Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Guest Post: Join the Fall Celebration of Trees and Green Communities

Posted on 09/26/13

This is a guest post from Leland Milstein, Program Director at Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees)

Every October, community groups, city residents, local government, and volunteers across the country unite for greener communities during Alliance for Community Trees’ National NeighborWoods® Month.Together, they’ll plant trees, green up neighborhood parks, restore natural areas, eliminate invasives, and educate youth about trees, the environment, and sustainability.

It’s a coast-to-coast campaign to take action for trees in our communities. There’s lots to celebrate, and a lot at stake. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service found that tree cover in urban areas of the U.S. is on the decline at a rate of about 4 million trees per year.

Yet trees in cities are critical to people’s health and the larger environment. Trees are a community’s lungs, providing us oxygen and removing air pollution. A 2013 U.S. Forest Service study in 10 major U.S. cities showed that urban forests clean the air and save lives.

Trees in cities also reduce stress and provide a sense of well-being. A recent survey  found that urban dwellers with access to trees, parks, and green spaces reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction than those without these nearby. Trees and landscaping can also improve residential property values up to 30% or more.

Last year during National NeighborWoods® Month, over 23,000 volunteers planted 45,000 trees nationwide, donating volunteer time worth an estimated $1.4 million. Check out the infographic on the results and the impact on people and our planet.

Each year these 45,000 trees are estimated to:

  • Capture 23.1M gallons of storm water.
  • Dispose of over 660 tons of air pollutants.
  • Save cities nearly $600,000 in storm water management and pollution costs.

To encourage Americans to participate in National NeighborWoods® Month and bring the many benefits of trees to all our communities, the USDA is partnering with us to help spread the word. In a video message, Butch Blazer, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, encourages everyone to “get involved both personally and professionally.”

There are already hundreds of local tree events being organized for this national celebration. To kick off the month, Alliance for Community Trees is proud to partner with national sponsors to support local tree plantings. For example, TD Tree Days planting events will install over 900 new trees in 15 cities to expand and restore urban canopy—like in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, where 75 new trees will help the city to replant after Superstorm Sandy.

CSX and community volunteers will plant 100 new street and shade trees in Nashville’s Buena Vista neighborhood, which has the city’s lowest tree canopy outside downtown. And over 25 events sponsored by CSX will deliver trees to communities through tree giveaways and riparian plantings, improving the health of community watersheds and residential neighborhoods.

People understand instinctively that trees are vital to communities and that our collective actions can make a difference. This is why tens of thousands of volunteers pitch in to plant and care for trees with local organizations and city governments during October’s National NeighborWoods® Month.

Get involved. Register any tree events you’re holding this month to be part of the celebration, or find events near you to volunteer. Together we’re showing that trees matter in our communities. Please join with us at

Leland Milstein is Program Director at Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees), a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and livability of cities by planting and caring for trees. Leland manages ACTrees’ public programs including National NeighborWoods® Month, Community Groves℠, tree planting, and education. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University.

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We are a private nonprofit that funds publicly accessible urban green space. We believe that everyone needs to “be in nature” as nature both heals and unifies us. The Foundation partners with organizations to create Open Spaces Sacred Places, which increase a sense of community and contribute to a deepening of human connections. These sacred places reawaken and reaffirm the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing.

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