide for others in need.
  3. Share your fruits. Proactively reach out to bring sweetness and sustenance to others.
  4. Waste nothing. Nature never wastes. Tree leaves fall and enrich the soil for new growth. Give back to the world to sustain others.
  5. Be supple in the wind. You’re the product of billions of years of evolution. You may be stronger than you think. Bend like the willow to survive life’s storms.
  6. Grow stronger through life experiences. Just like a tree’s rings record its journey through drought and rain, fire and calm, let life add layers of wisdom as you grow.
  7. Be a team player. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben says “a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” Cooperate. Collaborate. Support each other.
  8. Have a lasting impact. Trees provide oxygen, clean air and water, enrich the soil and support other life after they fall. Leave the world a better place.

So, the next time you’re out for a walk, think of breathing out your carbon dioxide which the trees will breathe in. They will then breathe out the oxygen which we need. If we take care of the trees, they will really, really take care of us.