Updated: Jul 12
By Abigail Hall HAF-UVA Intern
There are three categories of benefits that come from tree planting in communities: social, environmental, and economic. Socially, trees improve the aesthetic and environment in which we live— they reduce stress, help children retain more information if they are able to spend time in green spaces, and serve as a memorial for important cultural events or values.
Environmentally, trees reduce urban heat through evaporative cooling; they improve air quality by giving off oxygen and filtering dust and pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide; they reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and they provide protection for certain species of wildlife. Lastly, tree planting can have economic benefits, reducing cooling costs in the summer by providing shade and acting as food sources for food-insecure communities.
Now that we have examined some direct and tangible benefits of community tree planting, this article is going to examine an organization called “WorldTree.” WorldTree is a group of investors, farmers, scientists, and activists who have come together and committed to building a new kind of forestry based on one of the fastest-growing trees in the world: The Empress Splendor. This tree grows to its full maturity in ten years. One initiative that WorldTree has started is using this wood to create musical instruments.
So how might community tree planting and musical instruments be related? Well, there is currently a new search for guitar wood because the current gold standard for instrumental wood is Swabash, which is now becoming limited due to climate change. Investing in planting The Empress Splendor is the solution.
There are many incredible properties of the Empress wood. First, it is incredibly light—a quality that many musicians prioritize when purchasing an instrument. Empress wood is also hydrophobic, meaning that once it is dried out it will resist getting wet again. Some logistical benefits of Empress wood include its easy ability to take and hold stains and finishes well in addition to the ease with which this wood can be worked on and molded. Once the Empress wood is harvested, the Empress trees can regrow. Additionally, upon harvest, the carbon is sequestered, absorbing thirty tons of carbon per acre per year.
WorldTree has partnered with the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which has over 400 members, to look at ways to advance and move towards sustainable, plantation-grown wood. With the Empress Splendor, they can do that. Today, the world still gets over fifty percent of its wood from native forests. One of the easiest steps to improve climate change is to protect native forests. With the Empress tree plantations allowing for over 5,000 acres of planted area, WorldTree can positively impact seven of the Sustainable Development Goals, which makes WorldTree the largest grower of Empress trees in North and Latin America.
In addition to using Empress wood to create musical instruments, WorldTree has partnered with Katrien Van Der Schueren, an artist, designer, and interior designer in Los Angeles. Wood is a big proponent of interior design production and this partnership between WorldTree and Katrien’s company, Voila Studies, will allow space and resources for more design and home products to be made out of the sustainable Empress wood.
WorldTree brings together three critical aspects of impactful climate change efforts: innovation, expertise, and tree science. Their innovation includes the use of leading-edge forest inventory management. Their team includes forestry experts who have over seven million acres of timber investment experience. Lastly, WorldTree utilizes eighteen exclusive Empress genotypes that have been selected for lumber and carbon maximization.
This organization should serve as an example of the vast number of benefits that result from community tree planting. Not only does this work provide jobs, but it also improves quality of life, amount of resources, and environmental health, and it serves as a space for experts in investing, farming, and science to work alongside passionate activists to create a better planet.