Over the past decade, dozens of shovel-wielding residents from the Langley, B.C. area have gathered for a few hours – typically on a weekend in September or October – in publicly accessible green spaces.
Their goal: To plant hundreds of trees and shrubs that have been chosen carefully by habitat restoration experts to support local ecosystems and biodiversity.
“It’s a great way to spend the day – I mean, who doesn’t love planting trees?” says Nichole Marples, Executive Director at Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) – the non-profit group that’s been organizing the annual tree-planting day since 2013.
“We get at least 50 volunteers at this event each year, and they have a super fun time engaging with the environment and knowing they’re doing something that will really make a difference.”
Langley’s tree-planting days also get a big boost from an important supporter. Through TD Tree Days – the flagship program of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation – LEPS receives funding to purchase the trees, prepare the area, and host the event for volunteers.
Another big benefit from the LEPS’ collaboration with TD? Getting hands-on, dig-in-the-dirt support from volunteer TD employees in the Langley area.
“Our event is promoted to TD employees,” says Marples. “Pretty much each year, a significant majority of our tree-planting volunteers are TD employees, and they come with their families and friends. Some come every year and have become part of our core group of volunteers.”
TD Tree Days events are ultimately funded by the Bank through its global corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment (which supports TD FEF), and therefore helps contribute to the Bank’s goal of elevating the quality of the environment to help people and economies thrive.
“We are thankful we get to work with local organizations, like LEPS, who have the expertise to enhance green spaces and build stronger, more resilient communities,” says Carolyn Scotchmer, Executive Director, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.
“We rely on local support and knowledge from the community to help ensure the right tree is planted in the right place at the right time – it's part of our goal to help support initiatives stewarding public green spaces.”
Helping to maintain biodiversity through careful site and plant selection
LEPS is among the many environmental and community groups – including municipalities, conservation groups and Indigenous communities – across Canada and within the Bank’s U.S. footprint that come together for TD Tree Days events, which support the TD goal of planting one million trees and shrubs by 2030. To date, more than 40,000 volunteers have picked up a shovel and planted a tree – or two or more – as part of these events.
At LEPS, a big focus in tree planting is strategic site and plant selection. Marples says LEPS works closely with Langley township to identify which parks or forest areas need more trees and shrubs, and what varieties make sense in these spaces.
“We always take a look at the trees that are already growing in the area and consider how we can help maintain a healthy biodiversity,” explains Marples. “We also look at how much space there is to fill. For example, a cottonwood tree could be ideal in a large space – they grow very fast and very large.”
LEPS also considers how much work it would take to manage certain types of trees and shrubs and what type of habitat these plants would provide. Flowering trees, for instance, would grow to become homes for hummingbirds and bumblebees.
“So, we would want to plant those trees where animals and people can enjoy them but not necessarily have to worry about someone accidentally walking up against it and getting stung by a bee,” says Marples.
A day of fun – and learning
People who come for a TD Tree Days event in Langley do more than dig a hole and place a young tree or shrub into the ground. Part of the day is spent learning about the environment and how trees and shrubs provide so many benefits for communities. One thing people often don’t realize, Marple adds, is how important trees and shrubs are in keeping our water clean and safe.
“Trees and plants create barriers that prevent polluted waters from entering our watersheds and water systems,” says Marples. “That’s why we often pick places that have streams. We feel that, ecologically speaking, planting in these sites gives us the best bang for our buck.”
To date, LEPS has planted thousands of trees and shrubs across at least four dozen species as part of TD Tree Days events. To illustrate the impact of TD Tree Days, Marples points to an area along the Salmon River that had been overtaken by reed canary grass – an invasive species that was threatening the creatures and animals that lived there.
“We’ve planted more than a thousand trees in that one site alone and when you go there today, you’ll see how big our trees have grown,” says Marples. “Having the trees there has also increased the amount of vegetation in the area, which has supported more habitation.”
With each passing year, and with every TD Tree Days event, Marples feels encouraged by how many people seem to understand the role trees and shrubs play in protecting the environment, and why planting more trees and shrubs matters.
She sees first-time volunteers who are initially baffled by the tree-planting process – should they remove the plastic cover from the roots before putting the sapling in the ground? – but leave with a commitment to plant trees in their own backyards.
“In a way, TD Tree Days is about helping people rediscover and reconnect with nature,” says Marples. “We’re super appreciative of all the support from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation that allows us to bring these local volunteers together to do something great for the environment.”