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PlantForever

Meet the Students on a Mission: Planting Trees Bridge Nature and Concrete

Imagine having all the excitement of the city and the clean air of the countryside - that's PlantForever's dream!

Most big cities in North America look like “concrete jungles” with towering buildings and bright lights replacing tall green tree canopies and sunshine.

An endless grey landscape can feel pretty dull, but cities are far from lacking in life – which draws people to them.

Two men planting a tree in a backyard
PlantForever crew planting backyard trees. plantforeverorg | Instagram

But imagine if you could get all the vibrancy and energy of a big city but with the benefits (plus clean air!!) of being out in nature.

That’s the vision that PlantForever hopes to make a reality across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The student led initiative plants trees for property owners in Edmonton and Saskatoon in hopes of building an all new natural skyline. It’s all for free funded by donations.

“The ideal outcome is to see every major city with a big tree canopy percentage, have opportunities for parks and trees at homes and public property, and not feel that disconnect that we see in many major cities where it’s just concrete and roads and not enough nature,” Patel, a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Saskatchewan, told CBC’s What on Earth.

The initiative is needed more than ever here; about 3,000 trees die yearly in Edmonton due to severe cold, heat, drought, old age or pollution. As temperatures continue to get more extreme, tree mortality will only increase.

That’s why planting more hardy tree and shrub species and greening available city space is crucial, and property owners hold the key to making it happen.

“Most land in urban and suburban areas is privately owned, and those pieces of land need to be part of the solution to solving the biodiversity crisis,” said David Wallis, reforestation policy and campaign manager for Nature Canada, also to CBC.

Chart showing the accomplishments of PlantFoever to date
Accomplishments to date. plantforeverorg | Instagram

Patrons of PlantForever register for a tree to transform their land from plain grass to something more naturally diverse. Once a date is selected, volunteers go to the planting location and get digging.

It’s a simple concept, but every tree or shrub makes a difference to the city’s future landscape and helps dent our carbon crisis.

Right now, PlantForever is operating almost entirely without major funding. Still, they managed to plant about 500 trees this past summer. That’s impressive!

They’re hoping to increase the number of plantings, but space to store the trees remains a limiting factor. Volunteers have offered parts of their homes for tree storage, but ideally,Patel hopes to find someone who could lend out part of an acreage to store the trees.

He’d also like to build income streams beyond what donations bring in to support their mission. He plans to register the group as a charity to qualify for funding not ordinarily available to non-registered non-profits.

More than anything, though, at this stage of the game, the primary mission of PlantForever is to remind those living in cities of the natural world around them. 

“When PlantForever plants trees throughout the city, people take time to fathom their impact on the planet and understand what they can do to help.”

With each tree planted, they are nurturing a greener, more sustainable future for our urban environments.

Man and woman posing in front of a dozen trees in buckets ready to be planted
Trees ready for planting. plantforeverorg | Instagram

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