As Earth Day nears, questions often arise about what actions really have an impact. Do trees make a difference? The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) thinks so. Their mission is simple: Plant fruit trees for a healthy planet. Fruit trees clean the air, water and soil; they provide healthy, nutritious food, shade, and encourage communities to work together much like the thriving ecosystems found in fruit tree orchards.
At the forefront of a movement towards urban sustainability through fruit tree orchards, FTPF is a featured organization in the United Nation's Billion Tree Campaign, a worldwide initiative largely focused on planting 13 billion indigenous trees around the planet. This year alone, FTPF will plant 20,000 trees in India and 3,000 in Mozambique. In the U.S., FTPF offers ongoing programs such as their Fruit Tree 101 school program where orchards are not only learning opportunities for students, but also an incredibly vital nutritional component enhancing children's diets with wholesome and fresh fruits.
Communities Take Root (CTR) is another program in the U.S. that FTPF's Executive Director, Cem Akin is excited about, "Each orchard is a fully functioning community asset and serves as a gathering place and community mobilizer," he says of the program sponsored by Dreyer's Fruit Bars. CTR offers exciting opportunities for communities to help bring orchards to their area through a unique voting process. (You can learn more about Communities Take Root, and how to vote for your community orchard on the FTPF site.)
FTPF's work also includes a number of Native American tribal communities across the country, bringing edible orchards to some of the most remote tribes in America including the Hopi and Havasupai in Arizona.
Planting and caring for fruit trees is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the environment—and your quality of life, says Akin, “Trees heal the planet, from filtering air pollutants to recharging groundwater to creating healthy microcosms in the soil. And it doesn’t stop there. If that tree is a fruit tree, harvest abounds for decades, sometimes centuries, improving health for generations.”
Just one mature tree can produce up to 260 pounds (118 kg) of oxygen, remove harmful ozone pollutants from the lower atmosphere, and sequester between 35 and 800 pounds (16 and 363 kg) of carbon dioxide from the air every year. While fruit trees are typically on the smaller side than shade trees, some can grow rather large, such as apple, mango and avocado trees. And, if you're planting fruit trees that supplement your diet, you're not relying on trucks to bring produce to your supermarket—and you may in fact be making fewer trips there yourself, also reducing your carbon footprint, "A fruit tree is definitely something that addresses environmental, health, and justice issues all at once," says Akin, "it is one of the easiest and most rewarding things anyone can do for their planet, and their family."
To learn more about how you can volunteer, support or make a donation to FTPF, visit them at www.ftpf.org. Keep an eye out this summer for the release of their "Home Orchard Handbook" and check out their new apple tree grow kits, both of which are available as gifts for donors.
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