News & Resources

Planting the Seeds for a Healthy Future
April 25, 2024 | |

April is a powerful month for the planet. Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22nd, serves as a reminder to care for our environment so that we have safe, healthy, and resilient places to live and work. Arbor Day, celebrated on the last Friday of the month, reminds us that the seeds for a healthier future have to be planted today.

While there is no singular path to addressing the impacts of climate change on urban communities, trees play an outsized role by packing multiple benefits into small spaces: shade, flood mitigation, air purification, habitats to increase biodiversity, and more. Over the past few years, the Groundwork Network has increasingly focused on urban forestry as a tool to help us reach our environmental justice, equity, and climate resilience goals. From planting campaigns to changing how trees are distributed, we are taking strides to ensure that tree equity is not an aspiration, but a reality, for all communities.


Groundwork Lawrence tree crew and Brian DePena, the Mayor of Lawrence.

Lawrence, MA, is a former industrial city tightly packed with tiny streets, smaller sidewalks, and triple-decker houses. Much of what would have been yards has been paved to create parking spaces, and, with so much pavement in these small spaces, the summer months get dangerously hot. While the need for expanding the tree canopy is clear, space is at a premium, particularly in public spaces that would benefit residential areas. To help close this gap, Groundwork Lawrence is working directly with community members to plant and steward trees on residents’ private property. Working closely with residents to select the right tree for their property and to make sure each tree gets the care it needs to thrive, GWL slowly, but surely, expands the tree canopy each year.

Historic redlining policies in Pawtucket and Central Falls, RI, have created stark disparities in the tree canopy, with some neighborhoods having just 2% canopy coverage. This was exacerbated by the first-come-first-served approach to tree distribution used by Pawtucket and Central Falls. Through its urban forestry efforts, Groundwork Rhode Island addresses this challenge from multiple angles. They partnered with the Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone to advocate for a shift away from a first-come-first-served tree planting model while working directly with residents and businesses in heat-vulnerable neighborhoods to plant and steward trees.

The Groundwork Elizabeth team planting a micro forest.

Elizabeth, NJ, is surrounded on all sides by industrial infrastructure. In the flight path of multiple airports, on the banks of one of the largest ports in the country, and surrounded by highways, air pollution, extreme heat, and flooding are constant concerns. Groundwork Elizabeth is harnessing the power of tiny microforests to pack as many climate benefits as possible into very limited open space across the city. Planted on small plots of land, the trees in these dense forests of native species quickly provide air quality, stormwater, and heat reduction benefits.


With support from the U.S. Forest Service, we are excited to expand our urban forestry work to leverage the benefits of urban trees to improve climate resilience and social, economic, and environmental health across our communities. Over the next few years, our Trusts will plant 1,300 and steward 3,000 trees, plus they will be engaging 3,000 adults and youth through their urban forestry work. “I’m so excited to join the Groundwork USA team, where communities are leading the way towards a greener future. Trees provide benefits that improve our lives, and building excellent urban forestry programs founded on grassroots community engagement is an amazing opportunity to strengthen neighborhoods where trees are needed the most,” shares Meg Morgan, Groundwork USA’s new Senior Manager of Urban Forestry Programs.

We’re excited to see these seeds of change take root over the coming years as we all come together to leverage the incredible potential in our tree canopy to pave the path to a safer future.


Follow along with Groundwork USA and all USDA Urban and Community Forestry partners at #FundingUrbanForestry #TreeEquity.