The Arbor Day Foundation’s Approach to Marking a Major Milestone

Counting 500 million trees, when every tree counts

We’ve crossed a milestone marker for planting trees. Since 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation and its partners have helped plant 500 million. That’s 500 million opportunities to help make the world a better place for people and wildlife — all through the profoundly simple promise rooted in trees.

Each of those 500 million trees means something to someone, whether it’s a single beloved backyard shade tree or one of many native trees helping reform an entire canopy after disaster.

But with great opportunity also comes great responsibility. This is why the Foundation is committed to tallying trees with integrity, transparency, and diligence at every step.

So, how does that process work? You don’t have to be an accountant or business analyst to find the challenge fascinating.

Tallying the Trees

As far as we know, there’s no calculator for counting trees planted over 50-plus years. What the Foundation can rely on is historical recordkeeping combined with accounting models purpose-built for this objective.

We plant trees in so many ways. First, we count the Foundation trees distributed directly to everyday consumers through many channels, including our tree nursery, where people can purchase trees to be shipped directly to their home, plus trees planted in forests in tribute to a loved one, and trees planted or requested by Arbor Day Foundation members.

Add to that the hundreds of thousands of trees distributed hand-to-hand at pickup and community events every year. Don’t forget to include a couple million more planted annually through recognition programs at hospitals, schools, and in U.S. cities and abroad. And the many millions of trees working hard to reforest areas hit by natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires? We include those, too.

Bottom line: It’s a lot of trees. Multiplied by more than 50 years, a mind-blowing amount.

For the most part, analysts at the Foundation track trees by the records of how many were distributed, recognized or planted through our network of tree planting partners. For example, when a corporate partner invests in a tree planting project, we have a project completion report created that details the number of trees planted.

The Boots (and Gloves) On the Ground

Being able to count trees is one thing. But having reputable, trustworthy partners to plant them is another. The Foundation is fortunate to have close relationships with planting partners for projects in 53 countries, sometimes working side-by-side in the field. Working with the right people means pivotal funding is reaching the right hands, and making the biggest impact.

What’s more, connecting with the best local partners leads to stronger maintenance plans that ensure follow-through and healthier trees long after planting.

One Part Of The Bigger Picture

Planting huge numbers of trees around the globe is not an end goal. The Foundation has always been focused on the bigger picture: trees for climate change mitigation, biodiversity support, and uniting communities. What’s more, we’re on a mission to plant trees in areas of greatest need. In the summer of 2022, we announced a goal to plant 500 million trees with a focus on our work in forests of greatest need and underserved and low-canopy neighborhoods by the summer of 2027.

In a world where even just one tree can make a difference, we’re on a mission to help them work as hard as possible for us all.

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