“Our motto is One Tree At A Time, or else it can feel awfully overwhelming,” says Danya Hillyard of TREE or The Reforestation Efforts of Everyone. Danya is a mom in the Cowichan Valley in BC whose family spearheads an annual tree planting day that is growing each year.
The first event in 2016 was on the family property and attended mostly by family and friends. They got saplings donated by a local nursery going out of business and managed to plant 60 trees.
Since then TREE has found other interested property owners and has reached out to the wider community to participate. At the most recent event last month, about 60 kids and adults came out to plant about 300 trees, and only one other person there was a family member! Social media has been a good way to get the word out.
Danya and her husband started TREE motivated by having a child and seeing “pretty obvious and scary” signs of climate change. She has a degree in horticulture and loves that tree planting gives kids an intimate connection to nature, looking at worms and playing in the dirt.
Saplings are still donated, now by a local forestry company, and care is taken to choose the right drought-resistant species and to get a mixture of tree types to boost biodiversity. Soil and mulch are also donated by a local landscaping supply company. Danya spends a lot of time asking for stuff, which can be a “grind” but allows TREE to run on a shoestring budget. Lately the organization has managed to raise some money through a partnership with Peninsula gas co-op, allowing people to offset their emissions somewhat at the pump by entering in the TREE code (built right into the organizations’ Instagram account).
On event day, the TREE team welcomes people, gives them a name tag made from wood and directs them to an information board. She gives a little orientation talk and a brief demonstration, and then leaves them to it. Danya will circulate around helping as needed. “It’s so inspirational,” she says, “the kids give me such hope.”
People are encouraged to bring their own tools to the plantings as well as their own water bottles, with a filling station onsite. TREE also organizes a “green gift giveaway” for participants consisting of donations from local green businesses such as glass drinking straws.
The new plantings need to be watered as they are establishing over a few years. The property owners are responsible for this. Good soil and mulching helps, as well as a deer guard. In TREE’s three years to date they have not lost a single tree and the planted total has grown to 1,075. One estimate is that each tree can sequester 20 kg of carbon dioxide per year, so that would add up to over 20 tonnes per year!
The best time to plant trees in the Cowichan Valley is during the Fall when rains are expected. In the Spring TREE also organizes a local beach cleanup. Each year both events grow in size as more people know about them and come to expect them.
“If everyone does whatever they can and shares it I think we can really make a difference,” says Danya.