Planting a Tree: How Everyone Can Help Our Environment and Planet

There is More Good News in the World Than Bad

Rennie, a very outgoing and enthusiastic boy of 9, was having a wonderful time.

He was helping to plant trees at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, along with his father and grandparents. They were there as part of a Rotary partnership with the “Highway of Heroes” tree planting campaign, an initiative lead by well-known horticulturist Mark Cullen, to plant trees along Highway 401 from Trenton to Toronto.

The purpose was to honour Canadians who had served in the Canadian military since 1867, and more specifically, those who gave their lives while in service. The additional positive effects from this initiative were threefold: the trees will improve the environment, help offset climate change* and make for a more pleasant and calm drive.

Their goal was to plant 2 million trees along the 401 and a few places close by with military connections, such as Sunnybrook Hospital. In actual fact, they planted approximately 2.5 million trees.

Rennie’s job, together with his father and grandparents, was to dig holes, put in some fertilizer, and bring over the saplings in a wheelbarrow (Rennie ran!). Next, they put them in the hole, covered them with the soil they had removed, fetched some water and poured it onto the newly buried roots.

Their allotment was 20 trees, however, Rennie wanted to do at least 25. Their final tally was 29.

In the course of his involvement Rennie had contact with dozens of other volunteers, as well as a number of Vets, residents at the hospital who were there in their wheelchairs watching the activity.  One vet in his 90s also helped to plant a few trees. They loved Rennie’s youth and enthusiasm. This gave them all a huge lift.

Rennie too, loved the short conversations with the Vets, and later learned about the wars from his father. He also learned about the importance of trees, how they improve our environment, the fun of volunteering, working together on a team with his family and others, and the joy of helping and being useful. Rennie also loved the physical activity.

The people who were working at Sunnybrook planted over 1000 trees and all went home feeling good about their morning’s work and the good it will bring.

The “Highway of Heroes” campaign was so successful that the leaders decided to keep it going and expand their mandate to honour other heroes, using it as a means to educate people about trees and planting trees for a multitude of other purposes.

They partner with many different groups including schools, church groups, service clubs and businesses across the country who wish to become involved, planting trees for many reasons.

One partner, Dr. Myles Seargent from Hamilton, a family physician who works with vulnerable populations including the homeless, people with addictions and the elderly, says he is engaged because of the improved health provided by being in nature.

It is well known being in green spaces affects our mood, lowers stress levels, improves self-esteem, lowers blood pressure, aids in post-operative recovery from surgery and aids children’s cognitive development.

Others plant trees because they wish to improve the habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign is now known as Trees for Life. They have recently received $2.4 million from the Federal Government, and in 2023 plan to plant over 1.3 million trees in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and New Brunswick to help restore green spaces, enhance biodiversity, and reforest insect and weather devastated areas.

This donation ties in with the Canadian government’s objective of planting over 2 billion trees. It is also consistent with the agreement reached at COP15 (the United Nation’s Conference on Biodiversity) in Montreal where 197 countries agreed to designate 30% of the earth’s land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030.

Planting trees is not a panacea for climate change but it will go a long, long way towards helping. Organizations like TREES FOR LIFE create an opportunity for everyone to answer and act** on the question everyone asks, “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT AND SAVE THE PLANET?” https://www.treesforlife.ca/

Till next time,

Chris Snyder

* According to Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine, PhD, the average tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2 per year, helping to clean the air and reduce the negative aspects of CO2 produced largely by fossil fuels.

• An acre of trees consume the amount of CO2 equal to the CO2 produced from driving a car 26,000 miles.
• An average tree also produces 260 pounds of oxygen.
• Two trees will produce enough oxygen for a family of four for a year.
• Imagine the impact if every family paid for or planted one tree per year?
• This will replace the oxygen every person consumes in a year. That would be fantastic!

** There are many ways you can ACT:

1. Pay for or plant one tree per year. The cost can be as little as $25
2. Volunteer and help plant trees yourself, or like Rennie with your family
3. Encourage your friends, associates, faith group, service clubs etc. to do likewise
4. Discourage the taking down of trees, unless absolutely necessary and look after trees on your property
5. Support tree planting in memoriam requests by deceased friend
6. Be positive. TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!

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