Green Team turns trash to trees
Group’s founder hopes efforts spark ‘environmental movement’
In the last few years, a team of Lower Mainland residents has yanked 33,800 kilograms of invasive plants out of area parks, planting in their place 7,100 native trees and shrubs.
The cost to taxpayers for all that time and effort? Absolutely nothing.
The hugely successful so-called Green Team germinated in 2011 and its growth has been impressive. In less than four years, the team’s more than 2,000 Lower Mainland volunteers have pulled up the equivalent weight of a fleet of two dozen Toyota Prii (that’s the plural form of Prius, for those not up on their green terminology) in English ivy, Scotch broom, lamium, laurel, periwinkle and other pesky plants. They’ve also hauled away nearly a Porsche Panamera’s weight — some 1,800 kilograms of porky would-be sports car — in metal, bottles, shopping carts, tires, cigarette butts, plastic bags and other garbage from local parks. In place of all that unwanted trash, Green Team members have planted a forest worth of native trees and shrubs, sprucing up neglected green spaces around the region.
The group has been so successful that Lyda Salatian, founder of the group, is now helping to cultivate a Green Team on Vancouver Island as well.
“I had a hunch that a lot of people were interested in doing something for the environment and they just needed that opportunity,” said Salatian.
Many volunteers hear about the team on meetup.com, a website that connects individuals to activities happening in their region. Salatian said it’s common for people who come out to help not to know much about invasive species or planting.
“I think they want to get their hands dirty, feel the soil, be outside in nature,” she explained. “When you put a tree in, you’re doing that.”
Salatian said municipal governments have supported the group from the beginning, and parks employees are often on hand to help direct the work effort. Cities supply some of the trees and shrubs the group plants, while others are paid for by other environmental stewardship groups or Green Team sponsors.
The organization got charitable status last year and Salatian is now turning her attention to raising funds from individuals, foundations and governments to help the Green Team expand.
“We’re at the beginning stages of what I believe could turn into an environmental movement,” said Salatian, who said she hopes to take her green formula to cities outside B.C., should the model prove portable.
Its success on Vancouver Island suggests it is. Under the direction of program manager Amanda Evans, the Greater Victoria Green Team has accumulated about 300 volunteers in just four months.
She said the response from volunteers and the community has been overwhelming, and the team is growing at a rate of two to three members a day.
“They love it. Everyone has had such a good time at every event,” said Evans, who has started branching the group out into municipalities from North Saanich to Sooke.
Anyone interested in donating time or cash to the effort can do so at greenteamscanada.ca.