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Environment Matters: Artist and Art Therapist Grace Thompson talks about raising money for Street Trees for Living

One of the most striking sights to greet me in Crofton Park was that of newly planted street trees.  I loved the sense of community and decided to sponsor more tree planting when we moved here just over a year ago.  I’ve always been drawn to working with the community through art workshops or environmental projects, so I thought that raising money for further trees would be a great way to meet my neighbours and work with local businesses.

Art workshops to raise funds

My idea was to hold art workshops in the local area where children and adults could use reclaimed wood to create abstract tree sculptures.  Art is such a universal language that we all share, especially for children where it’s a natural process that they’re drawn to. For adults, it’s so enriching to see a reconnection with a sense of playfulness and creatively.

We used a range of materials to create something tangible, an object that participants could take home. A significant part of the process was the connection and support of using their donations to contribute towards something positive for the local community.

To play, make art, and at the same time raise money, was an engaging and productive way to involve the community to sponsor the planting of trees.

Trees

I raise money for Street Trees for Living (STfL) – a local charity that works closely with Lewisham Council. Trees provide so many health benefits, both physically and mentally; they are also vital for biodiversity and wildlife.  They disperse pollution and can help mitigate the effects of the climate emergency, as we face a future of incredibly hot dry summers and prolonged periods of rainfall.  But trees can help prevent flooding and keep urban areas cool, as well as absorbing greenhouse gases. In our local area, we can all do something very tangible – and work together to raise funds for greener, healthier streets.

The Schools Tree Project

STfL currently have a project to work with schools to get trees planted on streets that surround them.  Schools can raise funds for trees and Lewisham Council will provide match funding for the amount of trees that have been sponsored.  Lots of our schools are in heavily polluted roads, and STfL endeavour to create green corridors to disperse pollution and protect children from toxic air, mainly from vehicle exhaust emissions. Comprehensive research finds harm from head to toe when we are exposed to pollution, including stunted lung growth in children, asthma and heart and lung disease.

My daughter goes to a local school that is very environmentally conscious, and we are raising money for five trees – the council will match with an additional five.

This scheme is a great way to get the school and its local community really engaged with tree planting.  STfL also has lesson plans to connect people to the Schools Tree Project.  It’s crucial to water the young trees in there first few years of life so we’ll be having schools working with the community to make sure the trees are well looked after.

If you know of a school that would like to participate, please contact us below!

Grace Thompson is a volunteer member of Street Trees for Living www.streettreesforliving.org

For upcoming workshops please visit: www.littleartforms.com

This article first appeared in the March issue of SE22 magazine.