Planting a tree in a city constitutes a genuine civic contribution. Whether on your own parking strip, in a local park or as part of an overall city environmental program, a tree creates shade, beauty and pollution control as few other objects can. Cities offer a variety of tree planting programs, from do-it-yourself to let-us-do-it to special community days. Add a tree to your city, encourage others to do so, and enjoy the results.
Begin civic improvement in front of your own house. The City of Seattle, for example, encourages residents to plant trees on their parking strips, technically city property between the sidewalk and street. Its program requires a free permit and site inspection by an arborist. You are responsible for choosing, planting and maintaining the tree in perpetuity. (This means, for example, you are responsible for removing a sick or dying tree and for trimming branches that may interfere with overhead electrical wiring.) You choose the tree (there is a short list of prohibited trees), plant it, and enjoy it. Seattle's program, as an example, is run by its City Department of Transportation; in other cities, you may need to contact the Environmental Department, Parks Department or even the Department of Public Works. Some cities offer help in obtaining and planting trees.
Look for public-private partnership groups that team up a local nonprofit organization with city departments. The MillionTreesNYC organization is partnered with the City Parks Department and New York Restoration. Working together, the partners create awareness and service events, support tree planting on public and private property, train young people in arborist skills, and fund tree planting.
Seek out urban forest projects in your community. The City of San Jose City Forest program is part of its overall city-greening campaign, involving businesses, government agencies, and individuals. It holds tree sales and plants trees at schools and in parks.
Start a tree-planting program with the assistance of the National Arbor Day Foundation and the USDA Forest Service. Your goal is to make your city a Tree City USA, and your community will be grateful for your efforts.