Bristol City Council is the latest local authority to join the Trees for Streets National Street Tree Sponsorship Scheme, which aims to plant thousands of trees in streets and parks across the city.
Trees for Streets is part of the urban tree charity Trees for Cities, funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and City Bridge Trust.
This “Tech for Good” project uses technology to empower people and makes it easy for residents and organisations to get involved in greening their communities.
“Trees for Streets enables people to make a difference to the world immediately on their doorstep, by working together with their local council,” says Project Director Simon Linstead.
“It’s fantastic to have Bristol on board as our newest partner, and we hope to inspire and empower the local community to take a leading role in greening the streets of their city.”
But how exactly does it work? The scheme aims to fund the planting of more than 250,000 additional street trees nationwide over the next 10 years, by hosting online tree sponsorship schemes on behalf of local councils and delivering local promotion and engagement activity to bring these schemes to life.
Essentially, in terms of using technology for good, the Trees for Streets online app makes it easy for anyone to sponsor a tree in their neighbourhood by making a request to their local council, empowering people to take an active role in greening their streets.
The sponsor can choose from any one of over 1,000 pre-approved locations, or request a new location.
“This is a brand new part of it, so if you have a grass verge, you can request for the council to put a tree in that grass verge,” says Mr Linstead. “We are hoping to open up a lot of new locations in verges or empty tree pits.”
In this case, the council then checks the suitability of the chosen location, and makes arrangements to plant a tree the following winter: the best time to plant young trees to ensure they grow and thrive.
In order to go about sponsoring and planting a tree in Bristol, go to the Trees for Streets website and visit Bristol’s tree sponsorship page. From here, you can choose from one of over 1,000 pre-approved locations across the city on a map, or suggest a spot in a grass verge in your street or neighbourhood.
But what is so good about street trees? “Of late, we’ve seen a lot of focus on trees and planting trees to create woodland and forestry, but street trees are lagging behind,” continues Mr Linstead.
“Partly because they are taken for granted and because they are tricky and expensive to plant. But, they soak up carbon, pollutants and they produce oxygen. In the street setting, there is a pollution factor, so by planting them on busy roads is a great effect.
“Cities also have a lot of hard surfaces and can get pretty hot, so the trees on streets can really cool it down. We want to have the cooling woodland effect on streets, so that you can walk under a beautiful canopy to walk under.”
Another big factor is the benefits trees and nature can have on mental health, too. “There is lots of research to say that trees benefit you mentally,” says Mr Linstead.
“Cars also drive slower on tree-lined streets as it seems to give drivers cues that its a civilised space and a careful human space. There are also studies to say that trees on streets helps crime, too.”
Joining the Trees for Streets national scheme builds on existing work by Bristol City Council as it responds to the climate and ecological emergencies. It’s one of the strategies the council is using to make the city greener, more liveable and a place where nature can thrive.
“People are really enthusiastic in Bristol and people feel it’s a good direction fo travel for the City Council to go in,” says Mr Linstead. “The Council is in the midst of developing a treet strategy and we are one part of that.
“The messages going out in Bristol is that we are going in a good direction and, in this space, the more you do, the more momentum you get.”
With Bristol such a green city, Mr Linstead and his team are hopeful of how well the project will take off with residents.
“We are already seeing people sponsoring trees through the platform and suggesting some new locations and we’ve only just started,” he says. “We’ve also had businesses putting their hands in their pockets.”