It's hard to believe that the same city that held the nickname, "City of Trees," in the 1800s, only supports 35 percent tree canopy today. The numbers are shocking, but one organization is taking a stand, and you and your family can help. Casey Trees, an organization founded in 2002, works to "restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of the Nation's Capital." Casey Trees has set a very ambitious goal of attaining 40 percent canopy by 2032. With over 3,000 trees planted this year alone, they are well on their way to achieve this goal.

Why they do what they do

Today, when people say eco-friendly, the first thing that may pop into your mind is recycling or global warming; trees aren't mentioned as much, yet they are also very important. According to Maisie Hughes, Director of Design & Advocacy at Casey Trees, scientists have discovered that neighborhoods with trees have lower crime rates, streets with trees are safer because trees slow car drivers and trees help to improve mental health and decrease recovery time from injuries. "Trees provide a whole host of environmental benefits. Trees clean the air, help to capture storm water runoff and make our city cooler by providing wildlife habitats," says Hughes.

The community plays an important role in the work done by Casey Trees. "Our amazing volunteers help with everything from advocacy and research to tree planting," says Hughes. Casey Trees will even come to you. Staff members and volunteers speak at festivals, answer questions for forums and panels, and attend conferences year-round.
"Casey Trees is very proud of the positive community feedback we receive. We have a reputation for excellence and all of our staff work hard to meet or exceed community expectations," says Hughes.

How to participate

In the summer, TreeWise, their nature-based summer education program, features a host of activities to keep kids occupied. TreeWise allows camps and other summer programs to host adult Casey Trees counselors who lead kids in activities, such as water relays and scavenger hunts. If a camp or summer program isn't in a conducive space, camps and families can apply for an off-site event at Rock Creek Park Nature Center or the Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C.

The organization makes a point to plant trees in important community areas, such as schools. Casey Trees re-tree school campuses with the help of students, faculty and parents. They aren't just interested in planting trees; they also have programs for kids and families to educate and encourage interest in the environment. This non-profit organization encourages everyone to create a treescape plan, or a landscape including many trees or groups of trees, for their home with the help of Casey Trees' landscape design experts and arborists who will be available at the July Tree Advocates' Meeting. They are so committed to encouraging people to plant trees that they will pay you to do it. Planting at home can earn you $100 back per tree, with their Tree Rebate program.

Casey Trees has tons of ways your family can learn about trees and help plant them. Here are some ways you and your little ones can participate this month:

  1. Volunteering: Tree Care at Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. July 9, 2016, 9:00 a.m.
    Teach your family the importance of volunteering while making the city even more beautiful. Participants will be tending to budding trees by weeding, watering and mulching. Registration is required.

  2. Tree Tour: Paddling Tour around Theodore Roosevelt Island. July 10, 2016, 9:30 a.m.
    The forest surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Island is an ecological gold mine. On this tree tour, Melanie Choukas-Bradley, naturalist and author, will guide you and your budding ecologists in kayaks and canoes, and teach about the large variety of trees surrounding the Island, like cottonwoods and musclewoods.

  3. Park Inventory: Chevy Chase Recreation Center. July 14, 2016, 5:30 p.m.
    This event is a great learning opportunity for your family. It will give you hands-on exposure to how professional aborists work. Taking inventory of the trees in the city is a vital part of Casey Trees' assessment of how to best increase tree canopy. After receiving hands-on training in the park, participants will learn how professionals document tree species, the diameter of the trunks, the width of the tree crown and more.

  4. Tree Tour: Trees and Biodiversity/Árboles y Biodiversidad. July 30, 2016, 10:00 am

For this event, Casey Trees will be teaming up with Latino Outdoors, a Latino-led organization committed to conservation and outdoor education. Participants will be exploring the biodiversity of Rock Creek Park and the benefits of its trees to the ecosystem. The tour will be in English as well as Spanish.

Participating in events like these will help give your child a lifelong appreciation for community service and the environment. "I hope our work will lead to a future where all residents can interact daily with a city full of beautiful, healthy trees," says Hughes. "I imagine a future when visitors to our city will be inspired to plant trees in cities all over the world. I think the biggest opportunity is for Washington D.C. to reclaim its title as the 'City of Trees.'"