One org that’s making Bham cooler + healthier—plus, how to get involved with Cool Green Trees

Cool Green Trees Core Staff
Cool Green Trees Core Staff: Allie Smith, Liaison; Patrick McMahon, Urban Arborist; Francesca Gross, Program Manager (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Since 2022, Cool Green Trees (CGT) has been planting trees to create healthier communities in North and East Birmingham. 

Why? Their goal is to improve quality of life, reduce storm water runoff and literally decrease the temperature of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Why planting trees? 

Cool Green Trees, a program of Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), collaborates with Birmingham communities to plant trees in urban heat pockets. 

Francesca Gross, Executive Director, Cool Green Trees, explained that years before the project started, she was working with GIS specialists at UAB to find the hottest places in Jefferson County:

“These are the ones that have places on summer nights where the temperature doesn’t cool down like the rest of Birmingham. This is often in areas with limited tree cover, and where people really can’t afford higher power bills.”

To do this, they looked at many layers of data to identify “green opportunity areas”—places with urban heat islands, flooding, respiratory symptoms and lack of tree cover. Once the areas are identified, CGT goes into neighborhoods to begin building relationships before they start planting trees.

How you can get involved

The final word

reforestation in East Lake Park, Cool Green Trees
East Lake Park reforestation. (Cool Green Trees)

Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer, explained the importance of Cool Green Trees and environmental work, including air pollution control, for the County: 

“Some of it is in ways we can measure like heat related illnesses, respiratory problems and heart disease.

We don’t have a lot of science behind it, but there’s a growing body of evidence that there are a lot of benefits to being in a greener environment.”

Cool Green Trees is a unique collaborative effort between Cawaco RC&D Council Environmental Programs, the City of Birmingham, a diverse, multidisciplinary team from University of Alabama at Birmingham, and numerous local non-profits in Jefferson County, Alabama and is supported by the Jefferson County Department of Health.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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