Giving back in green

SHS tree drive will return for a second year and provide many benefits

Green Earth Society members sort through trees to hand out in front of SHS on May 6, 2022. photo contributed by English teacher Paige Wyatt

Green Earth Society members sort through trees to hand out in front of SHS on May 6, 2022. photo contributed by English teacher Paige Wyatt

Two years ago, the company Tree-Plenish contacted environmental science teacher Rachel Brunsell with a proposition. They offered to provide free trees to SHS if the school wanted to have their own community tree drive. Of course, the answer was yes.

“They contacted me two years ago to say ‘Hey, Carmel High School did this, do you want to do this too?’” Brunsell said.

Returning for a second year, the SHS community tree drive has many benefits for students and the environment alike.

The main goal of the community tree drive is to give away tree saplings to community members, while also helping to offset the environmental effects of each participating school. For each drive, Tree-Plenish provides each school with a certain amount of free trees. This year, SHS received 170 free trees, less than last year’s 240.

“We have fewer trees to give away, that’s because Tree-Plenish … had more schools participate this year than they did last year,” Green Earth Society sponsor Paige Wyatt said. “So they had to spread them out a little bit more.”

During each drive, SHS attempts to sell a certain amount of trees to replace some of their tree use for that year. Last year, SHS gave away 240 trees, which replaced the amount of paper the school used in a year. This year, the goal is to sell 303 trees, which will absorb a quarter of the carbon dioxide that is emitted from the school’s electricity use.

Since SHS only received 170 free trees, the trees will cost $5 after the 170 free ones have been given away. As of March 8, SHS has given away 185 trees, so they now cost $5. Anyone who wants to buy a tree has until April 6.

To give away these trees, members from the Green Earth Society club and students from Brunsell’s environmental science classes provide advertisement and manpower.

“We use those trees and give them out to the community,” Wyatt said, “in hopes that they will plant them and it will offset some of our energy use and our paper use that we have at school.”

On May 6, people who have ordered their trees through the online link come to SHS to pick them up. Then, they are responsible for planting the trees themselves, wherever they may want. GES members and students that are available help with the tree pickup, providing helping hands and instruction to new tree owners.

“You do have to bundle them up, and attach the tags to them, and kinda go over the care instructions for how to plant and water your tree,” Wyatt said. “So, there’s a little bit of prep work involved.”

There are three types of trees to choose from: eastern redbud, flowering dogwood and sugar maple. These species are all native to Indiana.

Although these trees will look like sticks when distributed, these saplings will become trees within a few years.

“The dogwood is one of the first ones to bloom, redbud has some pretty pink flowers, and then the sugar maple is just gorgeous in the fall-time,” Brunsell said.

The beauty of these trees is what prompted Office Manager Alicia Tasker to get sugar maple tree saplings from the school this year. Since some of her trees have had to be cut down, she’s taking this opportunity to replant them.

“We like to sit outside so it just makes it prettier, and it just secludes you off a little bit from your neighbors,” Tasker said. “Plus, you get all the animals that like to climb in them and sit on them, and in some of our trees, we get owls and stuff.”

Attracting and providing shelter for animals is just one of the many benefits planting trees has on the environment. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, provide oxygen and help water soak into the ground instead of washing into the ocean.

These effects are especially important in Indiana’s environment. According to Brunsell, there are less chemicals in Indiana’s water when there are more trees, since trees reduce stormwater runoff.

“Trees are amazing,” Brunsell said. “They are homes to animals, (and) they provide shade. (They have) lots of benefits.”

Although the tree drive has many benefits for the environment, it also benefits the students that help with it.

Since the tree pickup is on a Saturday, not every student is able to help out. But, according to junior and GES member Manprit Kaur, the experience is beneficial to those who do. This opportunity, she says, gives student leaders the chance to help create change.

“I think the benefits of the tree planting go along the lines of gaining that hands-on experience to create a meaningful environmental impact on our community,” Kaur said. 

According to Kaur, lots of students take environmental science at SHS, and she feels they don’t get much hands-on experience. She feels that this is an opportunity for them. 

But Kaur also feels this drive is especially important for GES members with it being their main event of the year, and she isn’t the only one who shares this feeling. 

“On Fridays we recycle, but that’s it,” junior and GES member Mang Dim said. “That’s the only activity that we do outside of school.”

Both Brunsell and Wyatt expect this year’s drive to have the same amount of interest as last year, even though it is a little different. The amount of trees they want to give away is higher, although they have a lower supply of free trees.

Even once there are no free trees left to give away, Brunsell and Wyatt are not worried about lack of consumers. They agree that $5 is very inexpensive for a tree, and a good investment for the future.

According to Brunsell, a higher goal for this year’s drive means they need an increase in promotion. But, she still expects this year’s event to go smoother than last year’s.

“We learned a few what-to-do and what-not-to-do’s last year, so I think it’ll just run a little bit smoother,” Brunsell said.

Brunsell and Wyatt hope to continue this drive into the future. Next year, Brunsell believes they will attempt to have students actually plant the saplings for people in Perry Township, which might result in even more consumer interest.

For however long this event may continue and with whatever changes it may face, the positives it has had and will have on the SHS community are undeniable.

“If we can give back to the people around us, then it’s always a positive thing for our school,” Wyatt said.