From plastic bags to new trees, one nickel at a time

Above: From left, Steve Glassman, director of  bookstore, printing & mail services; Tim Haagsma, manager, grounds, fleet & waste management; student Jonathan De Serres; John Wilson, manager mail services; students Radhika Gupta,  Zubayer Rifat, Ruida Lu and Jigar Sarang

Spirits were high as about a dozen or so participants, many associated with York’s Save the Children organization, continued the York Arbour Day tradition. Led by tree enthusiast John Wilson, manger of York’s mail services, the volunteers assembled around Stong Pond and the Arboretum to add plant material donated by the York University Bookstore.

Steve Glassman and Tim HaagsmaLeft: Steven Glassman (front) of sponsor York Bookstore digs as Tim Haagsma supervises

“The York University Bookstore is pleased to sponsor York’s Arbour day with the use of funds collected from plastic bags,” said Steven Glassman, director, bookstore, printing & mail services. “The plantings will improve our local environment, both for water and soil conservation in the wetland around Stong Pond, and for improved air quality through the tree plantings in the Arboretum.”

This year’s event focused on two goals: planting additional trees and shrubs to fill in some of the sparser areas around the Stong storm water retention pond, and establishing vegetation in the bio swales on Ian Macdonald Boulevard, Arboretum Lane and The Pond Road. Collectively this included planting 500 perennials and approximately 100 trees and shrubs.

Glassman’s unit provided funding for the plant material through proceeds acquired from the five-cent charge for plastic shopping bags in the bookstore, mandated by the City of Toronto. Retailers are required to collect a nickel for each bag and are encouraged to use the proceeds to help promote local environmental or community-based initiatives.

A strong advocate of sustainability, Glassman was determined to have the funds used to enhance the York environment, and was delighted to be able to support the Arbour Day projects.

As in past years, the event culminated with a ceremonial planting and photo opportunity for those who took part.

Above: Student volunteers help plant new trees near Calumet College

The ceremonial planting also provided an opportunity for the group to discuss the benefits of our urban forest and threats to it. According to the results of a recent urban forest study conducted by York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, York’s urban forest contains approximately 97,000 trees, with an estimated value of $60 million. Collectively these trees remove almost 12 metric tonnes of pollutants from the air each year and sequester 32 metric tonnes of carbon.

“Those are impressive numbers. Stirling Morton would have been proud,” said Wilson, referring to the journalist founder of Arbor Day in the US.

Morton moved to Nebraska from Detroit and was immediately taken by the lack of trees. He decided that setting aside a designated day every year to focus on tree planting would be a solution and the first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872. Within 10 years, Arbor Day was a nationwide tradition with each state holding the celebration on different dates according to the best tree-planting times.

Now Arbour Day is observed in countries all over the world and, as in the United States, is timed according to the growing seasons.