In our world of fast-paced, non-stop driving, working and just doing, we rarely take the opportunity to appreciate nature and all of its awesome beauty and benefits.
We rarely get a chance to stop and ponder how important trees are or how we should be taking care of them to improve both our environment and ourselves. Their large, leafy branches aren’t just for providing shade or creating the perfect backdrop in your family portrait; they are a necessary component of our well-being and happiness.
Local non-profit organization, Baton Rouge Green, is striving to enhance the local environment and urban forests by focusing on trees of all shapes and sizes. To accomplish this, they plant trees throughout the area and encourage residents to plant and sustain the community’s trees.
Diane Losavio, Executive Director of Baton Rouge Green, has witnessed the tremendous impact the organization has made over the years. Since 1987, Baton Rouge Green has planted over 30,000 trees—5,000 along the interstate system—with corporate and individual support. Since Baton Rouge Green has a staff of four, they stay extremely busy all year and work very hard to spread their work and message.
Volunteers often help during tree planting season from October to March or April. However, schools, churches, and individuals can also assist with tree sales, tree maintenance, office work, and even special events.
“We want people to understand that trees are very important for our community and the environment and for them personally,” says Losavio. “Trees make people happy. There are a lot of studies being done on the personal benefits from being around trees.”
Losavio also stresses the environmental impact trees have, especially here in Louisiana. They absorb stormwater and help with air pollution, which is very important in the spring and summer months in Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge Green has recently combined trees with technology to create the My Tree Baton Rouge website and OpenTreeMap app for your phone. The app teaches you how to measure a tree trunk and the height of a tree. Users can also access the economic and ecological benefits of their particular tree while helping create a master map of Louisiana’s trees.
“The whole purpose of the app is to encourage people to be engaged with their trees and actually take a look at them,” says Losavio. “Get close to the tree, look at it, and find out all about it.”
Losavio also hopes the website and mobile app will make it into classrooms. Teachers can encourage their students to go out and learn about the trees in their community. Whether they make it a competition to find the most trees or just use it as an educational tool, the kids will learn at an early age how to actively care about the environment.
Although the organization has grown in the past few years, Losavio says funding is always one of the biggest issues. “It’s always a challenge, and you have to be very creative and stick with it,” Losavio says.
One way families can get involved is by becoming a yearly member. Members make a $25 yearly donation and receive a Baton Rouge Green Card that gives them local discounts as well as the benefit of knowing they’re helping the environment.
The organization will be holding its annual Green Paradise Fundraising Event on Saturday, August 13 at the Capitol Park Museum. The night will be filled with food, dancing and entertainment, and a silent auction. Attendees are encouraged to wear green. The event benefits the local trees and green spaces while providing a night of relaxation and enjoyment for the community.
Baton Rouge Green hopes to enhance their Living Roadways program by planting at least 45 additional trees along the interstate in the coming year. They also want to expand their City Citrus Program.
“City Citrus is a program that has planted over 300 citrus trees around the city, and the fruit is open for everyone to enjoy,” says Losavio. “The trees are scattered all over the community from Port Allen to St. Gabriel.” The group also holds a City Citrus Pick Event in December every year.
Baton Rouge Green hopes to continue expanding and encouraging the community to keep planting and caring for trees so we may have a brighter, greener environmental future to share with our families and friends. ■