Each month, we highlight a charity that is working to make our neighbourhoods better. This time we talked to Trees for Cities, the only charity working on an international scale to create greener cities. They explained their efforts to make communities in London and across the world happier, healthier places to live.

Tell us about Trees for Cities.

Since 1993, we have engaged over 70,000 people to plant over 600,000 urban trees in parks, streets, schools and housing estates across the UK, as well as internationally, revitalising these areas and improving the lives of the people who live in them. We strengthen communities through volunteering opportunities and inspire children to grow and eat good food and to connect with nature.

We focus on planting trees and greening community spaces where the social and environmental impact on local people is greatest. In London this might mean planting trees to clean the air or transforming unused community spaces into vibrant green areas, making our communities happier and healthier places to live, whilst in Nairobi it’s planting fruit trees for food and sustainable livelihoods.

Our other project is Edible Playgrounds, which are exactly that—they transform areas of school grounds into vibrant outdoor spaces, which teach children about growing and eating healthy food. The World Health Organization regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century.

What projects do you undertake?

With our Urban Forests project, we plant 75,000 urban trees worldwide each year. Trees bring real benefits to our cities, our health and our wellbeing. Each year London’s trees remove 2.4 million tonnes of air pollution, including carbon dioxide, dust and other gaseous toxins. Trees are vital to our ecosystem and prevent premature deaths caused by airborne pollutants.

Urban Forests is building resilience against threats facing the natural environment. The effects of climate change are already being felt. We’re experiencing warmer, wetter winters, and hotter, drier summers, creating higher temperatures in our cities. Climate change has caused an increase in pests and disease that had never previously affected the UK. The impact has been an unprecedented threat to some iconic tree species, including ash, horse chestnut and oak. Planting a range of tree species enhances structural and functional diversity in woodlands and on city streets, as well as building resistance to pests and disease.

Our other project is Edible Playgrounds, which are exactly that—they transform areas of school grounds into vibrant outdoor spaces, which teach children about growing and eating healthy food. The World Health Organization regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century.

Many children in inner-city areas don’t know how plants grow or where food comes from, and obesity, food poverty and malnutrition among children in the UK is increasing. Edible Playgrounds help to tackle these issues head-on, by providing children with access to nature. Our fun and engaging lessons support the school curriculum and help to instil healthy eating habits at an early age.

We’ve already created over 30 Edible Playgrounds, which support more than 10,000 children across the UK. But we want to make more, and we need your help to do it.

Edible School Yard

What are your funding sources?

More than half of our funding comes from trusts and foundations. Business contributes about a quarter, and local government 17 percent. The remainder comes from lottery funding, central government, the Landfill Communities Fund and individuals.

Related content > The Edible School Garden

What obstacles does your organisation face?

Trees and green spaces in our cities face ever-growing threats from the climate, diseases, developers and others; yet whilst more and more people are living in our cities, urban issues such as warming, air pollution, flooding, biodiversity loss, obesity and psychological wellbeing are moving in the wrong direction. We must make step changes to create and develop the green infrastructure that is such a valuable antidote to many of the most pressing problems of our day.

Do you hold any fundraising events?

We hold community planting events throughout the planting season (October to March) where we may do a small amount of fundraising, however these are not primarily for this. They are foremost an opportunity for local people and our volunteers to get involved directly with our projects (e.g., by planting trees) and inspire local people to take ownership of the greenspace in their area.

We have an events package that offers guaranteed places in fundraising events such as marathons, obstacle courses and bungee jumps.

How can people get involved?

People can sign up as a regular donor. Just a small amount each month can make a big difference. A few pounds are enough to pay for one sapling tree. If you’d like to help, click here for our donations page.

You can sign up to our London or national volunteering mailing lists. You will then get emailed about any volunteering opportunities we have. This will give you the opportunity to come along and help out with the tree planting on one of our projects.

You can sign up to fundraise with us, and get more trees planted in urban areas.

Schools can also get involved by signing up to tree-planting workshops, where they will learn how to plant and look after trees.

For more information, visit the Trees for Cities website.

The MotherHood
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