The 22nd of April 2015 will be remembered as the day that the Stellenbosch community, The Million Project team and the mayor of Stellenbosch, Conrad Sidego, set out to achieve a world record – the World’s Largest Tree Hug.

After all equipment was delivered, the site laid out, stewards mobilised, medical crew put in place and auditors had sharpened their pencils, the scene was set. Volunteers attending the event were treated to water, apples, popcorn and fresh fruit juices and blessed with a clear blue sky and temperate weather. The tree huggers attending the Earth Day event comprised ordinary citizens, school children, small business owners, public officials and students.

The mayor delivered the official welcoming message, saying:
“This event is significant. Trees not only beautify and green an area, but it adds to life and quality of living, and that is what South Africa needs today. The world quickly dismisses symbolism and emotion that accompanies a day like this. This symbolism of hugging a tree is however very significant; in fact it symbolises not only care of the environment, but care and concern about our community and our challenges.”

Stellenbosch Municipality is continuing with events such as this to make an unprecedented statement in terms of its commitment to care for the environment. Through the Million Trees Project, the dream is being reinforced towards home-style communities: friendly and supportive, providing shelter and jobs and dignified living. Taking into account the looming threat of global warming, we must do what we can to stop this slide toward catastrophe. We need to think anew! We need to think 110% green!

Campaigns and efforts like the World’s Largest Tree Hug by the Million Tree Project help to communicate the green and dignified living messages to local communities and to activate further participation. The Million Tree Project initiative is a comprehensive approach involving all residents, businesses, authorities and land owners. Everyone is encouraged to plant and care for trees across the 900 km2 of the Municipality. A key focus of the project is to ‘green the townships’ – planting up the informal settlements and other areas previously not greened and those where high density developments prevented the planting of trees. Urban forests and green corridors are the green lungs that will pump life-supporting oxygen into our living space. The wish is for everybody to become active Ambassadors for Nature.

The Tree Hug day will go far to reinforce the messages of a greener environment, a greener Stellenbosch and a more prosperous community. Mayor Sidego has said before that: “If you can look after a tree, you will care for a child.” And that is the legacy of the Million Tree Project and campaigns like today…it is for our children.