Community Service

Community Service

One of the most striking changes for some of us is the total social disconnection we have created out of a desire to be safe and socially conscious citizens. For some introverts, I know this has been a time of reprieve- a great time to catch up on baking, reading, music, and the home. For some of the more socially driven extroverts in my realm, this year has been taxing and isolating.

Earlier in the fall a few Riverstone International School parents and I got together and planned a day for socially distant community service. We procured a few new trees and set out to make the campus a more sustainable place. “How is planting trees an act of sustainability?” I queried the students and volunteers that showed up – the answers were varied, amazing, inspiring, and- not what I was expecting. The depth and breadth of the examples that the students and volunteers gave showed an actual understanding of the processes of the school, our society, and our consumption problems. The question these volunteers had to first answer within their matrix is what sustainability is- and when you are doing a SustainingUS project the definition of sustainability is a triple-bottom-line that measures people, planet, and profit in the course of the project and decision for the lifetime of the effect of that decision.

So why is planting these trees at this school sustainability?

It helps the people- by creating renewable outdoor class spaces, improving the quality of the landscape they interact with, providing shade, windbreak, and wildlife and inspiring students and teachers to be their best.

Planet? Adding biodiversity of trees helps the wildlife that inhabits the campus and surrounding (quickly developing) neighborhood, from the deer to the birds and rodents on the campus.

Profit? The trees we planted are part of a growing outdoor classroom that is required to be effective and resilient as an institution with an outdoor pillar – the pandemic is simply a silver lining to inspire us to create these places faster and to a greater extent. The trees were selected to be long-lived, grow fast and provide benefit for years to come. One of the benefits will be to shade the south side of the building and lower the electrical load required to cool the Elementary school, thereby reducing utility costs in the summer!

Triple bottom line? Check!

These River Birch (Betula nigra) [above] will provide a deer resistant, sunscald resistant, drought and overwatering resistant species for the campus which should provide a teaching space in one or two growing seasons as they have multiple trunks working to create shade! Plus they look amazing all year long with the peeling bark and vase-shaped trunks.

Planting Trees help raise awareness about our carbon footprint and how we can mitigate as individuals.