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.

IMG_2421 (1).JPG

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... 

Pines on the mind...

There is an ongoing and projected need to reforest our landscapes as climate change is driving additional losses in our forests. It is important to get the message out that climate change means tree loss and by extension, negative impact on our collective health and wellness.

Tree die-off releases more carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change, creating a kind of feedback loop where new pests can get a foothold in territories previously off-limits due to cold, thereby accelerating more die-off and more carbon release. 

A great TEdX talk by entomologist Diana Six illustrating how climate change poses risk to our Eastern American forests. In this case, by the mountain pine beetle.  The talk can be found in the captioned link here: ow.ly/pdaf30i3R7m


Trees, Food and ... Yum!

What is on your table now? 

Trees can provide a source of fresh food supplementation, especially when located within walking distance of a person's home. Whether it is a harvest of fresh fruit or nuts, the just picked food provides a source of nourishment, both for the body, but often times, also for the spirit. And if the source of the food is a tree we always return to throughout the year, a relationship is formed allowing us to build memories tied to the landscape and season; allowing us the opportunity to weave new and old traditions, memories and social networks into our lives. 

Artist Ayumi Matzusaka, Founder of Dycle, and Plant Five for Life recently embarked on a story collection exercise, to explore more generally, how the food on one's table might tell the story of relationship between plant, food, landscape and culture. We asked various individuals from around the world to tell us the story of what was on their table today:

Christine, USA (visiting Spain), 40+

In August, we went walking in the fields outside of the Village. Our path weaved past fields divided by wall after wall of hand stacked rock. The trees branches spilled over their boundaries onto the path and bushes sprouted from the cracks between the stones. A harvest beckoned us at the path's edges. 

The trees were generous; yielding the first figs, and even almonds. The thorny bushes were thick with blackberries. The ground released the smells of thyme and rosemary.

We gorged on the fresh berries, froze the rest for later, paused on the path and popped the figs into our mouths, and then ate them again sliced into yogurt and on top of a warm dinner concoction made the next day. The almonds we saved for another time, but they were also put to good use in hammer-practice by our little one. 


Maria Teresa, Castellon, Spain, 60+

I waited all week to shop today, Saturday, when the people who grow food in their backyard come to the center of town with their truck to the market. Just picked that morning so the food is incredibly fresh, and probably no sprays.

This time of year the trees give us the oranges, quince, lemons. Lemons  unlike the ones in the stores. These are full of flavor. So many oranges. Cabbages. And squash. Have you ever had the squash? It is so sweet!

I bought these artichokes at the store the other day. This is the time for them now, too. And cauliflower. They are so cheap! All of this food for only 6 Euros. It would be impossible in Barcelona.

All our life it has been these foods at this time of year. I suspect it is the same for all the Villages and small Towns near here.

I will keep these quince for a few days and make a cake out of it because my son loves it.


Cindy, Long Island, NY, USA, 67

For Christmas Eve, I'm making white clam sauce. The cockles I am using come from Puget Sound, Washington. I bought them at a local fish shop. In the winter in New York, we are not getting local fish. I tend to make the same dishes each year for the holidays, mostly because my family depends on it for tradition purposes!

I'll also be making salmon which was purchased at the same fish shop and comes from Newfoundland. I'm also serving shrimp scampi.....bought at same fish store, coming from Ecuador.

There are a whole lot of other dishes, but I'll include just one more....the takeaway gift! (this is given to friends and family). The chocolate is bought at a local candy shop, with the chocolate coming from  Hawaii.

This (interview response) was a good break for me from all my cooking! Truthfully, I had to do a little research and I was embarrassed to realize I did not know the origins of all the food I was putting on the table!


Raquel, Asuncion, Paraguay, 34

My daughter is a picky eater and getting her excited about food is always an adventure or simply a one way end. 

Today in the afternoon, I told her that I will make her some waffle, but actually it is more like a "panquete" with a different flap shape. Waffle is one of the few edible things that she will happily eat. I am not the best cook, but I can make waffles.

I used oats, 2 eggs, a little bit of milk, one banana, and honey. I blended it altogether and then I did the magic in the fire. 

Today she ate it all!!!

We used our favorite 100 % pure honey, which comes the surrounding area of the Tapyta Reserve, a natural reserve located in the department of Caazapa in Paraguay.

We met the local beekeepers. They are very kind and sweet people, as the honey itself. Maxine loves to add more of it to the waffle once it is ready.


You can add your story in the comments section below on our Facebook page @PlantFiveforLife or post to #ForestStories and feel free to add your name, location, age and photo. Visit Dycle for more stories. 

We all have a birth story.

Plant Five for Life and Dycle are collaboratively exploring cross-cultural connections to landscapes from birth across generations. We invite you to join in this exploration and to add your story. 

This week we asked:  How did your parents celebrate your birth?:  


A friend

Of all the children, I was the only planned child and so they were prepared for my birth, they were excited and the whole family was excited.

My grandfather plants a fruit tree for all his grandchildren in his backyard…It doesn’t matter which one is mine, just that when we look out, we know that they were planted because of us, one was planted because of me. They are mostly pear trees. 

One tree was also planted at my parents house for me, but they no longer own the house and moved away from the area. My tree there is just a regular tree.

We eat the pears. 

(Beth, USA, 40+)

A mentor

Amazing question ... I do not know so ... there was not much of a party! 

(Gunter, Belgium, 60+)

A hairdresser

My parents probably rejoiced and then they cried. My story is not a good story because my mother suffered from post-partum depression.

When my mother died a year ago, she surprised us when her will told us that she had herself cremated and her ashes spread in a rose garden.  She asked that every time we smelled a rose to think of her. 

(Samantha, emigrated UK to Spain, Scottish descent, 30+)


My Mother-in-law

My parents celebrated my birth with a great party because I was born on my father's name day, St. Augustine! I have a book my mammy wrote with all the explanations!

In Spain, the birth is usually celebrated with the baptism, which you know all about already from going to cousin Melchoir's!

(This entailed... a church ceremony, a band marching down the street, candy thrown from windows to the street, a big dinner, gifts, activities for kids after dinner…).

(Maria Teresa, Spain, 60+)



My Mother

I have no idea how to answer this question! 

(Then, one day later…) I spoke with my older brother Gene. He doesn’t know of anything special that was done when I was born.  Some people planted trees back then, but we lived in Queens. Our yard was small. Your Nana celebrated the birth of each child at the Christening. Everyone had a large party. Remember everyone was baptized right away back then - 3-6 weeks after birth. I did the same for you and Tricia. 

(Julia, USA, age 60+)


Love these stories? You can go to @Dycle to read more (Ayumi has captured some lovely stories from Japan and Berlin). 


Before you go, tell us! How did your parents celebrate your birth? 

You can add your stories below or travel to @PlantFiveForLife and add them there. You can also send an email to christine at plant five for life dot org. #ForestBirthStories

Feel free to include first name, origin and age.

Plant Five Workshop at ALL THOSE Food Market in Barcelona, Spain

It is holiday time and in Barcelona, December means the proliferation of creative food markets throughout the city.

On December 2nd, from 16:00-17:30, Plant Five will co-host a collaboratively created workshop with SlowMov coffeehouse http://slowmov.com and La Seta en Cafe https://www.facebook.com/laseta.barcelona

Using coffee waste, we will demonstrate how participants can grow mushrooms. Each participant will leave with a 'Grown Your Own' kit and a little know how about the role of mushrooms in our forest ecosystems and how to grow them at home. 

Please find us at All Those Food Market, Museu Maritim de Barcelona in December! http://allthose.org

Data published in Nature show impressive images and provide detailed information about the current status of our forests

by Tom Crowther from the Yale School of Forestry and the environment

"We’ve nearly halved the number of trees on the planet, and we’ve seen the impacts on climate and human health as a result,” Crowther said. “This study highlights how much more effort is needed if we are to restore healthy forests worldwide.” We now how a baseline for what we have and what is needed and where it will be best to focus our efforts.

Mapping tree density at a global scale (PDF Download Available).

From the same Nature paper, this video summarizes their findings in a moving and clear visual display.

It’s a simple question: how many trees are there on Earth? The answer required 421,529 measurements from fifty countries on six continents. Now this new data has been combined to produce a stunning visualisation of our planet as you’ve never seen it before.

School charges ‘planting trees’ as fee by guardians

In a unique initiative, a school in Chhattisgarh’s Ambikarpur area is providing primary education to students on a meagre payment of planting a tree sapling as fee. The facility has been provided to parents of students who cannot afford to pay school fees.