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Health, Science, Environment

Granite City adds more trees and will be able to sell the carbon credits

Carole Valencia, Emily Ehley and Sandy Loftus tend to a newly planted tree in Granite City. More than 100 new trees have been planted in the surrounding area and the city will be able to sell credits from the carbon they capture.
Eric Schmid
/
St. Louis Public Radio
From left, Carole Valencia, Emily Ehley and Sandy Loftus tend to a newly planted tree in Granite City on Friday. More than 100 new trees have been planted in the surrounding area, and the city will be able to sell credits from the carbon they capture.

GRANITE CITY — A project to bring more greenery and native plant habitats in the Metro East will also help companies beyond the region offset their carbon footprint.

The Granite City Cool Cities Committee has added about 150 trees to a historic wetland in the community and through a grant with the nonprofit Trees Forever, the community will be able to sell the credits for the carbon dioxide they capture to companies looking to offset their carbon use.

“We’re planting trees anyway, and this way you’re getting money back from those trees to continue to care and plant more trees over the years,” said Emily Ehley, a field coordinator for Trees Forever.

Ehley explained that the city owns the land where the trees are planted, but that the nonprofit manages the sale of carbon credits produced by the new trees and sends that money back to a community, in this case Granite City.

“It’s incentivizing the city to plant more trees and create a greener urban landscape,” she said.

Larger U.S. cities have been able to do this type of sale, but Ehley explained it’s not as feasible for smaller communities. Under the grant, cities must also maintain the new trees for 26 years to ensure their canopy grows, she added.

To Carole Valencia, a member of Granite City’s Cool City Committee, the grant opportunity was serendipitous with a spot of land the Sierra Club had converted from agricultural use back to native habitat.

“It just happened to come together where we found out that this site exists and Emily came to us,” she said. “We thought it was a perfect place to plant some trees.”

The Morrison Road Reforestation Site in northeast Granite City now has an array of young trees including pecans, swamp-white oaks, burr oaks, elderberries, chokeberries and others.

“Basically we have our big shade trees and then we have some of those smaller flowering, berry-creating things, which are going to be beautiful and great for our pollinators and birds too,” Ehley said.

The growing canopy will also help to manage excess water from rain storms, she said.

“Any time you have a tree, it’s soaking up water by its roots, slowing down stormwater,” Ehley said. “This will be like a sink both of water and of carbon for the area.”

It’s also important since the area is part of the American Bottoms flood plain, Valencia said.

“We need to be more resilient with climate change looming,” she said. “We’re probably going to keep getting these rainstorms that we have several inches of water in a short period of time.”

Both Valencia and Ehley said they want to see other local communities participate in programs like this one, which Granite City is the first to do in the Metro East.

“Although it will help this area quite a bit, it’s going to take more than just us planting these trees here,” Valencia said.

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program: Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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