All babies born at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland from now until the end of January will have five trees planted in their honor. The effort is through the nonprofit Plant Five for Life, which has a lofty long-term goal of planting trees for every baby born in Allegheny County.
Christina Graziano launched Plant Five For Life in April of 2018, and she said 2,000 families have participated, leading to more than 6,000 trees planted in and around the region. During this holiday season, new parents leaving Magee will receive a sticker indicating the trees will be planted on their child's behalf, a Magee spokesperson confirmed.
"We'll be designing programs to bring those children and families back to the sites and to the trees year after year," Graziano said. "And for families to have opportunities to meet outside of the original planting events."
The trees are planted within a year of a child's birth by volunteers, partner organizations and parents, if they choose to participate.
The City of Pittsburgh's Climate Action Plan has a goal to increase tree canopy from 42 percent to 60 percent of the city by 2030. According to a city spokesperson, this means planting 100,000 trees in the next decade. Trees are known to absorb carbon emissions and help in stormwater mitigation.
Graziano said she started Plant Five for Life in part because the Pittsburgh region often suffers from poor air quality, particularly in the Mon Valley. This environmental factor has been linked to health issues including asthma in children and lung cancer and disease.
"Given our local air quality problems, as we site these trees, we're going to be looking increasingly at how at a very localized level, our plantings can provide strategic interventions to mitigate the risk from air pollutants," Graziano said. This will be done by placing air quality monitors in planting sites.
Graziano said Plant Five for Life is partnering with another local nonprofit starting this month called Haiti Friends, which works to reforest the Caribbean country. For each baby born at Magee this December and January, one tree will be planted in Pittsburgh and four more will be planted in Haiti. Plant Five for Life previously planted their trees in the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakdale, the Hilltop Urban Farm in Mt. Oliver and South Side Park in the South Side Slopes.
Graziano said she knows planting trees for every baby born in Allegheny County is an ambitious goal: about 13,000 babies were born in Allegheny County in 2017, the most recent data available. However, Graziano hopes partnerships with other nonprofits, including those that operate outside the country, will help her organization realize its goal.