Growing Climate Solutions, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, OneTree and Robbie’s Trees Fund, recently hosted a tree planting event at the Whitaker Woods neighborhood in Naples, helping spread climate-friendly trees and provide shade to affordable housing developments in Southwest Florida.

“Building strong neighborhoods is about more than just infrastructure and simple shelter, we have to plan for the future and how every piece of the neighborhood will grow and change over time,” said Habitat Collier CEO Rev. Lisa Lefkow. “These trees will not only help beautify the neighborhood, but by making a thoughtful choice to plant Florida-friendly trees, we’re ensuring greater longevity and lower maintenance requirements for the residents of Whitaker Woods and their homeowner’s association—an important factor when planning an affordable community.”

“This planting marks the beginning of what we aim to be an ongoing collaboration with Habitat for Humanity communities to plant Florida-friendly trees that help mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Bridget Washburn, project manager for Growing Climate Solutions. “As we deal with the effects of a changing climate, and even hotter temperatures, having places to cool off in the shade is important for public health and quality of life in our local communities.”

With donations from Robbie’s Trees Fund, Naples Fertilizer and Cheney Landscaping, volunteers including County Commissioner Rick LoCastro and future homeowners planted 30 Shady Lady black olive trees to shade the sidewalk encircling a 3-acre lake inside Whitaker Woods, a 30-acre Habitat community that features 125 townhomes.

“Reforesting Collier County is one of our key initiatives to tackle local environmental challenges in our Your passion. Your Collier. campaign,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, Community Foundation of Collier County president and CEO. “We are proud to join with our community partners in this project to improve air quality, provide shade, and support wildlife.”

Inspired by the late Robbie Hutchinson, Robbie’s Trees Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Collier County and overseen by close friends Mark Schwab and Cynthia Lynch.

“She was a lifelong enthusiast of protecting the environment,” said Lynch. “Robbie shared her wealth of knowledge on numerous issues, including effects on health, which will forever inspire and motivate us to engage in proactive measures.”

“Robbie’s wish to ‘go plant a tree, any tree, anywhere’ inspired us to establish this initiative,” added Schwab. “We are delighted that her legacy will have a long-lasting impact within the community.”

With the help of valued community partners, Growing Climate Solutions’ goal for the project is to elevate awareness of important natural assets, like trees, in mitigating the impacts of climate change. While providing cooling shade and native habitat, trees also produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide and particulate matter from the air, stabilize the soil and naturally purify water as it filters through their root systems. Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25°F cooler than air temperatures above nearby blacktop. Using trees as a natural cooling system is a smart and cost-effective way to protect community members. A short educational video about the benefits of trees and tree care will be incorporated to the “curriculum” requirements of future Habitat for Humanity homeowners.