Investing in tree equity for a greener world

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This article is sponsored by WestRock.

As a fiber-based packaging solutions provider with an emphasis on sustainable forestry, WestRock focuses on protecting and reforesting the areas from which it procures its fiber, keeping forests as forests.

Human health and planetary health are intrinsically linked as one connected ecosystem.

Tree canopies: Our urban protectors

If you were to look at a city from a bird’s-eye view, the amount of visible tree cover is referred to as the tree canopy. A greater tree canopy enables more green space to spend time in nature, walk pets or exercise. It means increased health and wellness outcomes for the citizens who call that city home. By leveraging tools such as NatureQuant’s NatureScore index, the Arbor Day Foundation and its partners can seek to pinpoint the neighborhoods in greatest need of trees. The Arbor Day Foundation and WestRock formed a partnership in 2019 focused on restoring urban canopies.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to planting, nurturing and celebrating trees. Since its founding in 1972, members and volunteers have planted more than 500 million trees across 55 countries. In urban areas, the foundation uses a collection of strategic data points to identify where its work will have the biggest impact, striving to achieve infrastructure for urban areas.

To be effective, this work requires more than just planting trees in the ground. The foundation works earlier in the research process to make sure that the areas in which it operates are receptive to its assistance, and to provide community members with tools to advocate for themselves and reach sustainability. To amplify this work, the foundation seeks partnerships from corporations aligned with this mission, such as WestRock.

Bringing the partnership to life

WestRock increased its focus on urban tree canopies during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the importance of green spaces became ever more apparent for physical and mental health. Alongside the Arbor Day Foundation, WestRock has successfully supported projects in South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois and Georgia, including planting 128 trees along the John Lewis Freedom Parkway in Atlanta. Over 40 years, these 128 trees will provide significant benefit to the surrounding area, with the Arbor Day Foundation estimating 318.12 metric tons of CO2.

In 2022, WestRock announced plans to fund the improvement of tree canopies across 10 more communities in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, prioritizing those with fewer environmental resources. To determine how to best assist in a particular area, the foundation will engage its local planting partners to bring together community leaders, nonprofit organizations and citizens to discuss the benefits of trees and where they’re needed most.

Over the coming months, WestRock will review project proposals and select sites based around socio-economic statistics, environmental data and guidance from local leaders and the Arbor Day Foundation. WestRock’s employee base will help to execute the selected planting projects, partnering with local community members to drive meaningful impact in surrounding urban areas.

WestRock is excited to continue working alongside the Arbor Day Foundation, helping to bring about a greener future for communities within WestRock’s global operating footprint.