Environmental education grows future leaders in sustainability

by Loose Leaf Team

Erin Sandlin, Policy Intern

Schools across the nation are “going green” by implementing carbon footprint reducing techniques such as incorporating solar power and instituting recycling and composting efforts. But do these actions really contribute to the greening of a school? What constitutes sustainable development?

Dr. Jean Kelso Sandlin, a professor at California Lutheran University and my mother, communicates in her paper, “Why ‘Greening’ the Campus has not Included the Classroom: The Challenges of Pedagogical Initiatives for Sustainability in Higher Education,” that educational institutions have an obligation to bring this sustainable development into the classroom, where it can play a role in producing the next generation of environmental stewards.

A campus sustainability tour at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

A campus sustainability tour at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

As a politics student at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., I am told we are the next generation of leaders and policymakers; however, like most universities, we do not have a requirement to learn about the environment that we use — and abuse — every day. Only until I declared a minor in sustainability was I exposed to sustainability education. The two classes that were the most influential were both architecture courses. I learned passive building strategies for energy conservation, such as planting trees to protect building facades from harsh winds or providing shade to reduce air conditioning costs.

CUA is one of 10 universities in the world to offer LEEDlab, a course where architecture students — and one adventurous politics student! — are taught to meet current market needs in their profession while employing multiple synergistic effects of sustainability within the university. This year, our class worked to LEED certify our university campus. As the university with the largest campus grounds in Washington, D.C., we are fortunate to have an incredible tree canopy. Throughout the duration of the course, we learned the benefits of our trees on campus, facilitated educational initiatives to promote greater awareness of the advantages of trees, and planned future tree plantings with organizations such as local urban forestry nonprofit, Casey Trees.

American Forests continues to provide and support educational programs to students about the importance of our nation’s city trees. With our help, schools and communities are involved in beneficial tree-planting programs and educational opportunities. Our Community ReLeaf program aims to bring attention to the value of urban forests in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, and right here in Washington, D.C. We know that environmental and sustainable education will create a generation that considers the environment when making future decisions.

It is in our best interest to provide students with the resources to improve environmental literacy through hands-on education. It is not enough to “green” a school by implementing top-down policies that do not involve student participation. Incorporating environmental education in the classroom is a critical part of sustainable development, and with student integration comes the success of the student and the institution. Sustainability should not be reserved for specialized programs and majors; it should be integrated within an educational institution’s foundation, which begins in the classroom.

To help make outdoor education a priority, urge your Congressional representatives to support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, which aims to enhance the physical, emotional and mental health of children across the United States.


GR 25: Re-Greening after Katrina in 2007

by Megan Higgs

2007 was a true example of revival and resiliency for American Forests and one of its most critical programs to date: Katrina ReLeaf, which enveloped a number of projects targeting reforestation in response to one of America’s most devastating natural disasters.

Indeed, this year marks the 10th anniversary of one of America’s five deadliest hurricanes and by far the costliest natural disaster in American history.

For many, it is tough to imagine that nearly 10 years have passed since Katrina descended upon the shores of the Gulf Coast, encompassing a range from Texas to central Florida. Most notably, Katrina caused a surge of destruction and deaths in the city of New Orleans, when rampant flooding developed as a result of levee system failure. In total, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water at some point, $108 billion in property damages piled up, and 1,833 people tragically lost their lives — the vast majority of them from the city formerly known for its upbeat mantra of “Laissez le bon temps rouler” (French for “Let the good times roll”).

In response to this unprecedented natural disaster, American Forests launched the Katrina ReLeaf program in 2007 to restore some of the 50,000+ trees lost in New Orleans alone. Through a series of projects peppered throughout 2007 and into 2010, American Forests worked with the citizens of New Orleans and across the Gulf Shores to rebuild and regreen the areas of most critical need and to reduce further coastal erosion that can result from rapid deforestation of landscapes in coastal areas. In 2007, these projects included reforesting the hard-hit Jefferson Parish region with 3,300 trees, replacing trees along Elysian Avenue, planting 173 trees in the highly-utilized recreational and cultural oasis of New Orleans City Park, and more.

Our work didn’t stop in 2007 or in New Orleans alone, of course. American Forests continued planting in 2008, as witnessed by our Habitat Trees for Dothan, Ala., project of reforesting and rebuilding with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, we have continued to replant after Katrina through 2011, when we partnered with Alcoa Foundation to replant in 62 schoolyards affected by the hurricane.

American Forests is no newbie to natural disaster response, and we have adamantly continued our work of reforesting after wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes and, of course, hurricanes. Visit our 2015 projects to read about some of our most recent disaster-response projects.


Celebrating 25 years of Cooperative Forestry

by Loose Leaf Team

Deanne Buckman, Policy Intern

There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. On April 29, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service gathered at a reception sponsored by American Forests, the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition and many other forest advocacy groups to celebrate 25 years of cooperative forestry programs. Standing amongst all of those involved, I realized that it takes a village to raise a forest as well. As an intern, it was inspiring to see that people who may have slightly different missions can come together for a larger common goal.

While the Forest Service is dedicated to managing our nation’s public lands, two-thirds of the nation’s forest are non-federal. The agency looks to private and state landholders to aid in sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands. Through the Forest Stewardship Program, the Forest Legacy Program, and the Urban and Community Forestry Program, the Forest Service has engaged and partnered with state forestry agencies and private landowners to manage the forests of our nation. Yesterday’s reception was evidence that these programs have been working.

Congress revisits our nation’s agricultural programs and policies every five years through what is known as the Farm Bill. For the first time, the Farm Bill of 1990 (the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act), included a Forestry Title. All three of the programs celebrated at last night’s reception were established by this forestry title and were designed to address issues surrounding private forests. The anniversary of these programs is especially important to American Forests because we were instrumental in the creation of the programs and have been supporting them ever since.

Both the Senate and the House included Forestry Titles in their drafts of the 1990 bill and throughout the process congressional staff members consulted with representatives from American Forests, which formed a working group of representatives from forestry and conservation organizations to develop initial ideas. These meetings produced what would eventually be key provisions of the Forest Stewardship Act and the Forest Legacy Program that were included in the Senate’s proposal. When controversy arose over the Senate’s proposals, American Forests drafted letters to Congress to show members that there was broad support within the conservation community for the proposals.

The Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary program that aims to protect privately owned forest lands through conservation easements. These legally binding agreements transfer certain property rights from one party to another without actually transferring the ownership of the land. This way, private landowners can receive funding and aid to care their forest land without having to give ownership of their land to the federal government. To participate in the program, private forest landowners must develop a resource management plan. The program is the principal way for the Forest Service to combat loss of forest land, by conversion to non-forest uses, and is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program is a vehicle for long-term investment in activities that restore and maintain healthy forests and develop stewardship between ecosystems and communities. The program works to show communities the benefit of installing and maintaining trees and forests in urban areas. Participating state governments must develop a five-year plan for fostering urban and community forestry, appoint a program coordinator and establish an advisory council.

It was an honor to spend an evening celebrating with the village of people who support forestry, and here’s to 25 more years of cooperation!


Forest Digest — Week of April 20, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

Happy Arbor Day everyone! Celebrate trees today with the latest Forest Digest!

  • In Northwest, A Push To Protect Forest As Geothermal Projects NearNPR
    The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington state will open more than 80,000 acres of land for geothermal power development. Up to 20,000 homes could be powered by just one geothermal plant and the U.S. Forest Service expects other local utilities to apply for more plant permits soon.
  • Predicting Tropical Deforestation With Big DataDiscovery
    Conservationists and data scientists are joining forces to find out when and where deforestation will occur by using satellite imagery and new algorithms. The interactive map will allow government officials and conservation organizations to get ahead of illegal logging, which is expected to help save vital habitat and positively influence the climate.
  • Top 10 ways well-managed forests and SFI make a world of differencetreehugger
    The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a nonprofit that prides itself on making a difference in the health of the planet by promoting sustainable forest management practices. These practices have helped maintain the ecosystem services of forests ranging from providing new scientific data to enhancing communities with a beautiful natural area.
The state experienced its second hottest March since 1880, which is having devastating effects on the ecosystem. Photo credit: Linda Tanner/Flickr

The state experienced its second hottest March since 1880, which is having devastating effects on the ecosystem. Photo credit: Linda Tanner/Flickr

  • Dry, warm conditions keep California’s national forests parchedLos Angeles Times
    California’s drought is not just affecting the human inhabitants; their 18 national forests are also suffering. Wildfire risks are increasing and the trees are water starved, and with only 5% of the snowpack left, conditions are not predicted to get better anytime soon.
  • This trippy map shows all of NYC’s street treesgrist
    New York City is known for many things, but know they can be known for their street trees thanks to this new interactive map. The map allows viewers to locate each of the 592,130 street trees within the five boroughs and see the distribution of a total of 52 species.
  • McDonald’s Pledges to Eliminate Deforestation From Its Entire Supply ChainHuffington Post Green
    Deforestation is a big issue when it comes to palm oil production and cattle ranching, but mainstream media has helped focus attention on this issues. As a result, major companies have pledged to remove palm oil from their supply chains, but McDonald’s has gone a step further and will remove ALL deforestation from ANY source from their supply chains.
  • Kermit? New species of glass frog foundUSA Today
    Costa Rica now has a new species of glass frog that resembles the beloved Kermit the Frog and thus named for it. All frogs, including this new species, are known as indicator species in the science community, meaning they can tell us about the health of the ecosystem in which they live, making Costa Rica’s 14 species of glass frogs extremely important.

2015 Champion Trees announced

by Christopher Horn

Since 1940, American Forests has recorded the biggest known trees of their species in the annual American Forests Champion Trees national register. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the program this year, American Forests has crowned 37 new national champion and co-champion trees, bringing the total to 781 national champions listed in the register!

Notable information includes:

  • The states with the most champions are Florida (133), Texas (86), Virginia (70), Arizona (69) and California (53).
  • California boasts both the highest number of dethroned champions, but also the most new champions and co-champions.
  • The tree with the highest point total is also located in California — the giant sequoia champion earned 1,321 points, coming in at 274 feet tall, with a circumference of 1,020 inches and crown spread of 107 feet.
  • Hawaii’s coconut palm, nicknamed “Coco” and winner of the 2014 Big Tree Madness competition, was sadly lost in a storm event. The coconut palm did not get a new champion in this year’s edition of the register.

The American Forests Champion Trees national register, sponsored by The Davey Tree Expert Company, is a record of the largest trees of each species in the United States is based on height, circumference, and crown spread. American Forests accepts nominations during the spring of each year.


Plant trees this Earth Day!

by Loose Leaf Team


Understanding a forest’s impact through restoration

by Loose Leaf Contributor

By Pamela Jonah

The only concrete connection I have to Earth Day is when we took our then small children to the Boston Esplanade for a day of warm sunshine and entertainment. Right now I’m looking at snow. In April.

The frigid climate, record snowfall and drawn-out winter continues to wreak havoc on Boston’s state of mind, and the environment. We barely hear birds chirping and the only semblance of greenery is the struggling pine that my family affectionately refers to as the “Charlie Brown” tree, which my husband insisted we keep in light of its scrawny frame.

Because I’ve never been an outspoken environmental advocate, I was surprised when my husband suggested to my daughter and me to head to the mountains of San Bernadino, Calif., to support Jambu, his footwear company, and its partnership with American Forests. He told us Jambu had now developed eco-friendly and vegan shoe styles with biodegradable outsoles, and was partnering with AF on a campaign to plant 50,000 trees.

So we set off to a wildfire disaster zone for a reseeding effort with the Jambu volunteer team. Selfishly, I thought we’d do more scenic mountain climbing than hard labor. Little did we know that we’d soon entrench ourselves in the gray, hot ash of a now desolate tract of land, with the irony of a vibrant green backdrop of unharmed forest in the distance. The before and after right in front of our eyes.

Pamela Jonah's planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.

Pamela Jonah’s planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.

It didn’t take too long for us to bond with our new planting brigade: forestry officials and volunteers from across the globe brought together in the pursuit of forest restoration. We listened closely to the instructions on how to gingerly handle and plant our seedlings, the goal of the event, and the overarching meaning of preservation and sustainability.

Then, we were handed our precious seedlings. I turned to my daughter and vividly recalled the moment she was handed to me as a swaddled newborn. The eco-talk started to make tangible sense to me. This was a race against time, and an urgent mission to plant these tender “trees of life” as quickly as possible in the right way, in the right places. Together we ran to the neediest plains that called us and planted 60 seedlings between us. Our hands dug into the ash, deeper until they found the dirt. We carved safe burrows for these tiny sweet infants that would someday mature into a greater force than us. They would grow to sustain and feed, protect and heal.

Since then, as a family, we’ve moved away from plastic water bottles and bags. We’re wearing Jambu’s vegan shoes and the styles that have recyclable outsoles. We look to our Charlie Brown tree as a daily reminder of our eco-epiphany of giving back to the environment that sustains us as human beings. We all can contribute in our own way, however small the effort or, as we learned, the seedling.

Thank you, American Forests and Jambu. On Earth Day 2015, you’ve inspired us, and we pledge to continue the conversation with others who will listen.


Pamela Jonah is a Communications Consultant based in Boston. Her firm, Jonah PR, represents clients across a diverse group of industries in the private, public and non-profit sectors.


Kicking off the National Parks Centennial

by Loose Leaf Team

By Erin Sandlin, Policy Intern

Growing up in Oregon and California, I was subject to the forces of nature (whether I liked it or not). As a child, I rode my bike through blackberry bushes that scraped my skin, I surfed waves that tumbled me like a load of laundry, I saw forest fires that engulfed trees without hesitation, and I witnessed amounts of rain that would put those fires out in no time. My mother took time to show me Mother Nature’s secrets by pointing out daffodils that bloomed on my birthday every year, and my dad told me which plants were okay to eat during a long hike. These experiences taught me from a very early age that the outdoors, grueling at times and gentle at others, were a place of unparalleled beauty and mystery.

At American forests, we are aware that not every child is surrounded by towering trees or close enough to the ocean to smell the sweet sea breeze. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and access to safe outdoor places is in short supply. Electronic media is more present in the lives of young people than ever before, racking up, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, an average of 53 hours a week! Yet, there are thousands of parks, including National Parks, around the U.S. waiting to be explored.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Credit: Matthew Paulson

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Credit: Matthew Paulson.

Fortunately, as the National Park Service reaches its 100th anniversary in 2016, there are a number of initiatives that are honoring the parks and their service to the American people by increasing opportunities for kids and families to enjoy our National Parks. In recognition of National Park Week, American Forests is honored to support nation-wide initiatives such as the recently launched Find Your Park campaign and the President’s Every Kid in a Park Initiative.

Find Your Park — #FindYourPark for you social media mavens — hopes to encourage Americans to find their “park” and celebrate the work that is done to help protect our country’s special places and resources. The campaign brings attention to the thousands of parks in our communities and the hundreds of National Parks that allow for the exploration of our environment, history, and culture. As the National Park Service Centennial Ambassador Bill Nye says, “If you can find a National Park in New York City, you can find one anywhere!”

Additionally, President Obama has advocated to increase opportunities to visit parks and has launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The initiative is an inter-agency effort that will enable every fourth grade student across the country to experience their public lands and waters in person during the 2015-2016 school year at no cost!

American Forests continues to inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests through programs such as Community ReLeaf which works in cities across the country to improve their tree canopies and educate residents about the benefit of trees. We are pleased to see that the nation is taking notable steps to engage and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates that will help the National Park’s celebrate another 100 years!


A look at our partnership with the Alcoa Foundation

by Loose Leaf Team

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

As part as Alcoa Foundation’s Partnership for Trees Program, Alcoa is committed to plant 10 million trees by 2020, a portion of which they’ll plant with American Forests. More than 900,000 trees have been planted so far and the equivalent of 250,000 metric tons of CO2 have been absorbed by these plantings annually.

In 2015, more than 200,000 trees will be planted across 26 projects funded through this partnership, bringing the five-year tree-planting total to 1.14 million trees! From Brazil to China and even across the United States, some of this year’s projects will help:

  • Improve stormwater management and improved watershed quality in Maryland.
  • Reforest an abandoned coal mining site near Pittsburgh.
  • Increase tree cover in Halton Hills, Canada

Find more about American Forests’ partnership with Alcoa on our web page and check out how much of a difference we have made through our new infographic, which details the first five years of the partnership with Alcoa Foundation!

Alcoa-AF Partnership Infographic


Planting made easy this Earth Day

by Loose Leaf Team

Throughout the year, American Forests is happy to feature some of our amazing partners who contribute to our reforestation efforts through great campaigns of their own.

  • Eddie Bauer — To celebrate a 20-year partnership, from today until Earth Day — April 22 — Eddie Bauer is making its “Add a Dollar, Plant a Tree” option available to both online and in-store customers. In addition, on April 21 and 22, Eddie Bauer will plant a tree for every transaction, whether online, in store, or by phone.
  • Chegg — As part of their Earth Day campaign, Chegg is hosting a photo contest on Instagram that features the love of the outdoors. For every photo tagging @Chegg, #EarthDay and #CheggForGood, they will plant a tree and the winning student photo will receive a GoPro HERO3 and a $500 Chegg Textbook Scholarship.
  • Jambu — This environmentally focused shoe company has been selling eco-friendly and vegan shoes for years. And for Earth Month they are stepping up their game one pair at a time: For every pair of shoes sold online, a tree will be planted. So check out some new kicks today!
  • Origins — This eco-friendly brand of natural skincare products has helped us plant more than 500,000 trees through their Pant-A-Tree initiative! Origins products are produced using a combination of renewables and sustainable practices, and during Earth Week they will plant a tree and give away a free tote with each purchase while supplies lasts
  • Woodchuck Cider — For the sixth year in a row, Woodchuck Cider is helping make the planet a little greener this Earth Week. By liking them on Facebook, a donation will be made in support of American Forests’ Community ReLeaf program. As an added bonus, if someone signs up via the custom link you shared, another tree will be planted!
  • Nate Wade Subaru — For those of you in the western U.S., this Earth Month, Nate Wade Subaru — Utah’s #1 Subaru Dealer is located in Salt Lake City and has been family owned since the 1970’s — is committed to plant 10 trees for every new or used car sold! So why not pick out a new car today and help offset your carbon footprint.
  • SFE Energy — Why not make your home green this Earth Day? You can offset your home’s carbon emissions by joining the Earth Save Program. When you select the Eco Gas or Green Electricity option, SFE and American Forests will plant two trees on your behalf, which can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 per year each!
  • Metropia — This transportation management platform is helping connect commuters, businesses, employers and government agencies to improve their metro mobility. And for this Earth Week, every Metropia user in Tucson and Austin that completes five or more trips from Saturday to Saturday, a tree will be planted just for you!