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D.C. Puts Its Trees Up For Adoption

With city agencies strapped for cash, the capital is asking caring citizens to take care of its trees. It’s easy to do, because every tree now comes equipped with its own QR code.

D.C. Puts Its Trees Up For Adoption
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Washington, D.C. has 19 certified arborists to care for the 140,000 street trees that are planted across the District. The Urban Forestry Administration, like most U.S. cities, can only do so much. To help out, the city is putting its saplings up for adoption, with a high-tech twist.

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New trees planted in neighborhoods now come with a smartphone-readable QR tag. Snap a picture, and it will direct the potential parents to D.C.’s Canopy Keepers website to sign up for their own tree with their mobile phone. Those who volunteer receive a free watering tub and deliveries of 10 gallons of water once a week, and agree to clear away weeds through the fall.

The harsh urban environment can take its toll. Many trees do not survive their early years due either to lack of water, vandalism, or vehicle damage. Keeping urban forests growing has become a major effort for some cities, which have seen the benefits grow along with the trees: higher property values, better storm water management, cleaner air, and more.  

For now, the only D.C. neighborhoods in the program are Adams Morgan, Brookland, Fairlawn, and Tenleytown, but the program is scheduled to go citywide next year. About 1,300 Canopy Keepers signed up in 2011, and even more are expected to sign up this year; the city is finding it isn’t the only one that cares about trees.

About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment. His favorite topics are wicked problems -- and discoveries such as how dung beetles rely on the light of the Milky Way to navigate (and all that says about the human condition on Earth)

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