As cities around the world grapple with the challenges of urbanization, many are turning to nature-based solutions to create more livable, sustainable communities. Here in Philadelphia, the city has taken an ambitious step forward with the Philly Tree Plan, an initiative aimed at increasing the city’s tree canopy cover and enhancing the benefits that trees provide to residents and the environment.
Launched in 2020, the Philly Tree Plan sets out to increase tree canopy in the city to 30% by 2030. This increase in tree coverage is expected to bring a wide range of benefits, including improved air and water quality, reduced stormwater runoff, and a reduction in the urban heat island effect. ESI quantified these benefits and here is what we found:
Achieving the desired tree canopy goal is no small feat. It requires a coordinated effort from city officials, community organizations, and residents to plant, care for, and maintain the forestry that will form the backbone of a more sustainable city. To this end, the Philly Tree Plan includes a range of strategies to make tree planting and maintenance a citywide priority. One approach is to work with community organizations and volunteers to plant and care for trees in public spaces, such as parks, streets, and sidewalks. By engaging with local residents and community groups, the city can tap into the expertise and passion of those who are most invested in the health and well-being of their neighborhoods.
In addition, the Philly Tree Plan offers incentives for property owners to plant and care for trees on their land. This not only helps to expand the city’s tree canopy coverage but empowers residents to take an active role in creating a more environmentally-focused, livable city. Finally, the Philly Tree Plan seeks to integrate tree planting and maintenance into city planning and development projects. By prioritizing trees as a key component of urban infrastructure, the city can ensure that they are a central part of the city’s growth and development, not an afterthought.
The tens of thousands of jobs created by the Philly Tree Plan would include numerous potential employment opportunities for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree. These workers would be eligible for various direct employment opportunities related to the Plan, including numerous public-sector tree care and customer service positions. In addition, contracting work associated with the Plan could be used to support new or existing Minority, Woman, or Disabled-Owned Business Enterprises (MWDSBEs) in Philadelphia. This is a critically important opportunity in a majority-minority city where diversity, equity, and inclusion in the private sector is a core concern.
The Philly Tree Plan represents a bold, forward-thinking approach to urban sustainability that puts nature at the center of city planning and development. By sowing the seeds of a greener, more sustainable city, Philadelphia is creating a brighter future for all of its residents.
Melissa Wright, Associate Director
Melissa is a former director at ESI. Prior to her time at the firm, she worked for Teach for America as the Director of Performance Measurement and Evaluation. Ms. Wright currently serves as Senior Director for Data and Policy with The City of Philadelphia Commerce Department’s Office of Economic Opportunity.