By Jesse Klein
It’s hard to make planting trees political, one reason this climate mitigation strategy has received rare bipartisan support for the past two decades. Corporations have used that to their advantage to become an important part of the tree planting business. Funding tree planting in rural areas across the globe was an easy way for businesses to invest in green initiatives and to win points with the general public.
But urban forestry has a different history. The canopy of trees in cities often corresponds to maps of redlining, income and race. That’s one reason investing in urban forestry isn’t as simple; nor does it have the same sustainability impacts. Regardless of those challenges, more businesses are deciding to put their money behind forestry projects in cities.
In 2013, American Forests called Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and New York; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; Seattle and Washington, D.C., the 10 best cities for urban forestry. In a 2016 study, Seattle determined 28 percent of the city is covered in trees, close to its 2037 goal of 30 percent. D.C. hopes to cover 40 percent of its district with canopy by 2032.
That has attracted the attention of companies. Amazon, for example, recently announced a $4.37 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy to support an initiative in Berlin. And for the past few years, Bank of America has partnered with American Forests on the Community ReLeaf Program, planting nearly 3,000 trees in 19 cities. One impressive goal for this partnership is to bring 200,000 trees to Detroit. As Microsoft builds data centers in Iowa, it is also investing in urban forestry projects to bring an environmental and health benefit to the neighborhood as well. A project that planted 734 trees created total savings of $56,693 per year through energy savings, air quality and rain interception for the city.
Here are four things sustainability teams should know when considering the urban tree business.
1. You can get carbon credits for urban forestry 2. Urban forestry could create more impact with less volume 3. Urban forests are more expensive 4. An NGO isn’t a consultant