Put Down Roots - MillionTreesNYC
What is MillionTreesNYC?
There are currently 5.2 million trees in New York City, but it’s not enough to sustain a growing population. That’s exactly why the MillionTreesNYC initiative was created. As one of the 127 goals set forth under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, it is a citywide, public-private program with an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City's five boroughs by 2017. MillionTreesNYC – led by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York Restoration Project (NYRP) – is a collaboration of many partners, including: Community-based and non-profit groups, City, State, and Federal agencies, Corporations and small businesses, Developers, architects and landscape architects, Homeowners and private land owners, All New Yorkers
Why are trees so important?
Trees are good for New York City’s environment and economy. They provide a wide range of products and services in a very cost-effective way. They help control temperatures by cooling our streets, sidewalks, and homes on hot summer days, helping to reduce energy costs through their shading. They act as water filters and improve water quality. They reduce storm water run-off and mitigate combined sewage overflows, which causes untreated sewage to flood into the city's waterways.
Trees promote biodiversity by providing canopy and habitat for wildlife. They can feed people, animals and birds, and they protect all of us from the elements. They help clean our air and reduce the pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other respiratory diseases by producing oxygen while absorbing dust and carbon dioxide. They also help reduce exposure to car engine emissions and harmful ultra-violet rays from the sun while breaking up urban “heat islands,” which are known for making cities warmer than other areas and increasing the risk of heat waves.
Trees can serve as powerful symbols of Nature. As Planet Ark articulates, “Trees are a work of nature’s art, with leaves changing color, and trees growing, changing shape, becoming mobile in the wind, casting brilliant shadows, filtering rays of sun and moonlight, and yielding flowers and fruit of many colors.” It’s no wonder that so many artists, writers, and musicians turn to trees as sources of inspiration and creativity. That’s what’s great about living in New York City – you get to experience all four seasons, where the cherry blossoms and autumn foliage manifests these changes in such rich, bold colors.
Trees revitalize neighborhoods, encourage community pride, increase property values and attract more customers to business districts. These improvements will spread deeper roots and improve the quality of life for people living in the area.
Trees are important in urban areas because they support physical activity, which has been shown to decrease the risk of obesity, and being active in an outdoor setting, such as planting trees and gardening, promotes a healthier lifestyle. Planet Ark elaborates, “Tree plantings also provide an opportunity for community involvement and engage all cultures, ages, and genders in the important role of tree planting or tree care.” Being outdoors improves everyone’s overall quality of life and even helps burn calories!
"Planting a tree connects us directly to nature. It's the perfect activity for parents, grandparents and children to enjoy because trees will last for generations." - John Rosenow, chief executive and founder of the Arbor Day Foundation (“Free Arbor Day shade trees” article)
Trees also signify historical continuity – an old tree can tell its own story and represent a link with the past that can extend through hundreds of years. Trees are “valuable as commemoratives of deceased loved ones and for passing on valuable impressions to future generations” (Planet Ark), highlighting the intimate, unique connection between humans and trees. The age of a tree is recorded by ring growth, and such lasting impressions can tell the stories of our predecessors. It’s hard to resist a tree’s magical charms.
1. Trees include the largest and longest living organisms on earth.
2. To make up for the loss of trees in the past decade, we would need to plant 130 million hectares (or 1.3 million km2), an area as large as Peru.
3. Rehabilitating tens of millions of hectares of degraded land and reforesting the Earth is necessary to restore and maintain the productivity of soil and water resources.
4. Humans have contributed to carbon dioxide emissions in two ways: by burning fossil fuels and by converting forestlands to other uses.
5. Rainforests cover only 7 per cent of the land on earth but they contain nearly half of all the trees on earth. They generate about 40 per cent of the world’s oxygen.
6. In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of CO2 and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year.
7. One hectare of trees can absorb 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
*You can read more here.
How can home owners get involved?
Building on the two-year success of MillionTreesNYC, New York Restoration Project distributed approximately 50 free trees to homeowners in St. Albans, Queens as part of its pilot program, MillionTreesNYC “Put Down Roots.” Designed to encourage homeowners and private landowners to plant trees on their own front and backyards, “Put Down Roots” was introduced in fall 2009, with trained NYC Service volunteers offering families free trees to plant within a 16-block radius, discussing all of the benefits of planting trees, and educating homeowners in the proper planting and care of their new trees.
After this successful pilot, Put Down Roots expanded to all five boroughs this spring, focusing on under-served neighborhoods with the lowest amount of tree canopy and large numbers of single-family homes. Through the generous support of JetBlue Airways, NYRP canvassed in St. Albans and Jamaica, Queens (zip codes 11412 and 11434), went door-to-door with door hangers and asked homeowners to take up to two free trees for their property through numerous marketing campaigns. NYRP staff and volunteers followed up with homeowners in April and May to plant the trees in their front and backyards and equipped them with tips on how to care for their trees.
For residents outside of St. Albans and Jamaica, NYRP provided additional opportunities for residents to get up to two free trees with our popular MillionTreesNYC Tree Giveaways, thanks to the generous support of David Rockefeller and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Over 2,300 trees were given away for planting on private properties such as homeowner front and backyards, commercial properties, community gardens and faith-based centers. At each tree giveaway event, information was available to teach New Yorkers how to plant and care for the tree. You can view the current list of “Spring 2010 Tree Giveaways” here.
What makes MillionTreesNYC successful?
“Put Down Roots” demonstrates a new, community-based approach to engaging New York City homeowners in greening their entire neighborhoods by encouraging them to first plant in their own yards and then spread these green roots throughout their community. “Put Down Roots” and the “MillionTreesNYC Tree Giveaways” expand to all five boroughs this spring – focusing on under-served neighborhoods with the lowest amount of tree canopy and large numbers of single-family homes.
Let’s face it: trees improve the overall quality of life for all New Yorkers. So for MillionTreesNYC to succeed and as a result, make New York City a more sustainable, healthier and beautiful place to live, work, and visit, it’s going to take every New Yorker digging in and joining the MillionTreesNYC movement!