Shade for Everyone: Tree Equity Score Impact Team Launches Toolkit for Property Owners

May 15, 2024
Environmental Sustainability Team

Arizonans take pride in our ability to cope with our extreme summers. “It’s a dry heat” and “You don’t have to shovel sunshine” are common catch phrases. But last summer, the state broke a number of heat records. For 31 consecutive days in July, the max temperature broke 110 degrees and over 600 people died of heat-related causes in Maricopa County. In July alone, 13 people died per day, and the total deaths was more than the number of homicides in all of Arizona last year.

Arizona is getting hotter and hotter, but this issue doesn’t impact Arizonans equally. Many neighborhoods in Phoenix are blessed with abundant tree cover, keeping temperatures cooler and the air cleaner. However, other neighborhoods lack this vital infrastructure. Yes, tree cover is infrastructure, and all communities should have equal access to shade. 

Trees can help lower temperatures by as much as seven degrees during the day and 22 degrees at night, but this benefit is not distributed equally. Across the United States, neighborhoods that are majority residents of color have 33% less tree canopy than neighborhoods with majority white residents. Neighborhoods with 90% residents in poverty have 41% less tree canopy than neighborhoods with less than 10% of residents in poverty.

Valley Leadership’s Tree Equity Score Impact Team is working to address this issue. We’ve partnered with American Forests to use their Tree Equity Score tools to identify the neighborhoods in the City of Phoenix in most need of additional trees. 

Many cities and towns in Arizona are working to plant more trees, but the amount of land and rights of way available for cities to use for tree planting is minimal. Encouraging more private property owners, particularly business owners, to plant trees on their own properties and potentially fund plantings in underserved areas is vital to addressing this issue.

Our Impact Team has developed the Tree Equity Score Initiative Toolkit that outlines the need for private property owners to help in this effort and provides resources and information on how businesses can be part of the solution. The toolkit is available in English and Spanish.

The toolkit provides information on appropriate tree species for Arizona’s climate, tips on tree maintenance, and potential organizational partners to support tree plantings. Additionally, it outlines grant programs available from the City of Phoenix’s Office of Heat Prevention and Mitigation  and future updates will include program information from additional cities.

The Tree Equity Score Team will be using the toolkit to jump start conversations with business owners in low tree equity score neighborhoods. The team will look to support interested companies with planning, logistics, funding, and organizing tree plantings. We’re piloting this work in South Phoenix in the neighborhood around Harmon Park.

Tree equity is a critical component of helping Arizona adapt to rising temperatures. This is a long-term investment designed to make all of our neighborhoods more habitable for decades to come.

You can learn more about our initiative by watching our latest video, reading more about our team or by filling out this form to speak to a team member about supporting this effort.