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How to start your own tree planting project



We all intuitively know that being in nature makes us feel connected, alive, joyful, and part of something greater. More and more research is showing just how important access to the natural world is for our health and well-being. But despite our reverence for nature, there is a reality that we all must face: that the natural world is in jeopardy.

  • Every year, an area of the forest four times the size of Belgium is being clear-felled globally.

  • Around the world, we only plant half of the trees that we cut.

  • We have lost 85% of our primary (old-growth) forests.

Each of us has an individual and collective responsibility to reforest our planet: to protect our only home. Strategic tree planting takes carbon out of the atmosphere and helps mitigate the impacts of climate change. Together we can leave the world better for future generations.


How can I start my tree-planting project?

Before you start, you should investigate options for sites and types of trees. You will need to know all about the best tree species for your area, optimal planting times, and how to care for your trees.

To identify appropriate local native tree species we recommend you connect with your local Native Plant Society, forest service/commission, nursery, arborist, or arboretum and ask for a list of local tree species that are appropriate for your planting purpose.

Get your team together - Many hands do light work, and the size of your project will depend on how many people you can get interested in participating. Getting local people together from all walks of life can bring a whole new level of connectivity and purpose to your project.



Permission - Depending on the size of the project and where you want to do it, you may need to get permission from your local council or landowners. Be sure to check this out before you start.


Plan - Once you know what you want to do and have permission to proceed, it's time for some detailed planning. Think about the timeframe, and the number and types of trees you want to plant. What is the soil type at your chosen site? This will affect the types of trees best suited to your project. What is it going to cost? What equipment will you need? Have you got the expertise you need in the team, or do you need to reach out to an individual or group in your area? Do you need to do some fundraising? Perhaps you can get a grant or get the media involved to get the word out. Be sure you have the resources, personnel, and information you need before you start.


Prepare your site - Long before you plant your first tree, you'll need to get the soil prepared. Decisions will need to be made about weed management and fertilisation before and after planting. You may also need to source your trees ahead of time.


Tree planting

Should you plant from seeds or seedlings? You'll have a greater chance of success with seedlings, but of course, purchasing seedlings is more expensive than seeds, so that may be something to consider.

Planting seedlings: Local, indigenous seedlings often have the greatest chance of success.

Planting seeds: If planting seeds, be sure to plant multiple seeds because they won't all germinate.

You will need to investigate information about local conditions, optimal planting times, and what tree species are best suited to your project and site.

How many trees do I need to plant to have an impact?

You don't need to plant a whole forest to have an impact. Even a few trees planted around the home can provide shade, reduce energy consumption, improve air and soil quality, and contribute to all of the health benefits associated with living in a greener neighbourhood. Trees also play an important role in improving air quality through the removal of pollution, especially in urban areas. One US study found that trees and forests prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in one year alone through the removal of 17 tonnes of air pollution. [2]


What if I live in a city?

Half the world's population now resides in urban environments, and this is expected to rise to around 86% over the coming decades in developed countries.[1] Even though city living has many advantages for humanity, research has shown that our cities can have a negative impact on our health. Mental illness, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have all been found at increased levels in people living in urban environments. Not to mention the environmental impacts of modern industrial living. The good news is that these negative effects can be improved by increasing the amount of natural green spaces in cities. Research shows that access to natural green spaces has been associated with a lower risk of stroke and other diseases, reduced anxiety, depression and stress, and benefits to general health and life satisfaction.[1] So starting a tree planting project in a city is as meaningful and important as anywhere else.



Resources and Information:

We’ve listed some helpful websites below. You could also check out existing tree planting groups in your area who may be happy to share their expertise and knowledge. If you have other resources that you would like to add to this list, please let us know at support@treesisters.org.


References

[1] The Natural Environments Initiative: Illustrative Review and Workshop Statement. Africa, J., Logan, A., Mitchell, R., Korpela, K., Allen, D., Tyrväinen, L., Nisbet, E., Li, Q., Tsunetsugu, Y., Miyazaki, Y., Spengler, J.; on behalf of the NEI Working Group. Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, 2014.

[2] Nowak, D. J., Crane, D. E., & Stevens, J. C. (2006). Air pollution removal by urban trees and shrubs in the United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 4(3), 115-123. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2006.01.007


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