American Forests

Creating Tree Equity

American Forests’ Urban Forestry Program

Trees in U.S. metropolitan areas and small towns are responsible for almost one-fifth of the carbon that is captured and stored in the U.S. Learn how American Forests’ urban forestry program, Community ReLeaf, takes action to plant and care for city trees where they are needed most – in low-income communities and neighborhoods of color.

American Forests

American Forests has been talking about Tree Equity for a few years. In fact, the organization coined the phrase. Simply put, Tree Equity is about ensuring every city neighborhood has enough trees so that every person can benefit from them. In most cities, trees are sparse in low-income neighborhoods and some neighborhoods of color. 

In addition to helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air, planting trees in urban communities can result in fewer heat-related deaths and illnesses, improved mental health, lower energy bills, and fewer flood-related risks.

To highlight the need for tree equity, American Forests now has a tool for calculating the Tree Equity Score for urban neighborhoods. Each score is based on the existing tree cover and tree cover potential, climate projections, development density, income, employment, and racial demographics of the neighborhood. American Forests’ goal is that, by 2030, every neighborhood in 100 American cities will achieve a passing Tree Equity Score by 2030.

In the fall and winter of 2020, American Forests will finalize scores for all neighborhoods in Phoenix, Rhode Island, the San Francisco Bay Area, Miami, Seattle, and Houston. In the coming years, American Forests plans to determine the scores for all American city neighborhoods.

With these scores, city government employees, community activists, urban foresters, and others will be able to make the case for planting trees in the neighborhoods that need them the most, along with the resources needed to do so.  They can then use the new Climate and Health Action Guide to help neighborhoods develop strategies for improving their scores.

In Fall 2020, American Forests will also launch, a website where anyone can access the full database of Tree Equity Scores. In addition to the scores, visitors will be able to enter details about a planned tree planting project and find out how much that project would increase the Tree Equity Score for the project area.

Read more about the American Forests’ Community ReLeaf program.