When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, the city’s tree population was devastated, with thousands uprooted. Houston neighborhoods not only lost a beautiful part of their community but an important aspect of their local ecosystems. 

Fortunately, Houstonian volunteers were ready to rebuild their city’s “living infrastructure.” Trees for Houston, founded in 1983 after Hurricane Alicia, got to work planting hundreds of trees along the Buffalo and White Oak bayous. People helped with maintenance and repairs, including planting trees. It was a success story rooted in an environmental movement that began years beforehand.

Trees for Houston initially began with “ten to twelve lawyers who would meet every month and…would talk about planting street trees,” according to founding member Carroll Shaddock.

Now, Trees for Houston leverages private donations and hundreds of volunteers in the Houston community to plant trees across the area. Since its founding in 1983, Trees for Houston and its volunteers have planted more than 600,000 trees. Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages worked with the Texas Trees Foundation on the NeighborWoods program and Trees for Houston in assisting reforesting efforts in the Travis County watershed. 

Other volunteer initiatives have taken root across the state to help provide trees to communities in need. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas Trees Foundation began planting trees in 1989 to help “preserve, beautify and expand parks and other public natural green spaces, and …to beautify our public streets.” Today, the organization plants thousands of trees a year on public property in North Texas.

When Dallas’ Southwestern Medical District determined it needed a healthier environment to surround its hospitals, the district approached the Texas Trees Foundation to lead the initiative and construct a 10-acre park for patients, families and employees through a central corridor.

When discussing the project, Texas Trees’ Executive Director Janette Monear wanted to think bigger. “I’m really hoping that we can bring a new vision of how we create our cities, because that is our legacy that we leave,” she said.

Dallas is a good example. The fast-growing city has very little greenery, and no forestry division until 2017

The city recently adopted an urban foreign master plan, and Texas Trees is poised to play a critical role in providing shade and restoring greenery to the community. The foundation’s NeighborWoods program looks to increase plant life in the city by working directly with individuals, homeowner associations and neighborhood organizations. 

The entire state stands to benefit from these efforts, and businesses small and large play a role in supporting green spaces in Texas. 

As Texas and the country continue to tackle environmental challenges, the work of tree-planting organizations, community volunteers and business partners is more important than ever to ensure healthy and safe communities with shade, clean air and thriving ecosystems for generations to come.