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Leap year graphic of person jumping over a canyon

As we all know, this Saturday, February 29, 2020, is a Leap Day . Leap year is a calendar year that contains an additional day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year or seasonal year. Leap years are necessary because the actual length of a year is 365.242 days, not 365 days, as we are taught early on. Because astronomical events and seasons do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track. By inserting an additional day, the drift can be corrected.

The Leap Year Tree – a New Tradition

There are several traditions around the world associated with Leap Year, but none in the United States as far as we know. While we know every day is a great day to plant trees, The Gifted Tree proposes that leap day, February 29th, become an extra special day to plant trees. If you follow our logic, which I will explain in a moment, the world’s deforestation issue will certainly be helped.

Leap Year History

First of all, some history – The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE and replaced the Roman calendar. Julius Caesar’s goal was to simplify things and he was behind the origin of leap year. However, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII further refined the calendar (the Gregorian calendar) with the rule that leap day would occur in any year divisible by four. This is the calendar that we in the United States use today.Tree frog on tree branch

Leap Year – Historical Traditions

Regarding historical leap year traditions, February 29 is a big day in Ireland and is known as Bachelor’s Day, the day where women are encouraged to initiate dances and propose marriage. According to an old Irish legend, St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how leap day balances the calendar.

In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on leap day, just as Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many. Greeks consider it unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year, and especially on Leap Day. Leap day is also St. Oswald’s Day, named after the archbishop of York, who died on February 29, 992. And in many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition!

The Leap Tree Frog

None of those traditions seems to have carried over to this country, but as stated above, The Gifted Tree proposes that Leap Day be an extra special day to plant trees. Follow our “logic” and I think you will agree. Leap Year and Leap Day are, for logical reasons, associated with frogs. And Tree Frogs are very popular. And what do Tree Frogs like? Trees of course. Thus, we need to plant more trees so that the habitat of the tree frog is perpetuated and we will always have tree frogs to dazzle us.Tree frog on tree

“Logic” Wins Out

But just as important to helping tree frogs, if we plant a tree on Leap Day, February 29th, in a hundred years when trees when trees not planted on leap day will be reaching their life span, our Leap Year trees will only be 25 and in the prime of their existence!. The trees we plant on February 29th will last four times as long and will help solve the earth’s deforestation problem. A simple solution with far-reaching benefits: Helping the habitat of our tree frog friends and increasing the globe’s tree canopy.

Do Your Part

So, this Saturday, February 29th, as the sun starts to rise,  help start our new tradition of planting Leap Trees, be it in celebration or in memory, and give the world an extra-lasting gift too!

Leap year sunrise

Mother and Daughter embracing

At The Gifted Tree we speak to many customers every day. Most are calling to plant a memorial tree for a family member, friend or someone they did not even know but are related to someone they know. They are genuinely touched to be able to connect with someone special to them and know that it helps the recipient in a time of grieving. Before ending the call with the customer, I always mention to think of The Gifted Tree during happier times, such as a wedding or birthday. This surprises them and the most common response is “Oh, I never thought about that as an occasion to plant a tree.” The fact is a gift tree in honor or celebration fits any occasion and boy does this world need to plant more trees!

The World Needs More Trees Planted

The news is full of stories about the growing deforestation issue in this country and around the world. The Australian bushfires are currently a daily news item and before that is was the fires in the Amazon rain forest. Fires are not the only destructive element existing. Disease is another major issue. Just this past week, my newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio had a headline talking about the shrinking tree canopy (https://bit.ly/2GyQwHK ). In the last decade, 5,000 football fields worth of trees are gone, and that is in only one county. The emerald ash bore is a major culprit (I lost 10 ash trees in my back yard in the last year to this disease), but so are more violent storms caused by climate change. Clear-cutting for suburban residential and industrial projects is another big factor. And this problem is not going away. Millions and millions of trees will need to be planted, and The Gifted Tree is here to help.

A Gift Tree Fits Any Occasion – Even Happy Ones!

When a colleague loses a parent or a friend’s dog dies, planting a memorial tree is an ideal way to express sympathy. But as mentioned above, gifting a tree fits every occasion. A birthday tree makes sense, especially for an older person who probably doesn’t need another “thing.” A wedding is another occasion where a gift tree will resonate with the couple as they look to establish their roots. Miss the wedding gift opportunity, don’t fret, a first or fifth anniversary gives you another opportunity. The first anniversary is the paper anniversary (paper comes from trees, get it?). And something I just learned; wood is the traditional gift for the fifth anniversary, so a tree fits perfectly.

Other situations also call for the planting of a gift tree. Acknowledging a teacher or coach who has gone above and beyond as well as honoring the birth of a baby who will grow as the gift tree blossoms and grows. Celebrating landing a dream job, getting a promotion or moving into a new home, all gift tree giving opportunities.

Don’t forget about planting a gift tree for a retirement or graduation. Or just a general “thinking of you” tree where you can let the recipient know that our lives are happier, richer, and more beautiful because of you, and with the planting of this tree in their honor, now our world will be too.

How To Write a Sympathy Letter Heart Tree

Gift Trees To Celebrate a Holiday? Yes!

But another reason I bring this up is that holidays are a perfect opportunity to give a gift tree. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, surprise a sweetheart with the planting of a gift tree. He or she will be more than touched by the gesture. They will realize that this is a gift to the world too!

Gift Trees – A Gift To The World Too

As you can see, there are many ways to celebrate or honor someone with the planting of a gift tree.  And at The Gifted Tree, you can let your writing talents shine through too as each certificate has space for a custom, personalized message. But don’t stress if you struggle to find the right words.  We all do from time to time, and The Gifted Tree can take a little weight off your shoulders by offering a range of heartfelt message options for you to include on your gift tree certificate. You can write your own message or use one of our suggestions. Either way, we’ll make sure your voice and your sentiments shine through. When all is said and done, not only does planting a gift tree fit every occasion, but you are giving the world a gift too!

Tree clear-cutting showing the ravaging effects of deforestation

Showing the ravaging effects of deforestation

Half the World’s Trees Gone

The destruction of many of the world’s forests is occurring and occurring swiftly. Whether the deforestation going on globally is causing climate change and global warming is sometimes debated, but it is pretty much universally agreed that one simple deforestation solution is to plant more trees. It is a cost-effective way to help and The Gifted Tree is doing its best to aid in the cause. More on that in a bit, but another way to help is to stop deforestation by not cutting down as many trees in the first place.

Every year, an estimated 15 billion trees are chopped down across the planet to make room for agricultural and urban lands and other uses. We’ve cut down so many, in fact, that what’s left is about half of the number of trees that the Earth supported before the rise of human civilization, and scientists warn that it’s not helping our climate.

Causes of Climate Change and Global Warming?

Global deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. When trees are cut down, says Stanford University professor Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project, it can release years of a forests’ stored carbon back into the atmosphere. “Forests provide many benefits beyond storing carbon,” Jackson continues. “They store and recycle our water, they prevent erosion, they harbor biodiversity. There’s a legion of reasons to protect forests, especially in the tropics. When we plant forests, we gain some of those benefits, but it takes a long time to grow a healthy forest.” Rebuilding woodland is a slow and often difficult task which requires patience. It can take several decades or longer for forests to regrow as viable habitats, and to absorb the same amount of carbon lost when trees are cut and burned.

Where to Plant is Vital

Global heat map indicating the best places to plant trees on earth

Global heat map indicating the best places to plant trees on earth

What we are learning is that not every spec of earth is suitable for planting trees. Some land does need to be used for crops and pastures, but there is much outlaying and marginal land that can best be served by planting trees on it. Thus, it is vitally important to understand where it is best to plant trees. Using high-tech satellite photography, scientist can determine the natural level of tree cover across a range of ecosystems. A recently released study by a Swiss company in the journal Science estimates there are approximately 2.2 billion acres of land worldwide suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions. The global tree restoration potential report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. It turns out that more than half the potential to restore trees can be found in just six countries: Russia, USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. These countries have so much potential because they’ve already removed much of their existing forests, said lead author of the study, Jean-Francois Bastin.

Monitoring Tree Planting is Essential

Successful tree reforestation needs to be done in the right manner. As The Gifted Tree works with tree planting partners around the world, we are learning that programs that work long-term take into account native plant species. There also needs to be a sustained commitment to monitoring forests, not just one-off tree planting events. The upside is this monitoring and educating economically benefits the local population by creating jobs and reduces erosion that damages homes and crops.

When done right, the impact is tremendous. The Swiss study concluded that if all available 2.2 billion acres of new trees were to be planted, around 500 billion saplings, once they reach maturity could absorb 220 gigatons of carbon, the equivalent to about two thirds of man-made carbon emissions since the start of the Industrial revolution. While some of these facts have been challenged as an easy solution to the climate change issue, it is pretty much agreed that the planting of trees matters.

Success Stories From Your Gift Trees

This is why The Gifted Tree is working with dedicated tree partners to not only plant trees, but to monitor their growth to help ensure long-term sustainability. To provide a few examples, take the planting project in Peru where a lot of the forest has been lost to illegal mining. Not only are old growth trees being cut and burned, but miners use diesel pumps to suck up deep layers of the earth, then push the soil through filters to extract gold particles. To turn the particles into nuggets, mercury is stirred in helping bind the particles but also poisoning the land, turning it into desert-like land – dry, sandy, stripped of topsoil and ringed by trunks of dead tree. Our partners are planting saplings of various species native to this part of the Peruvian Amazon, thus when you plant a gift tree in Peru, it is helping bring back the Amazon forest to its original grandeur.

In another project closer to home, focus is on former mining sites in the Appalachian forests of West Virginia and trying to reverse bad planting techniques employed by mining companies in the 1980s. Back then the companies used heavy machinery to push upturned soil back into place. The result was soil so compacted that rainwater would just wash off and not get into the tree roots. The planted species had shallow roots or were non-native trees that could endure but wouldn’t reach their full height or restore the forest to what it had been. Now we understand better what is needed, and your gift trees are native Appalachian trees that can prosper and bring back these forests to what they once were.

Deforestation Solutions: Not an Either-Or Choice

These and other planting projects undertaken by The Gifted Tree planting partners are helping with forest reforestation around the world which we think is one of the best climate change solutions available today. That does not alter the vital importance of protecting existing forests by limiting deforestation since new forests can take decades to mature. Slowing down or putting a halt to deforestation or planting new forests – it’s not an either-or choice. We can do both