By Katrina Marland & Michelle Werts

Hiking in Redwood Regional Park
Credit: Miguel Vieira/Flickr

What does Earth Day mean to you? Maybe it offers an opportunity to volunteer in your community, cleaning a local park or sprucing up the landscaping outside of a school or office building. Or maybe Earth Day is another day to get outside and enjoy our beautiful planet on a long hike or bike ride. Whatever you decide to do, we’d love to hear about it. Join the conversation below or on Facebook and Twitter, and let us know what you did to celebrate this Earth Day.

Earth Day also offers an excellent opportunity for all of us to think about how what we do every day affects our environment and how we can cut back on our energy use to reduce our carbon footprint. Worried about yours? You can calculate it by using our Carbon Calculator! Perhaps make a pledge to take a bus or train to work a few days a week, leaving the car in the garage. Or, instead of buying that pallet of bottled water, invest in a filter for your faucet or a filtering pitcher for your fridge — and shut the faucet off while brushing your teeth to save gallons of water per year. And make sure you flip the light switch when you leave a room and turn down the thermostat when you leave the house — it’s a drain on our precious resources to illuminate, cool or heat an empty room.

The best part is, all of these Earth-saving strategies can also end up saving you money. Saving green by going green? That’s a concept we can all get behind.

As you know, our forests and trees are excellent conservationists. Trees absorb rainfall and act as natural water purifiers, ensuring a clean and plentiful water supply. A tree close to your property can provide shade for an outdoor air-conditioning unit and your house itself, cutting down on the amount of energy you need to use to cool your home. And, perhaps most importantly, trees and forests play a critical role in removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, which helps slow the rate at which our planet heats and may help solve what is quickly becoming a global climate-change crisis.

So, in addition to forgoing those plastic bottles, what else can you do this Earth Day to help our forests improve our planet? You can get out there and plant a tree or two with a local tree-planting group. If you don’t have one in your community, you can support our tree-planting efforts in every state in the U.S. by making a donation to American Forests. Take the opportunity today to go visit a local park or forest and admire the peace a tree canopy can provide. We promise that you’ll be glad you did.

Happy Earth Day 2012 from your friends at American Forests!

Mount Diablo Regional Trail in California
View from Briones to Mount Diablo Regional Trail in California. Credit: Miguel Vieira/Flickr