Green spaces have many social values in our lives. They have been proven to reduce crime and road rage, stimulate learning, and improve test scores/productivity (The Social Benefits of Green Spaces. [Web]. Retrieved from https://projectevergreen.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/LifestyleBenefitsofGreenSpace.pdf). Cities and organizations are recognizing the social benefits to urban green spaces by encouraging teambuilding projects through staff tree planting events and community engagement through neighbourhood greening events. Cities are also realizing that trees help strengthen cultural ties in First Nations communities.
Corporations like IKEA, a partner of Tree Canada, are realizing the social benefits of green spaces for teambuilding purposes. Last May, staff from the Ottawa IKEA planted over 140 trees in a field outside Nepean. Since 1997 IKEA staff has planted over 27,000 trees and shrubs across Canada, with their Pick a Tree, Plant a Tree program, a program that re-greens green spaces using proceeds from IKEA Christmas tree sales. Another partner of Tree Canada, TELUS Communications helped plant 13,000 trees for National Tree Day, which takes place every September on the Wednesday of National Forest Week. Planting trees is not only good for the environment, but it also has positive impacts on our social lives and brings co-workers together.
Trees and green spaces also strengthen cultural ties. There are many First Nations communities that consider plants to be sacred, like the Haudenosaunee, the Navajo, the Zuni, and the Huron nations. Plant species such as tobacco, sweet grass, sage, and cedar are used in smudging ceremonies and are considered the four sacred medicines. For example, the Mi’Kmaq of Lennox Island, P.E.I., have been planting and documenting Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) trees on the island. The Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) tree is an important part of Mi’Kmaq culture because it is native to their land. In the 1930s and 1940s the Mi’Kmaq began selling their “potato baskets” (so named because farmers would use the ash baskets as means of collecting potatoes) to the local farmers; potato baskets are still made on the island today. The Lennox Island Aboriginal Ecotourism Program, with funding from the First Nations Forestry Program, is overseeing the task of planting and cataloguing Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) trees in P.E.I. There are also many other First Nations communities hosting green programs across Canada, like in Saskatchewan’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The Wanuskewin peoples will be hosting Mother Earth Garden Kids Day Camp which will focus on Indigenous agriculture, garden crafts, tipi raising, and traditional dancers. Along with First Nations peoples implementing green programs in their communities to preserve their culture, many other communities are planting trees to foster community engagement and bring neighbourhoods together.
Lastly, tree planting events provide opportunities to bring neighbours and communities together. Several cities have regular neighbourhood planting events. The City of Surrey, British Columbia has a Neighbourhood Tree Party throughout April, encouraging members of the community, of all ages and skill levels, to help plant trees in their neighbourhood. The City of Toronto also has numerous tree planting events planned for spring and summer 2017, like the Rouge Valley Tree Planting event in May. Or in the town of Ajax, Ontario, where in April they plan to plant 1,600 trees with the help of community volunteers. As it says on the Ajax Community Plant event page “The community that plants together, grows together!” Check out your local community’s event calendar for activities close to you.
Whether it is to build camaraderie among staff, bring community members closer together, or preserve cultural connections, trees and green spaces have a positive social impact for people.
Project EverGreen: https://projectevergreen.org/resources/lifestyle-benefits-of-green-spaces/
Staff Tree Planting:
Ottawa Community News, IKEA planting: http://www.ottawacommunitynews.com/news-story/6558502-ikea-tree-canada-staff-plant-140-trees-in-nepean/
Tree Canada, TELUS planting: https://treecanada.ca/en/news-events/news-releases/canadians-team-tree-canada-majesta-and-telus-help-plant-1300/
Aboriginal/Cultural tree planting/events:
Indigenous sacred trees: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/plants-native-uses/
Lennox Tribe re-foresting: http://www.lennoxisland.com/attractions/nature-trail/the-forest/
Aboriginal Tourism B.C.: https://www.aboriginalbc.com/events/we-are-kwantlen/
Indigenous Canada: https://indigenoustourism.ca/en/things-to-do/?v=map
Wanuskewin Heritage Park Events: https://wanuskewin.com/visit/events-calendar/mother-earth-garden-kids-day-camps-2/
City of Surrey, Sweat Lodge Event: https://surrey.ca/culture-recreation/22499.aspx
Forests Ontario: http://www.forestsontario.ca/community/events/planting-events/
City of Toronto, community tree planting: http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=63132fa8499bc410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextchannel=9754579200801410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD
City of Surrey, neighbourhood tree planting: https://surrey.ca/culture-recreation/22573.aspx