Foundation vice president weighs in on establishing successful corporate partnerships with non-profits

Dan Lambe, vice president of programs for the Arbor Day Foundation, offered his insight on forming successful corporate partnerships with non-profits in a recent article for the daily trade publication, Environmental Leader.

In this article, Lambe highlights several of the Arbor Day Foundation’s programs that are flourishing thanks to corporate partners and states that “corporations can further their environmental missions by forming strong and lasting conservation-oriented partnerships.”

He then outlines four key recommendations when forming conservation-oriented corporate partnerships.

Lambe’s first recommendation notes the critical importance of making a sustained commitment. He explains that, “companies assisting with replanting in national and state forests often pledge to support decades-long efforts as needs arise, rather than a one-time project that may result in less of a lasting impact”

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a great example of a partner that has made a sustained commitment. Enterprise commemorated its 50th anniversary in 2007 by forming a long-term partnership with the Foundation to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years, for a gift totaling more than $50 million dollars.So far, nearly seven million trees have been planted.

Lambe’s second recommendation for corporate partners is “to come to the table with ideas on a potential niche,” adding:

Many smaller partners, for instance, choose to support replanting in neighborhoods or state and national forests close to their headquarters. Many larger partners are interested in larger projects that command national attention.

Toyota, the sponsor of the Tree Campus USA program has a particular interest in engaging young people in sustainability, Lambe points out.

The essential support from Toyota for the Tree Campus USA program develops the connection between the college student niche and the environment through tree planting events and recognition on college and university campuses.

Corporate partners recognize the positive impact that playing an active role in conservation efforts has on their customer base. A corporation that does not make a strong effort to be socially responsible will ultimately have a harder time doing business in the future.

Lambe’s third recommendation puts forth the requirement that “effective partners bring local contacts and credibility to initiatives. For big events, employees and their networks can serve as a volunteer base,” says Lambe. “Most corporate partners also maintain strong relationships with the media and can open the door to new visibility.”

The fourth recommendation advocates that “tree planting is an ideal project because it is unifying,” with Lambe adding that “a tree-planting mission is able to rise above political conflicts and achieve significant outcomes for corporations and non profits alike.”

Read the entire article here.

Enterprise to run ad during Olympics touting 50-Million Tree Pledge, partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation

When you tune in for the 2012 London Olympics starting tomorrow, keep an eye out for an advertisement from Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, that features their 50-Million-Tree Pledge.

The pledge is an aggressive, multi-year partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service to plant 50 million trees in high-need national and state forests. Nearly seven million trees have been planted so far.

The newly-planted trees are crucial to protecting wildlife habitat, recreational benefits and clean water for millions of Americans.

Enterprise has been one of the Foundation’s stand-out corporate partners, and we look forward to continuing the relationship for decades to come.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the company’s hometown newspaper, reported on the ad buy this week, noting that the spot is slated to run from July 27 through August 12, including during closing ceremonies.

The full story includes an early viewing of the 60-second spot, which contains gorgeous footage of national forests. A shorter 30-second spot will also be in rotation. Learn more about the 50-Million Tree Pledge here.

Better care can help urban trees survive drought, Texas report says

Earlier this year, a report from the Texas Forest Service found that 5.6 million urban trees in the state had been lost as a result of drought. A new companion report from the state’s AgriLife Extension presents a more complicated picture, arguing that many of the dead trees suffered from pre-existing stress.

On the surface, the new report would seem to be discouraging. Drought is, after all, an easy culprit. But in explaining the other factors that led to massive tree loss, the report also provides a guidepost for what to do differently next time.

Both the AgriLife Extension and Forest Service are part of the Texas A&M University system.

According to the report by Dr. Eric Taylor, a forestry specialist, most of the trees that died were already strained due to factors like overcrowding, growing on the wrong side, age, problems with the soil or use of inappropriate herbicides.

That means that a more proactive approach to tending urban trees during the year can help them weather and often survive the drought.

As Taylor put it: “Our best defense against drought is to promote a tree’s health and vigor through proper care and management.”

Taylor is no way discounts the importance of water to tree’s life and health – but he does want people know that trees can be better prepared for times when water is scarce.

In addition to proper pruning and maintenance of existing trees, many communities are also making sure to diversify the species they plant. Introducing new species has been critical in the fight against the emerald ash borer and other pests that can devastate urban forests.

Read more about the report here.

USA Today column stresses solutions on urban trees and power outages

A column published in yesterday’s USA Today offers important insight in the ongoing discussion about urban trees, power and natural disasters.

Writer Laura Vanderkam reached out to the Foundation two weeks ago concerning solutions to the danger of urban trees falling on power lines during heavy storms. At that time, millions of households in the Washington, DC, region remained without power, weathering 100-degree days and uncertainty about when service would be restored.

Trees are an easy villain when they fall during a storm, but as Vanderkam points out, they also help utilities keep the lights on by lowering peak demand through the shading affect during particularly hot days.

Vanderkam told me she was writing a solutions-oriented column, and that’s precisely what she did. Citing the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Right Tree in the Right Place” principle, she notes that utilities are already seeing positive results from proactive pruning and a smart strategy for where to plant in the first place. According to her reporting:

After the hurricanes of 2004, the Orlando Utilities Commission in Florida did something similar, working with the city to plant tall trees away from lines and shorter trees under them. Result?

“Our reliability statistics have continued to climb,” says Wayne Zimmerman, manager of construction and maintenance. Costs are stable. “And we still have a beautiful tree canopy.”

That’s good for cash-strapped cities — and for anyone amazed, after the recent storm, how people lived through summers before AC.

That’s the kind of solution we can get behind, and the Foundation will continue to urge utilities to innovate and improve best practices in tree care. I wrote about the Foundation’s perspective in greater detail in a blog post last Tuesday.

Trees an unfair culprit for power outages, but more can be done to prepare

Power outages and blackouts tied to late June thunderstorms in the Washington, DC, region have finally come to an end.

The raging storms – coupled with sweltering 100+ degree heat – left more than 2.5 million people without power. A handful of casualties were reported, with property damage spanning Maryland to West Virginia.

While the response of area utility providers has dominated the headlines, some have also cited the larger trees that knocked over power grids, blocked streets, and in some cases, damaged cars and homes. People have asked: are trees to blame for the loss of power? Could more have been done to protect people in their homes?

Trees are an unfair culprit. But there is a need for improvement in the pruning, management and care of urban trees, both in the DC region and throughout the country.

Due diligence is required to prepare urban trees for natural disasters, while recognizing that some damage cannot be anticipated. It is also critical to acknowledge the enormous benefits of trees to cities and towns.

One of those key benefits is the shading of homes, an area of increasing importance to utility providers like Entergy, which serves 2.8 million customers in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. The shade from mature, well-placed trees reduces household energy use by as much as 30 percent, allowing companies like Entergy to meet peak demand during hot summer months. The shading effect saves customers on their monthly bills too.

Entergy is among the 145 utility providers currently recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Line USA in honor of its commitment to proper tree planting, pruning and care. The program provides a baseline standard for providers, but as with the Foundation’s other programs, we encourage participants to exceed the core requirements and continually seek best practices in their service areas.

More and more utilities are seeing proper tree pruning and care as both good business and common sense. Healthy urban trees help with storm water management and reduce strain on infrastructure. They also absorb the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. One utility executive described investment in trees to us as a risk management tool, akin to homeowners buying fire insurance for their house. This is especially pertinent as climate change leads to more volatile weather patterns,

It is because of these benefits that the Foundation advocates for preserving mature trees in conjunction with new development. These trees often yield the greatest benefits, in addition to their aesthetic and quality-of-life contributions. But they also pose risks. Many of the trees that fell during last month’s storm were older and strained by urban environments. We encourage municipalities and utilities to take extra care to maintain these trees and adopt established pruning cycles. And, when a tree becomes unsafe, it ought to be removed and replaced with native species that fit with the surrounding community.

While some disasters cannot be prevented, trees can and should be part of the solution rather than the problem. And they will be if they continue to receive the care and attention they deserve.

Planting trees alongside new development builds better neighborhoods

Last week, a reporter from the Memphis Commercial Appeal reached out to us about a city initiative to plant more than 1,000 trees in concert with a new uptown development project.

The Foundation is rarely involved in a specific project like that, but from our experience working with communities on urban forestry throughout the country — including the nearly 3,500 Tree City USAs — we are well equipped to speak to benefits of new trees.

The Memphis neighborhood is historic but currently underdeveloped, and city officials envision leafy streets and a strong community feel as homeowners settle over the next few decades. As reporter Tom Bailey Jr. points out, potential buyers are purchasing a neighborhood as a much as the home itself:

“Can we put a dollar value on what a tree does to a house?” said Carol Lott, president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. “Probably not. I don’t think we could add $500 or $1,000 per tree. But I just think it’s got an overall better curb appeal and a more mature feeling to a neighborhood.”

According to the article, landscape architecture firm Richie Smith Associates drew up the tree-planting blueprint, one of the largest in Memphis in the last 25 years. The new trees will be comprised of native species (including the northern red oak, pictured at right) that will minimize strain on sidewalks and city infrastructure.

The project also included pruning and maintaining the existing 550 neighborhood trees, with removal pursued where a young replacement makes more sense.

Bailey asked about the benefits of these trees, and I pointed out that future residents would be especially grateful that planting was done sooner rather than later. Shaded streets can often signify the difference between a community and an anonymous cul-de-sac. And, with more Americans moving into or back to urban areas, building and maintaining great neighborhoods is crucial.

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers and civic leaders renewed their push to achieve Tree City USA designation for Memphis. We look forward to adding them to the list.