Welcome Max! Plant Five for Life Summer Internships.

Max is a rising Junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Behavioral Economics, Policy, and Organizations with a Minor in Humanities Analytics.  Originally from Western Maryland, Max grew up with a deep understanding of sustainable practice, which came from his parents as well as through the Amir Project, a farm-based Summer camp education program.  This eventually lead him to become a Farm Coordinator and later, a Farm Manager at his respective Summer camp, teaching campers about horticulture, food justice, and sustainable lifestyle practices.  

Max’s interest in environmental advocacy, public policy, and data science have drawn him to Plant Five for Life, where he will work as a Data and Curriculum Development Intern.  He hopes to dovetail his previous Summer work in food justice and sustainability with his coursework in statistics and behavioral psychology to advocate for the planet and underrepresented communities.  Outside of work and school, Max is the current Greek Sing Chair for his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. He also raises his own plants and longboards.

Max Gamerman

Max Gamerman

May 25th, 2019 from 10am-2pm - Stop in! Join us at OpenStreets and Commonplace Coffee

Join Plant Five For Life and Green Mountain Energy Company on Saturday, May 25th from 10a - 2p at Commonplace Coffee in Point Breeze - just off the OpenStreetsPGH route for that morning (everyone will be traveling pedestrian style).

Learn more about Plant Five for Life’s campaign to plant trees for every child born in Pittsburgh, PA. Through the power of trees, our intent is to offer a regenerative future through the strategic location of trees in every child’s neighborhood. Green Mountain Energy's mission through the power of wind & solar helps reduce CO2 in our atmosphere (just like trees!); they will be onsite at the same time to help you make the switch to renewable energy and to support our mission.

Witness the power of collaboration as we band together in Pittsburgh to help make the future healthier!
Power up with a free drink & reusable cup from Commonplace Coffee and enjoy their new outdoor space!

Sunday, May 19th, 2019. Storytime for the Trees! with Patagonia Pittsburgh

Arbuz and Kavon - some of our favorite forest characters are coming to a Patagonia store near you!

A local emerging author will be sharing her written and illustrated tale of sharing, caring and ecosystem dynamics in the forest every 30 minutes from 2-4pm. Appropriate for all ages!

Join us at the Walnut Street Patagonia store in the neighborhood of Shadyside in Pittsburgh, PA for refreshments, some children’s activity and a story. You can also learn more about Plant Five for Life’s work to restore our forest and re-connect children and families to nature from birth.

An RSVP in advance or $5 donation gets you entry into a Patagonia product raffle and makes you eligible for a young tree or tree seed. An item will be raffled off every story session on the half hour. See you soon!


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Author, John Archambault, Program for the Trees! + Book Signing


On Wednesday, May 8th after school or early eve kids, families and caregivers are welcome to join Plant Five for Life with John Archambault, co-author of the cornerstone children's book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! 

John will be delivering a program centered on story, imagination, music, environment and fun from 3:30 - 4:30 pm and again at 5 - 6pm. There is an interim book signing from 4:30-5pm. Stop by or stay for the whole program - or all the sessions! 

The program is happening at Ascender located at 6401 Penn Ave - 3rd Floor. Parking is free.

Ascender is a great place to check out and Green Mountain Energy will have a table at the event - giving everyone the opportunity to make the switch to renewable energy distribution. On a first come first serve basis by RSVP registration, participants will be given a free sapling to take home and plant. While John’s program is perfect for ages pre-K-3rd grade, there is something at this event for everyone of all ages!

See you soon!

May 4th Planting Event - The largest fruit tree orchard in Pittsburgh on the largest urban farm in the country!


We are grateful to be partnering with host Hilltop Urban Farm and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation in planting 200 fruit trees at the Hilltop Urban Farm site on May 4th from 9:30am-2pm.

Plant Five for Life will host new parents and their young children in our community at this site through the giving and matching of five trees per child. A tree planting dedication and ceremony will be held at 1 pm following a volunteer and family vegan style lunch from 11:30am - 1pm.

Caregivers who would like their child to be matched to trees and/or to participate in the day should register here: www.plantfiveforlife.org/rsvp

During the planting there will be music, storytelling and children’s activities ongoing from 11am-1pm to celebrate! This is the largest fruit tree orchard in Pittsburgh on the largest urban farm in the country. Forty children and families will be matched to the site and the trees planted in their honor.

Check it out!

(Registration to volunteer at this event is closed, but walk-ins are welcome from 11:30-2:30pm.

Contact us for more information.

Toast for the Trees! - April 25th, 2019 - Dinner for A Cause Fundraiser Event - Join us!


We have been busy and so our blog has been quiet! But as the spring blooms stir in Pittsburgh, PA, so does word of our news. Bring your friends and family and join us for an awakening this evening at the YARD Gastropub in Shadyside Pittsburgh.

Partial proceeds from all orders between 5:30 and 10pm will go to Plant Five for Life and be earmarked specifically for area tree planting, distribution and care. Just tell your server you are eating for the trees!

Don’t miss it!

Hear Stories. Talk Trees. Drink Warm Drinks. Join us! January 27th, 2019

Storytelling is a great way for kids to learn about nature - bring your child to Patagonia on Walnut St. in Pittsburgh, Sunday, January the 27th from 11:30 am - 1 pm for a story, healthy snacks and fun.

Plant Five for Life will be there with emerging Pittsburgh author and illustrator, Justine Kasznica, who will give an exclusive preview of her book Arbuz and Kavun  - a delightful forest tale! Come hear more about our work to connect children and families to nature and to reverse our declining tree canopy for the long run.

Ms. K will read her story every half hour. Drop-in and you are sure to catch it!

Ms. K will read her story every half hour. Drop-in and you are sure to catch it!

Trees for health.

On November 8th, Plant Five for Life in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation, CSX and Bartlett Tree Experts gave 300+ saplings away in-house at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. The trees returned to over 100 different zipcodes throughout the County! Councilman Tom Baker joined us at the event and also proclaimed it Plant Five for Life Day in Allegheny County. Diana Nelson Jones shares a bit about the day in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.

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Our Fall Events! We are offering ‘Time Credits’ for Volunteers. Ingredients for the future: environment + economy.

Play with us this fall!

Play with us this fall!

We had a great turnout in April for the planting of the first 1200 of 5000 saplings on an abandoned coal mine site in Allegheny County. In fact, you can meet two of our volunteers on site last April here!

Our Fall 2018 events are here; we’d love to see you!

As a fun update, volunteers can now earn "Time Credits" for every hour with us and strengthen the local economy. Spend these gift vouchers at local business partners on goods and services. To participate, just head to InvolveMINT’s website and make an account. Sign up for Plant Five For Life opportunities under 'Volunteer' listed on the app. It's that easy!  Contact us with any questions or to Sign-up without the use of TIme-Credits.

1. TREE PLANTINGS AT PITTSBURGH BOTANIC GARDEN . We need your help to get 3800 bare root saplings in the ground!

WHEN: Wed., October 17th & 24th, Sat., October 27th: 8:45am - 3pm (shifts available)

2. FAMILY DAY CELEBRATION AT PITTSBURGH BOTANIC GARDEN. This is a celebration on the publicly open portion of the site with family friendly activities, a planting ceremony and picnic for families of children given the trees. 

WHEN: Sat., October 27th: 9am-1pm (shifts available)

3. SOUTH SIDE PARK PLANTING . We are planting 10 trees on a slope in the Jurassic Valley section of the park. WHEN: Sat., November 3rd: 9am-12pm

4. UPMC MAGEE-WOMEN'S HOSPITAL IN-HOUSE GIVEAWAY. We are hosting a minimum 350 tree giveaway for faculty and staff. We will have a conversation about the connection b/w health and the environment and share the Plant Five program. 

WHEN: Thurs., November 8th: 10am-4pm (shifts available)

Following sign-up, and closer to the event date, you will receive information including directions, what to wear or bring with you and other relevant deets! 

Can't come to these events? There are plenty of other ways to stay involved with us. Either way, thank you from our roots and hearts for your ongoing interest and commitment! 

A Reflection on Volunteering

By Brenner Burkholder

My first memories of volunteering were, ironically, events thrust upon me by my parents, teachers, or church community. Not that I disliked activities like working on houses for Habitat for Humanity, but it never felt particularly voluntary. At the end of high school, I volunteered in a hospital, which felt important, but most of the time I had little direction, a common and unfortunate aspect of some volunteer opportunities. I wondered, when would I finally have an opportunity to give back that was both voluntary and useful?

It wasn’t until I went off to college that I found a few volunteer activities I enthusiastically chose and participated in, like seasonal prairie burning on my college campus (firefighting and fire-starting are a fun way to pass a slow spring Saturday). Although volunteer activities in Pittsburgh are decidedly less fiery, I’m surprised by both the number of opportunities and level of engagement in the city, especially for environmental work. It’s clear a lot of people care about making Pittsburgh a greener, healthier place to live, especially when it comes to restoring health to people and land negatively affected by the pollutants of heavy industry.

Toward this end, I’m excited to help create volunteer opportunities for improving the environment in Allegheny County. As part of Plant Five’s inaugural gift of 5000 trees for 1000 newborns, we are holding three planting days on a former coal mine site, as well as a celebration event for families given trees. If you’d like to volunteer, and know others who would voluntarily help, sign up for our upcoming planting days here or the family celebration here. We promise to do our best to make it a purposeful and enjoyable experience!

Our team is growing!

Plant Five for Life is growing! As we continue to work with community collaborators to better connect health and the environment in the Pittsburgh region, we are excited to add Brenner Burkholder to the team as Program Coordinator. Brenner is partnering with us for the year as a PULSE Fellow, a program for recent college graduates that cultivates a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh.

As Program Coordinator, Brenner will assist with the planning and implementation of our pilot project to gift 5000 trees to 1000 children born at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital and to plant them at Pittsburgh Botanical Garden. He will also work on program expansion as well as assisting with communication strategy and improving our organizational systems.

Brenner tells us he is excited to serve with Plant Five for Life for several reasons, particularly for our focus on creating a lifelong connection between health and environment. As an environmental science student at Goshen College, Brenner had the opportunity to see the human dimensions of climate change and environmental destruction in Senegal and Belize. Brenner has experienced firsthand the ways human wellbeing and the environment go together; and as a result, he is glad to create positive environmental change for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

In his personal life, Brenner enjoys hiking and running on trails, especially in mountainous forests, and hopes to extensively explore Pittsburgh’s beautiful canopy on foot and bike. He aspires to eventually attend graduate school to study some aspect of human geography, possibly involving climate change adaptation and sustainable development. For the time being, he is happy to be out of school and exploring the incredible cultural and natural landscapes Pittsburgh offers. During this year, Brenner hopes to connect with and learn from individuals creating change while growing as a leader.

Please feel free to reach out and welcome him!

Change happens through teamwork...1,200 trees in the ground and counting...

“Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – V. Lombardi

Plant Five for Life planted 1,200 trees in April; the first of 5,000 given to 1,000 newborns at birth! We did not do this work alone. This project was and always will be a collaborative effort. For this planting, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden were the property hosts; they offered the land on which the trees were planted - 2 acres of a former coal mine site under a 400+ acre reclamation by them. The gifts were given and announced through UPMC Magee-Womens HospitalPittsburgh Botanic Garden brought their staff expertise using the forest reclamation approach to former coal mine sites, prepared the site and helped get the trees in the ground. The American Chestnut Foundation donated 100 chestnuts to the selection of nine species. Volunteers from the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and the surrounding community, including University students, joined us to plant the trees. In the run-up to the planting, friends of Plant Five like those from DYCLE and other colleagues around Pittsburgh offered support and helped with final details and communications. We had fun and good conversation while the sun shined; as a result, a forest sprang into action! 

Stay tuned for more to come in October 2018 at this site and with these and other supporters. Contact us if you would like to join the team!

You can also see more photos and learn more about the project on Facebook. Follow along with us there!


Magee-Womens Hospital Pilot Underway...


Plant Five for Life Launches Pilot Program at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC


Pittsburgh, PA –April 10, 2018- Plant Five for Life will pilot its first program planting five native trees as a gift to every child born at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC this April, Arbor Day month. A total of 5,000 trees will be planted for 1,000 newborns.

The Plant Five for Life community network of partners, including Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, will plant the trees in phases on a former coal mine site being reclaimed on Pittsburgh Botanic Garden grounds. Over time the reforested acres will return to healthy woodlands. The first phase will begin with 1,200 trees to be planted on Earth Day, April 21. The remaining trees will be planted on October 17, 24 and 27.

The gift of five trees at birth gives every child the best start in life by contributing to and growing their life-sustaining environment. Trees support life in five key ways; they provide for cleaner air, cleaner water, comfort and cooling through shade, food in the form of fruit and nuts, and beautiful places for communities to gather. Over time, the reforested site will serve the health and welfare of not only children, but make a positive contribution to many living organisms in Western Pennsylvania,” said Christine Graziano, Founder and Director of Plant Five for Life. 

When parents leave UPMC Magee facilities with their newborn, Plant Five for Life’s gift of five trees will be announced in their discharge packets. Parents will be invited to attend a Family Day Celebration in October, giving each family an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the larger site, learn more about the trees, meet other families with children the same age and explore resources in their community.

This pilot program will be followed by another program in Fall 2018. 

Deer and human health - are they linked?

Many neighborhoods are no stranger to deer, particularly in the Northeastern United States. Paying attention to this subject and whether or not deer are in a state of overpopulation can help create healthier communities. 

So, more exactly, what do deer have to do with health? 

Deer are destroying our woodlands and forests as they have no predators to keep them in check. As a result, they eat a negatively impactful number of forest and woodland plants that grow as ground cover and as layers under the tree canopy (known as understory). 

The loss of plants results in less soil protection and soil erodes. The roots of plants play a key role in soil stabilization. With soil erosion comes stormwater management problems and degraded stream quality. Soil erosion also makes drinking water harder and more expensive to treat. Why? Because urban pollution like oil, gasoline, and chemicals left as residue on our roadways adheres to soil particulates and makes its way into our waterways more easily. The eroded soil particles act as a vehicle for travel and deposition.

Furthermore, without a ground or understory layer in our forests, invasive species that deer often do not like to eat (for one reason, as they did not co-evolve with them) are more likely to take hold and become a management problem, and often an expensive one, requiring removal or the use of herbicides.

The health of our canopy trees are also more at risk as the top layer of soil washes away and is compacted from exposure to foot traffic and drying from wind and sun. This compromises the longevity of a tree and its ability to resist pests and other diseases. Without mature tree canopy, we lose the health benefits they provide from shade, comfort and cooling, air quality enhancement, stormwater management and filtration and carbon sequestration.

In the converse, research shows that healthy woodlands and forests with understory and groundcover intact host diminished tick populations, which reduces health risks from Lyme and other tick-born diseases and the economic burden that comes with treating these illnesses.

In terms of humane animal treatment, it is worth noting that deer suffer when populations are too high both from both starvation and from tick borne diseases.

Many communities spend significant amounts of tax payer dollars to purchase and maintain parks, to upkeep and install stormwater and water treatment systems, and in many cases to subsidize health care. As part of a commitment to infrastructure and smart municipal planning, communities should be invested in effective deer population control and healthy forest management. 

While deer populations may seem like a tangential concern and a small one relative to other issues, neglecting the issue has potentially big consequences.

International Day of Forests Letter to the Editor

In celebration of the day, we wrote to our community through a letter to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and shared news of our first pilot planting project of 5000 trees.  


A portion of the site where 5000 trees will be planted for 1000 children starting this spring... 

A portion of the site where 5000 trees will be planted for 1000 children starting this spring...