(Albuquerque, NM)- Tree New Mexico (TNM), with the support of PNM, a local public utility, has designed and implemented a public education and tree planting program to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during a special Christmas celebration in 2005.
That year, an Engelmann Spruce from the Santa Fe National Forest was chosen to be the Capitol Christmas Tree displayed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. As part of the festivities, the selected tree was exhibited during various holiday celebrations in communities throughout New Mexico.
Tree New Mexico, in an effort to make the 2005 Capitol Christmas Tree (CCT) tour a carbon neutral program, calculated the mileage traveled by the tree to Washington and throughout New Mexico as well as the amount of carbon that was sequestered in the tree.
Tree New Mexico then consulted with the Center for Urban Forest Research US Forest Service at the University of California, Davis to determine the number of trees that needed to be planted to offset the carbon emissions from the tour.
Based on figures from UC Davis, Tree New Mexico planted more than 5,000 seedlings in national forests and Native American Pueblos throughout New Mexico as well as 37 landscape-size trees (over 2″ caliper) in nine communities that had been part of the New Mexico 2005 CCT tour.
In addition, Tree New Mexico developed an educational presentation and materials that were offered at elementary and middle schools in communities that had been part of the Capitol Christmas Tree tour.
Tree New Mexico, a statewide nonprofit established in 1990, is dedicated to ensuring sustainable forests in urban and rural communities and natural areas through restoration, public education and advocacy.
In addition to its Carbon Neutral Program, Tree New Mexico programs include:
* Community Tree Planting Events which are held in conjunction with neighborhood associations, schools, scout troops, government agencies and other community and civic groups.
* Biannual Tree Distribution which facilitates the distribution and planting of tree in public areas with state parks, national forests, communities, neighborhood associations, Native American tribes, civic groups and schools.
* Dedication Tree Program which has planted more than 7,500 trees to recognize births, deaths, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, and other special occasions or events.
* River Rescue which works with volunteers and other organizations to preserve and restore riparian habitats.
* Community Education which provides classroom education aimed at fifth graders as well as TreePath, a more intensive and comprehensive curriculum, that incorporates classroom sessions with other activities and on-campus trees planting projects.
* Trainings for specific groups and the general public which include topic such as: planning and site selection, tree selection, planting and care, proper pruning, insect and disease problems, species selection, windbreaks and riparian restoration.
Carbon Neutral Program
In 2006, Tree New Mexico partnered with PNM to provide a two-prong carbon neutral program in the communities that participated in the 2005 Capitol Christmas Tree tour. The total budget for the project was $56,000, of which PNM provided $21,000. The program provided both educational opportunities and tree plantings.
Tree New Mexico contracted with Tree Family (www.treefamily.com) to provide an entertaining, interactive program on the importance of trees and carbon neutral practices to elementary and middle school children in nine communities throughout New Mexico that had been part of the 2005 Capitol Christmas Tree tour. In several of the communities, the same school children who participated in the carbon neutral education had also made decorations for the Capitol Christmas Tree tour.
Tree Family’s one-hour presentation combined music, interactive games and skits to teach students basic scientific concepts about trees and the environment. The program emphasized student participation.
To complement the presentations made by Tree Family, TNM created educational hand-outs that described how carbon neutral works, the role trees play in sequestering CO2 and how to reduce CO2 emissions. These materials were distributed to the middle school children and are also posted on Tree New Mexico’s website, www.treenm.org.
Tree New Mexico received enthusiastic feedback from the schools and discovered that students passed this information on to their parents. Teachers reported that students used the Tree New Mexico information to take the lead in making changes at home including replacing light bulbs and recycling.
Tree New Mexico also worked with the schools or local government in the targeted communities to plant several large landscape-size trees to help offset the carbon emissions from the tour.
In addition, Tree New Mexico planted 5,000 seedlings in national forests and pueblos throughout the state in conjunction with its regular reforestations efforts.
Tree New Mexico has able to coordinate these educational efforts and plantings because of its long history and contacts developed through working throughout the state over the last 18 years.
Tree New Mexico’s Carbon Neutral Program educated about 550 schoolchildren in nine communities throughout New Mexico on the relationship between trees and carbon, the role trees play in sequestering CO2 and addressing climate change and global warming issues as well as simple ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
Overall, Tree New Mexico planted 5,000 seedlings and 37 large landscape trees throughout the state to offset the carbon emissions from the 2005 Capitol Christmas Tour.
1. It is important to take a leadership role on the issues of climate change and global warming. This is also a good marketing tool and a concrete way of helping people understand the value of trees beyond their beauty.
2. Keep it simple. Although, trees are not the “end all, be all” solution for global warming and climate change, trees play a significant role in both urban and rural environments. Start with the simple, easy-to-understand ways people can make a difference. This can lead to broader discussions of the larger issues.
3. Use scientific data. The Center for Urban Forest Research, US Forestry Service at the University of California, Davis is an excellent resource and can help your organization calculate the amount of carbon sequestered by planting different species and sizes of trees and other tree-related facts.
4. Talk not only about the energy saved at the utility meter today but also about the reduced construction costs that will result from reduced demand as a result tree plantings.
5. If you do not have the resources or inclination to develop a full-blown carbon neutral program, there are many ways you can get basic, important information to the public. Insert tips in your newsletters, flyers and other communications with supporters and volunteers.
6. Educating children on the benefits of carbon neutral practices is especially productive because they take that information home to their parents. You reach two audiences.
Suzanne Probart, Executive Director
Tree New Mexico
P.O. Box 81827
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108