The South Sound is gathering for trees. No, not in person right now, due to recent social restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. But singly, online and eventually in person, the South Sound community is coming together to celebrate, plant and care for trees in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – all year long.
Led by a broad coalition of partners, Earth Day South Sound has the goal of nothing less than a healthy tree for every child in Pierce County – and to engage the whole community in caring for nature.
“Trees are an enormous benefit to our city,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “Increased tree canopy is linked to better health, safer neighborhoods and social equality. As we spend more time close to home or taking social-distanced neighborhood walks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the importance of having a beautiful tree canopy across all of Tacoma’s neighborhoods is more necessary and evident than ever.”
Earth Day South Sound will kick off online this month with a digital campaign, ending in a mass online tree-hug. On April 22 (Earth Day), South Sounders are encouraged to get outside and hug a tree (while maintaining appropriate social distancing and respect for any park closures). Then, snap a selfie and post it on social media with the hashtag #southsoundtreehug. Photos can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion on the website.
Other April actions include making a pledge on the website to volunteer, plant, adopt a tree, donate or share a tree story. Each week will focus on a particular theme: Coming Together for Trees (April 4-10), Take Action for Climate Change (April 11-17), Celebrate Trees (April 18-22) and A Year of Trees (April 23-30).
The Earth Day South Sound will continue through April 2021, focusing on tree celebration and care during spring and summer, and planting events during fall. Events will be organized by coalition partners and could include workshops, mulch parties, land restoration, sharing stories and tree-related arts from music to books to film.
“A year of trees is more than just planting – it’s about access and connection to nature, learning, sustainability and equity,” said Park Board President Tim Reid. “And having fun, too! These are all core values for Metro Parks Tacoma.”
The first Earth Day happened on April 22, 1970, jumpstarting an environmental movement that gathered the world in celebration and care for the environment. For its 50th anniversary in 2020, organizations around the country are mobilizing for deep, broad actions that will have a lasting impact on issues like preservation of species, protecting the climate and mitigating pollution.
As a part of this movement, the South Sound has committed to a year of trees, with the goal of planting or supporting 210,000 trees – one for every child in Pierce County. Partners include Metro Parks Tacoma, City of Tacoma, Tacoma Tree Foundation, Pierce Conservation District, Pierce County Parks, Tacoma Public Utilities, Puyallup Watershed Initiative, South Sound Together and Earth Day Northwest. Other participating organizations include the City of Puyallup, the University of Washington Tacoma and MultiCare.
Why trees for Earth Day South Sound?
“We all need trees,” explains Sarah Low, executive director of Tacoma Tree Foundation, which will be sourcing the thousands of trees to be planted later in the year. “They give us food, clean air, shelter, clean water, livable temperatures and physical and mental health. They’re vital in slowing climate change. Trees are also beautiful and play a big part in our culture and imagination. ”
And in a time of social distancing, trees can now also offer a safe way to get that much-needed hug, reminding us that they, too, are living beings.
“We’re in a time of massive change for both our society and our planet,” points out Ryan Mello, executive director of Pierce Conservation District. “Now is our chance to mobilize, and commit to actions that will protect both for future generations. We don’t have any time to lose. Planting or caring for a tree, and sharing our stories, are actions we can all do, right now, to help the Earth and ourselves.”