SHEBOYGAN — The Sheboygan North High School Environmental Club held a tree collection and home planting event to commemorate Earth Day on April 22nd.
The organization sold about 100 red maple, nannyberry and flowering dogwood seedlings in partnership with Tree-Plenish, an environmental nonprofit that empowers youth to start sustainable schools and communities.
The goal was to sell 300 seedlings, but David Miller, biology and botany teacher and club advisor at North, said, “In my view, 100 trees is better than no trees.”
“It’s good to try to balance paper use and energy use,” he added.
Given the big snowfalls when orders were due in March, Miller said people may not have been thinking about spring.
Trees clean the air, stabilize the soil and increase the quality of life.
Trees are essential actors in community health, providing services such as soil stabilization, air purification and flood protection. They are also critical to animal and plant habitats, water quality and carbon dioxide uptake.
Tree cover near a home can also increase its value and reduce energy bills by providing shade in the summer and warmth from the sun in the winter.
Miller added that the term “biophilia,” or the human desire to interact with or spend time in nature, is unique to trees.
“Very few organisms convey that feeling (to humans) than trees,” he said.
Regeneration of Sheboygans trees
Only about 30% to 40% of the county’s original tree cover remains as a result of historic industrialization and agriculture, Miller said.
Trees have also been devastated by invasive species such as Dutch elm disease in the 1960s and 1970s and the emerald ash borer in recent years.
Several groups are working to increase the tree population, many in response to the emerald ash borer destroying ash swaths in the area.
According to the 2021 Green Tier Report, the Department of Public Works treated more than 800 ash trees with insecticides and removed about 740 ash trees. It also removed nearly 300 dead, dying, or dangerous trees and planted about 4,330 small trees and shrubs between Maywood and Estuary Parks.
The department also commissioned the planting of 480 trees in 2020, funded by city funds, Community Development Block Grant funds, a grant from 100 Friends of Wisconsin and the US Forest Service, and donations from local Rotary clubs.
The Sheboygan County Annual Tree and Shrub Sale Program, operated by the Department of Planning and Conservation since 1999, has also made efforts to restore tree cover and has sold more than 1 million trees, according to its website.
Local action for the next generation
North’s environmental club is still in its infancy, but Miller said the students who have joined are “worried about tomorrow.”
“There’s a lot of instant gratification among youngsters,” he said. “There’s a lot of ‘I care today’ and I want to eat this sugary treat. I want to drink this soda.”
“But they have (a) more far-sighted view. … They appear to have invested heavily in the future.”
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has consistently called for global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent planetary warming, warning of the threats to sustainable living if global heat spikes to 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius .
Tackling environmental issues like climate change can be overwhelming.
Dana Yedica, a North High School junior and co-president of the environmental club, uses her work to bring the community together around larger environmental issues like climate change.
“We have to realize that even if it seems like a very big problem, there are things we can do,” Yedica said. “There are small things we can do every day to make a difference and I think that’s what people need to learn.”
The Environment Club has run a variety of environmental projects this year, including weekly autumn rubbish collection, plastic bottle recycling for plant owners and a plastic bag drive that raised more than £700.
Last year they also sold 150 tree seedlings at the first sale and held a Sole4Souls campaign for recycled shoes.
Isaac Brashaw, North High junior and co-president of the environmental club, said working on environmental issues is “important because our environment is where we live in the world”.
“If we don’t deal with it now, it will only get worse in the future,” he said.
More partnerships and projects could happen next year
Next year, Yedica said she would like the club to partner with local organizations like ROOTS (Restoring Our Sheboygan Trees), a collaboration between the Sheboygan Rotary Club and the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, on environmental projects.
Brashaw added he wants to focus on improving North’s recycling, something they have already discussed with the school administration.
The environmental club could also take over a beach with the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, do group outings like hikes, and host an e-waste drive, Miller said.
He added he would like to see the club relaunch the plastic bag campaign and build a larger membership base.
Upcoming sale of plants to benefit the charity club, botany department
To continue the effort, next month the Environment Club and North Greenhouse will host their annual plant sale at the school-wide Fine Arts EXPO event, which is the largest fundraiser for the botany department and club.
Proceeds will be used to purchase greenhouse supplies, shrubs and trees for school grounds, and supplies for growing Meals on Wheels seedlings.
A variety of herbs and vegetables, houseplants and flower baskets will be on display on May 5 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., May 6 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and May 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: sold at 12:00 p.m.
More:The Sheboygan Area School District appoints the next superintendent to succeed Seth Harvatine, who will retire in June 2024
More:Sheboygan has revived its Sustainability Task Force. Here’s what you should know about the relaunch.
Contact Alex Garner at 224-374-2332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @alexx_garner.