Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Loving the Local Media

Each neighbourhood has it's own character (and characters) and a uniqueness that makes it special. And fortunately Crown Point (like the Keith Neighbourhood last year) has it's own local paper. The Point was kind enough to grant the Street Tree Project space to publicize our work in the area, and there it is, in black and white! Thanks everyone who helps OPIRG McMaster make a positive contribution!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kids and Trees: A Growing Friendship

Kids like trees. There are some adults who like trees just as much, and some adults who point out that sometimes kids are a bit rough and end up hurting baby trees, but nevertheless kids really love trees! I can attribute at least a few of the requests we've gathered, not to mention some really good "maybe"s, to some of the neighbourhood's youngest residents.  It might be partially due to the fact that parents and other adults try to weigh the long-term pros and cons of having a tree; whereas most people under the age of ten just seem to think how fun or pretty a tree in the yard would be.

It's been about a decade since I was ten years old, but I feel like sometimes my thinking isn't all that different; so I can only imagine if someone came to my door offering a tree I'd immediately picture myself hanging off branches, or swinging from a tire tied from a rope to sturdy limbs covered in pretty leaves that rustle when it's windy and give my play-space some nice shade in the middle of the summer....Needless to say, I think the ultimate decision of whether we get a tree in our front lawn would probably not be left up to me!

But sometimes, you need that enthusiasm! There are lots of wonderful things that come from trees. Besides a jungle-gym in your front lawn, trees provide oxygen, they reduce the cost of cooling your house, and increase your property values. Many adults immediately think of potential root problems (which realistically would take decades to arise and even then only if the tree happens to be planted too close to your house or your pipes). With a ten-year-old pressuring them to request a tree, and even offering to take responsibility and water the sapling when it's first planted, I think a lot of the parents start to try a bit harder to look for some of the perks a tree in the yard might bring, or at least a good enough reason to be able to justify saying no. And when you think about it, there ARE lots of perks to having a tree! So lots of parents DO decide to request a tree!

One young gentleman in particular who I came across last week was really committed to getting a tree in his front lawn. We first met when I was about to go up the front steps of what turned out to be his friend's house while canvassing. He was about to go up the same steps, and we both stopped in front of the house to uncomfortably look at each other until one of us decided to knock first. He might have been about seven years old, was wearing a black polo shirt tucked into his black shorts, with a white dust that looked like it must have come off a powdered donut around his mouth and all over the front of his outfit. He had pretty fair features, and big eyes that looked like they took up the majority of his face when he looked up at me through his big glasses, until I finally said "You first."
"Ok", he told me, "Are you here to talk to my friend?". As he knocked and waited for a reply I explained that I was hoping to talk to his friend's parents, and told him a bit about the Street Tree Project.
"You should come to my house and give my mom a tree!" he said enthusiastically.
I told him I was trying to get houses in order, and might have been by his place already since it was on a street I didn't have notes with me for on that day.

When his friend didn't get the door, he moved out of the way of the front steps and turned to tell me it was my turn. So I knocked too, and I guess whoever lived there wasn't avoiding my new friend directly because they didn't come to the door for me either. We decided they were probably out, and after introducing ourselves properly and shaking hands, my young friend decided to walk me in the direction of his home so that I could speak to his mother. He told me they'd just sold their house (another indication that there was maybe no point in trying to convince his mom to request a tree, since they weren't going to live there much longer) and that they were going to move to Hamilton's west end. I informed him that I also live in the west end, and I think that was the moment our new friendship was solidified. I don't think I've ever met anyone who's reacted so happily to hearing I'll be living in the same half of the city as them!
When we got to about two houses away from his, he pointed to where he lived, said bye quickly, and ran off. I remember doing the same when I was younger if I was ever outside around dinner time and knew that the moment my mom saw me would signal an end to playtime for the day.

I walked up his front steps and knocked on his house door, a little hesitant because I already knew what the answer would be, and also because I was fairly certain I had already spoken with his mom and received a "No, thank you" some days before. But I'd promised him that I'd ask, so I did.
His mom got the door, and I reintroduced myself and told her that her son had sent me. She laughed and explained that they wouldn't be able to ask for a tree because they'd just sold the house, but thanked me for stopping by.

The rest of the day carried on well, but fairly uneventfully. Meeting my new little friend was a wonderful experience and probably the highlight of my canvassing thus far! It reminded me again that trees and kids really do go well together, and left me hoping to bump into him again, maybe next time in the west end of the city.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Poem About Air Pollution, From Nose

Written by Anna Kulesza

Walking in the area surrounding Dofasco and US Steel. Coming from Main Street it smelt very surreal.
Usually it is love, that’s in the air. But the scent of pizza was surely not there.
 Most days walking North it smells very normal. But as soon as I passed Barton Street it smelt very awful.
 It was a wave of foul burning smells. I thought, “What’s going to happen to my organelles”
This time, I did not want to “follow my nose.” Because at this rate, there were no pros.
Having no real ability in order see. I asked eyes what that smell could be.
They concluded that it might be coming from the smoke stacks. I thought “What they are doing behind our backs.”
I can smell it, I can see it, but I don’t really know. What the chemical compounds do to Earths natural glow.
Not only the glow, but also me. What will Hamilton’s future health be?
We have green space but we need some more. So plant a tree that you will adore.
It will clean our air. Get the smoke out from our hair.
And the lovely tree will smell great for me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trees Save Energy

Trees save you money and reduce waste by reducing heating and cooling costs (amongst many other things)! If you're interested in learning more about the savings trees provide, and using a Tree Benefits estimator to see how trees can benefit your own home, go to:

When It Got To Be Less About The Trees And More About The People

In my last post I was talking about how wonderful it is that the StreetTree project is bringing so many communities together. Well I'm going to continue talking about that a little more in this post because I'm incredibly excited about yet another community-bridging event as we're tagging along with the fundraiser breakfast for the Perkin's Center to give away trees this coming Saturday! The Perkins Center will be having a breakfast fundraiser June 14 starting at 9am at the Perkins Center (beside the McMaster ARCH) on Main and Kenilworth. The StreetTree project will be joining them with a table set up to collect tree requests in exchange for cute-as-a-button buttons! Come get a tree, volunteer with us, or even stop by for breakfast and a "hello"!(look here for more info:

Volunteers (l to r) Meghan, Josh and Elizabeth
We're excited for an event where we might get to reach a larger portion of the Crown Point community, but we're also really happy with how the door-to-door canvassing is going! We've had even more volunteers out last week and have volunteers lined up for this week. We have gotten to know quite a few people in the McAnulty Ave. neighbourhood, and I'm so grateful for it! I feel as though every resident who comes to the door and spends their precious time speaking to us about trees, air pollution, their community, their gardens, the things that bother them, and what it is they love about their homes, just makes my day a thousand times over! When canvassing, one of the wonderful people we got to meet was Maria, a McAnulty local who's 90 years old (but doesn't look a day over 65!) and has lived there many many years. Maria owns a beautiful corner house with a lovely garden and plenty of gorgeous trees surrounding it. She told us about how she moved to Hamilton many years ago from Switzerland. She told us about how much she loves Canada and Hamilton and the place where she lives. She told us how her and her husband planted every one of those trees in their yard when they first built the house. We had some really lovely chats, and Maria even extended an invitation for coffee next time we go by.

Josh knocking on doors
Volunteer Anna (keep an eye out for a hilarious blog post from her soon!)
Many others are similarly welcoming. For example, Edna and Ron, who live on McAnulty, we met just by chance. Their lawn is paved, so at first we were going to just walk by, but since the two of them were sitting on their front porch we decided to let them know what we were up to in the neighbourhood. It's a great thing we did because not only are they a pleasure to bump into whenever we're around, but they also referred us to their next door neighbour, as well as their son a few doors down, both of whom requested trees! Edna and Ron also requested a tree for the boulevard in front of their street.
It really is a wonderful neighbourhood, and I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend there. One of our survey questions (we bring around a survey with our tree request forms) asks about neighbourhood issues, specifically if residents think that a lack of green space or air pollution are problems, and what other problems might exist. When I asked one resident that question she replied by telling me that she really loves that neighbourhood; she was saying, "A lot of people think there's nothing but industry North of Center Mall, it's like they forget we're here, this neighbourhood is a nice haven".

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Communities Coming Together

Last Friday we had our first group-canvassing day with volunteers for the StreetTree project. We had people come out from McMaster, Crown Point, Environment Hamilton and the general Hamilton population, including one of the cutest kids that one of our volunteers brought along!

Our evening started at 5pm at the McMaster Action Research Center Hamilton (ARCH) on Main and Kenilworth. Nervous, excited and eager to make a good impression on anyone who would be coming canvassing with us, I made sure to get there early and try to "set up" whatever I could. The ARCH is a great space! There are whiteboards and markers and flipcharts, and different kinds of tables and chairs, a washroom, and even a microwave. It was the ideal place to get things going for our group! Of course though, there wasn't really too much to set up when the purpose of the get-together was to head straight out and go door-to-door.
The whole ARCH space is bigger than I could take a picture of!
Desperate for something to do while I waited, and eager to use the whiteboards, I thought, "Well, at least I'll draw a map of the McAnulty neighbourhood". I put some spreadsheets and surveys in the clipboards, and as I was trying to put down some notes on the whiteboard, our first two volunteers, Elizabeth and Eulene, arrived! I'd met Elizabeth at the Crown Point community meeting the week before, and was happy to meet Eulene, a McMaster student, just that day. Not long after, Jay arrived with Joy from Environment Hamilton, and Momena, who works for the Hamilton Police.
Meeting at the ARCH

When we'd all gathered and briefly introduced ourselves, we went through a brief orientation, explaining the Street Tree project, the papers we would be bringing around, and what we were to say at the doors. Then, armed with clipboards, the volunteers set out in pairs to collect Street Tree requests. They did a fantastic job! We finalized requests from homes that had previously demonstrated interest and even managed to round up some new ones. By about 7:30, we'd been down quite a few streets, and everyone had gotten a chance to get to know some of the residents of the McAnulty Ave. area a little bit more.
L to R: Momena, Joy and Elizabeth
Saturday morning was our second day out in a group. I took the bus out to McAnulty along with Souzan, one of McMaster's Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter co-presidents for next school year. We met at the corner of McAnulty and Kenilworth, with Elizabeth and Rebecca (the Community Developer for Crown Point) and again did some quick intros and set off canvassing. We were joined soon after we started by Barb, from McAnulty Ave. and had a very successful day out.

Overall, I think things went fantastic. The weather held up quite nicely, and the residents of the McAnulty Blvd. area were welcoming  and wonderful. Barb's next door neighbour even gave me some plant trimmings from his garden to try to grow at my house. What made me happiest, wasn't even the Street Tree requests we were racking up, but the fact that the project was able to act as a bridge between people from so many different communities in Hamilton. Already, Elizabeth invited us to help with the Pipeline Trail project, and Souzan was brainstorming community involvement events with McMaster students from EWB and the communities we're working in. We'll be going canvassing again this week, starting tomorrow, with more volunteers. Some that we met last week and some brand new ones, and I'm incredibly excited to see everyone and also watch some new partnerships and friendships form. 

As always, if you're interested in joining us, don't hesitate to email me at for more infomration about how you can get involved.