All over the city of Austin, TreeFolks is engaging communities by distributing over 5000 trees annually–at no cost to Austin Energy customers. TreeFolks empowers building stronger communities through planting and caring for trees, and their NeighborWoods Program makes their mission possible and accessible to under-resourced populations in the Austin area. The NeighborWoods Program serves the city as a whole, benefitting all communities, by reducing the city’s heat index and taking to the streets and soil to enhance canopy cover equity.
TreeFolks operates its annual NeighborWoods Program from October through March, serving locals with native and adapted 5-gallon trees, including fruit trees (with the help of Central Texas nurseries). It is first-come first-served at their monthly tree adoption events, one tree per adult. TreeFolks premiere 2022-23 NeighborWoods tree adoption at Dove Springs District Park sold out of 500 trees in its first three hours.
“I see that you can fall in love with trees. You can fall in love with the natural world,” said Gillian Hodler, TreeFolks’ Community Engagement and Volunteer Coordinator. Hodler spoke with EarthShare Texas’ content writer following the tree adoption at Dove Springs District Park.
The NeighborWoods Program comes with a small responsibility of after-care that will go on to have a positive effect on your community and city. Adopting a tree means you must: first, plant the tree(s) in the ground; and second, water the tree(s) routinely for the first two years. TreeFolks’ website houses general tree care resources in English and Spanish, for new and seasoned tree planters.
In total, the NeighborWoods Program has provided over 70,000 trees to the public spaces and people of Austin, and is growing.
Green Space and Canopy Cover Inequities in Austin
TreeFolks receives some funding from Austin Energy to increase the number of trees being planted in effort to decrease the city heat index (or the Urban Heat Island effect). The recent 2021 Austin Climate Equity Plan Summary states one of its goals is to reach “At least 50% canopy cover achieved citywide by 2050, with a focus on increasing canopy cover equitability.”
“There is radically different tree canopy cover in some neighborhoods versus other neighborhoods,” said Hodler. “So when we’re talking about the neighborhoods that we want to prioritize giving trees to, it’s both because they have low canopy cover and because they have less economic resources to buy their own trees.”
The Austin Climate Equity Plan Summary notes how “[in] 1928, Austin created a master plan that racially segregated the city using a practice called redlining.” This plan “intentionally forced communities of color to live in polluted areas with hazardous, environmentally damaging infrastructure.”
Hodler spoke in detail about the Austin inequities following the 1928 Master Plan. Hodler said, “the city gave services to the white neighborhoods, not to East Austin. East Austin was designated as the appropriate area for industrial development. So this is where trees get cut down, cement gets poured, toxic facilities get located. [A] classic example would be the tank farm that was located there to store various kinds of toxic fuels. So in this process we lose a lot of canopy cover.”
Adopt A Tree, Help Your Community’s Canopy Cover
You can easily help Austin achieve equitable tree canopy cover and reduce your community’s heat index. Be a recipient of TreeFolks NeighborWoods Program by attending an event this month.
Happening Sunday, December 4th, EarthShare Texas, alongside TreeFolks and Austin Ale Trail, will be participating in a combined event: Hue Marketplace’s 1st Annual Fall Festival at Live Oak Brewing. At this event, you can adopt a tree; this event is limited to 75 trees, first-come first-served. You can purchase an Austin Ale Trail passport as well, with passport proceeds supporting EarthShare Texas members throughout Austin, just like TreeFolks.
“TreeFolks values our connection with EarthShare Texas, and we’re excited to co-host a tree adoption event. Our missions are aligned through shared environmental goals, but we both also engage people in the community to reach our goals,” said TreeFolks executive director, Andrew Smiley. “We are as much about the earth and the trees as we are about community and folks!”
Care for your neighborhood by adopting a TreeFolks tree. Come together and plant trees for the benefit of you, your community, and your environment.