Houston’s Board of Education approved this partnership earlier this year. Barry Ward is executive director of Trees for Houston. He says in the past, the nonprofit was trying to plant trees well after campuses were built, which didn’t make financial sense for the district or Trees for Houston.
“The synergy we found is that if we get in on the ground floor, if you will, when they are building these campuses, HISD can very affordably provide irrigation. If they do so, and if they design in good adequate sustainable trees and greenery into these campuses, not only can they do that affordably early in this construction process, we can then provide the trees for free.”
Landscaping around schools was largely seen as aesthetic, but now we live in an era when energy conservation and conservation of resources is seen as a necessity.
Ward says sustainable green infrastructure, like trees, makes a lot of sense.
“There’s really good data, demonstrating that a few well placed trees around a structure can save anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your power bill. Well in Houston, those numbers go up even further. And in a space as large as an elementary school for example, with carefully planted well selected species, you can save significant amounts of money on every single school you have.”
Once the trees mature, Ward says multiply the savings district wide, the money saved over a period of time is in the millions of dollars. But the aesthetic benefit per school is priceless, when you consider:
“The sense of place, the particulate matter that is now reduced in the air around these schools, cleaner air. The ambient air temperature in the surrounding environs are gonna be 4 to 5 degrees cooler now, because of these plantings. So there’s every reason to do this, and remembering that all of these benefits are coming while you’re saving money.”
Trees for Houston will deliver a variety of drought tolerant trees and volunteers will put them in the ground.