We at Roots for the Future celebrated our first birthday on Saturday 22 April by holding a tree planting party for the local community with our corporate partner, Honey Brothers. The Godalming based social enterprise brings people together to plant trees in their communities to tackle local environmental problems such as poor air quality and flooding. We invite all ages to participate, and envisage that our involvement of children and young people will help to inspire the next generation to address climate change with environmental solutions.

Roots for the Future held its first ever tree planting event on April 22 2016 to tie in with Earth Day and its Canopy Project, a worldwide campaign that strengthens communities through tree planting. This years’ Earth Day promoted environmental and climate literacy and so Roots for the Future’s outdoor learning leader, Lucy Smith, highlighted through exploration and games how trees and plants are the fundamental basis of all life.

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, children collected flowers and weeds to hammer into white material to make birthday flags. They hunted for bugs and carefully examined them under magnifying glasses. They ran around playing games exploring the area before we planted 50 trees – 25 goat willow and 25 downy birch. Both are happy to be in boggy conditions, which this part of Honey Brothers’ field is.

Trees are amazing. As we all learn in school, they give us the oxygen we breathe and it is well known that they absorb and store the carbon emitted from vehicles and industrial activity.  They also mitigate other climate change related issues such as flooding because water sinks into soil under trees at 70 times the rate it sinks under grass. With so much on the news lately about our poor air quality, it is important to note that trees absorb pollution and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

And then there are all the social benefits. Green spaces make us feel better and more resilient to stress. Studies show that when people are recovering in hospital, if they can see a tree outside their window, they get better more quickly than those who can’t. And it is reported that trees cut crime and anti-social activity.

With a world urbanising fast, and most of us now living in cities rather than in rural places, it is inevitable that green space is increasingly being occupied by development. Tree planting is an important part of development plans, not only for all the reasons laid out above, but also because as the temperatures each summer rise, we need trees to cool our cities. Trees shade our offices, homes, car parks and streets by breaking up the heat traps generated by concrete and by releasing water vapour into the air through their leaves.

Since our first planting event we have planted nearly 200 trees with community and residential groups and members of the public in five locations in Godalming. And in the next planting season, from October 2017 until April 2018, we would like to plant many more than that. So if you would like to get involved in our community tree planting, get in touch. We work with councils, schools, community groups, housing associations and businesses. We tailor our workshops to suit the participants and plant in housing areas, on private land, with any age, and any group who are enthusiastic about making a positive difference to the local environment.

There is a Chinese proverb I like: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now!”

This blog was first published on Action Surrey’s community blog