TreeUtah Builds Community One Tree at a Time
At the most essential level, the lives of all animals—including humans—on this planet depend on trees. We inhale the oxygen exhaled by trees, and trees inhale the carbon dioxide we exhale. Our lives are intertwined with those of the plant world.
According to TreeUtah’s website, “through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. The average tree can clean up to 330 pounds of carbon dioxide annually while emitting enough oxygen for a whole family.”
Trees are good for our mental/emotional health as well: They calm our nerves, increase levels of concentration in children, and areas with lots of greenery report lower crime rates.
As an integral thread in the web of life, trees keep our entire planet healthy. Trees reduce the need for heating and cooling, their root systems filter rainwater, reduce erosion and provide habitat for urban wildlife. Check out TreeUtah’s “Why Plant Trees?” page for some fun facts on trees and our relationship to them.
The life-giving properties of trees are what prompted Salt Lake resident Vaughn Lovejoy to found TreeUtah 22 years ago. TreeUtah’s mission is to improve Utah’s quality of life by enhancing the environment through tree planting, stewardship and education.
Everyone Loves Trees
The organization’s executive director Amy Collins says simply, “Everyone loves trees.” Planting trees is a universal joy. Amy became involved in TreeUtah two years ago. “I grew up in a town in Massachusetts with tree-lined streets,” she says. “The first thing you notice here is that there really aren’t that many trees. I got involved because I wanted to work at something where you can really see the difference.”
In 2011, TreeUtah planted more than 5,000 trees on a shoestring budget. The organization operates with a permanent staff of four dedicated individuals: executive director, education coordinator, planting coordinator and volunteer coordinator (btw, they’re currently looking for an inspired individual to fill this position), and thousands of volunteers. They partner with Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County for most of their plantings, most of which take place in public spaces.
More than 100 volunteers showed up last year to plant trees in the area of Alta Ski Resort. Compromised by pests and human encroachment, the trees there need a little human help, says Amy. “One might think the trees at Alta were planted there by Mother Nature, but we’ve replenished a lot of the trees lost to pests and humans. Mother Nature is at a disadvantage at the moment. We’re helping her out.”
Sharing the Fruits
Legend has it that the Salt Lake valley had one lone tree when the Mormon pioneers first settled here. As a way to become self-sufficient, pioneers planted acres of fruit trees. That has remained a tradition in the valley. Even my own tiny back yard has pie cherry, quince, peach and apple trees. The abundance of older, productive fruit trees has left many residents wondering to do with bushels of fruit they can’t possibly consume.
Last year TreeUtah initiated a new program called “fruit gleaning.” In a partnership with Salt Lake City, the program allows people to register their fruit trees. Volunteers will then come out and pick the tree clean. Amy says, “A lot of people have big, old fruit trees and don’t know what to do all with all the fruit. The fruit gleaning program makes sure the fruit used by people in the community. Apricots everywhere right now. What’s great is that we’re sharing food that’s locally harvested—only non-sprayed trees.” One third of the fruit goes to volunteers, one third to the homeowners and one third to the food bank.
Some volunteers come to plantings as individuals; others come in groups. TreeUtah partners with dozens of companies whose employees get together to plant trees together. Amy says these events build camaraderie among employees. People bring their families and enjoy each others’ company outside the workplace. Coca-Cola’s Utah plant loves this program so much they’ve asked to do tree plantings three times a year.
Tree-planting volunteers come from all walks of life. Despite superficial differences, people come together when they plant trees together. “Planting trees is completely non-partisan,” she says. “No one argues about planting trees. I may have nothing in common with the volunteers who show up at our plantings, but when we plant trees together we have something in common. People have these experiences outside that are really meaningful to them. I love being able to be a part of that.”
For the next three months Hugger Mugger Yoga Products will donate one percent of our net sales to TreeUtah!