Fred and Charlotte Hubbell

Fred and Charlotte Hubbell of Des Moines, Iowa, have been involved in environmental work for more than 30 years, with almost two decades of that as American Forests supporters. They see increasing urgency for their giving as climate change advances. "It's very simple; it's a matter of an existential threat,” says Charlotte.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fred and Charlotte Hubbell

FOR AMERICAN FORESTS DONORS Fred and Charlotte Hubbell of Des Moines, Iowa, their three grown children and eight grandkids motivate their support for environmental causes. But these grandparents are hardly new to this work; they’ve been dedicated to environmental initiatives for more than three decades, including supporting American Forests since 2005, and as Sequoia Circle donors since 2011.

“We’ve been trying to help tree planting across the globe,” says Fred. “We can’t do it individually, but through groups like American Forests we can facilitate it.”

The pair met at University of Iowa Law School. “We met in property class, so we acquired each other,” jokes Charlotte. Fred grew up with a strong sense of social responsibility and honed it as head of life insurance company Equitable of Iowa, where he emphasized community benefit alongside profitmaking. Charlotte served on and chaired the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and co-founded the nonprofit Iowa Environmental Council, the state’s largest environmental coalition.

“We’ve always realized that you’re only as good as your community,” says Fred. “We wanted to be doing what we could to make our community as good as we could for everybody.”

As acting director of the Department of Economic Development of Iowa in 2009, Fred focused on climate-friendly investing and heard first-hand from community groups about the importance of trees.

“I quickly learned that trees can have a major impact — whether it’s the canopy that provides shade and reduces heat, or whether it’s providing protection from floodwaters,” he says. “That’s not even counting that they look nice.”

The Hubbells have maintained a focus on the environment as philanthropists in support of American Forests and other organizations. Notably, they established the Department of River-Coastal Science and Engineering at Tulane University and created the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative to expand the environmental law program at their alma mater.

They see environmental work as essential, considering the growing impacts of climate change: “If we don’t have a planet to live on, really nothing else matters,” says Charlotte.