Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most. An OPIRG McMaster summer neighbourhood project.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

First Thoughts on the Area

Last week, we had our first visit to the neighbourhoods where we will be canvassing. It was great to get a sense of the area and interact with some of the residents. The area spans from Wellington to Gage, and from the railway tracks North of Barton to Cannon. The shaded section of this map gives a more detailed idea of the area of focus.

Lots of potential sites along Sanford Ave!
The houses along Wellington had pretty small yards for the most part, but there were some possible sites for street trees. The houses face a pretty busy road, and the area could definitely benefit from more trees. Many other homes in the area had small yards, but some of the smaller tree options will be a nice fit. The houses along Victoria Street tended to have more trees out front, but the area could still use more. The urban canopy from the existing trees definitely made the area nicer.

Traveling further east towards Gage, the area became quite a bit more industrial. There were a number of factories and empty lots, which got us thinking about the vast potential for street trees in these areas. It was interesting to note that as we moved into the more industrial areas, homes tended to have fewer trees out front. With the help of the Street Tree Project, this pattern can change and lead to nicer-looking neighbourhoods with better air quality.

After refuelling at 541 Eatery
While in the area, we got the chance to stop off at 541 Barton Eatery. The café has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and offers a menu of delicious, reasonably priced food and drinks (personally, I can vouch for the coffee). I look forward to spending a lot more time there while canvassing in the

While surveying the area, we came across some neighbours and discussed the project with them. We
were met with a range of responses. There were some people who were strongly opposed to the idea of a tree on their property. Around Clinton and Sherman, it became clear that a recent bad experience with a tree made people ambivalent to request their own. A large tree in the area had to be removed recently, supposedly because it had interfered with the sewers. We explained to the neighbours that smaller trees tend not to pose as much of a problem for underground systems, since their roots do not reach as far down. Additionally, trees do not cause damage unless there is a problem with the piping to begin with. More information about these misconceptions can be found here. Hopefully this unfortunate incident doesn’t make people too hesitant to get trees on their property.

Happy to see a Street Tree!
While there were some people who were strongly opposed to the idea of a tree, others simply seemed hesitant. Many had not considered the idea of getting a tree, and were taken by surprise. However, bringing up the idea of a tree beforehand is likely to make them more willing to consider a tree later on. As this article discusses, introducing people to unfamiliar ideas will make them more receptive to them in the future. Hopefully the Street Tree Project has the same experience!

Some neighbours were very interested in the project, and were happy to connect with us further. We shared contact information and will follow up, and are looking forward to meeting these people again when we canvas. We’re hoping to come across other people who share this attitude!

We came across a few houses that had requested trees from us in past years. It was encouraging to see the trees on their lawns already making the area more inviting. 

We are looking forward to spending lots of time in the area in the weeks to come, and are determined to make the area greener!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Call for Volunteers for the 2016 Summer Street Tree Project

The Street Tree Project is looking for summer volunteers to help with door-to-door canvassing to promote green space in Hamilton!

The Project
The OPIRG Street Tree Project aims to plant trees in areas of the city with poor air quality and minimal urban canopy. The city offers free trees to be planted on any property, but many people are unaware of this initiative. Now in its fourth year, the Street Tree Project uses door-to-door canvassing, events, and social media presence to encourage people to make requests for trees to be planted on their property.

This year, we will be focusing on the Landsdale, Gibson, and Stipley neighbourhoods of Hamilton. The project will last from mid May to early July.

Volunteer Responsibilities
  • Training: all volunteers must attend a training session prior to beginning any work.
  • Canvassing: volunteers will go door to door encouraging residents to place requests for trees on their property. Volunteers will be thoroughly trained and can expect to canvas in pairs.
  • Community events: volunteers are encouraged to join as at community events to raise awareness about the project.
  • Social media: there may be opportunities for volunteers to contribute to the project blog. 

There is no minimum time commitment for volunteers, but you are encouraged to come out as often as possible.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or if you have any questions, please contact Hannah Walters-Vida at

Twitter: @TREEs4sTREEts

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hello from Hannah, the 2016 Street Tree Project Coordinator

My name is Hannah Walters-Vida, and I am very excited to take on the role of the 2016 Street Tree Project Coordinator.

I was born in Vancouver, but spent most of my life in Toronto. I came to Hamilton two years ago to pursue my degree in McMaster University’s Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law program. I have been really enjoying getting to explore the city’s dynamic urban life as well as its incredible natural areas.

Throughout my time at McMaster, I have become involved with OPIRG through my work with Fossil Free McMaster and as a volunteer with CVA’s Learning and Fun program. I am very passionate about environmental and social justice issues, and strongly believe in community engagement.

I look forward to working with members of the Hamilton community to create a greener city. This project has the potential to generate long-lasting improvements for the city’s environment and community, and I cannot wait to get started!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Strategy for Street Tree Success?

‘What we’ve learned by having real, in-depth conversations with people is that a broad swath of voters are actually open to changing their mind.’
Johnny talking trees to residents in Keith, 2013

"Existing research depicts intergroup prejudices as deeply ingrained, requiring intense intervention to lastingly reduce. Here, we show that a single approximately 10-minute conversation encouraging actively taking the perspective of others can markedly reduce prejudice for at least 3 months. We illustrate this potential with a door-to-door canvassing intervention in South Florida targeting antitransgender prejudice. Despite declines in homophobia, transphobia remains pervasive. For the intervention, 56 canvassers went door to door encouraging active perspective-taking with 501 voters at voters’ doorsteps. A randomized trial found that these conversations substantially reduced transphobia, with decreases greater than Americans’ average decrease in homophobia from 1998 to 2012. These effects persisted for 3 months, and both transgender and nontransgender canvassers were effective. The intervention also increased support for a nondiscrimination law, even after exposing voters to counterarguments." (Abstract from Science research paper)

Some interesting research into effective forms of communicating to win people over.

Read the full article in the New York Times

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Using trees to beat the heat: action in Portland Oregon.

From this interesting piece from the USA:
New street tree in Keith neighbourhood,
Hamilton Ontario

"We’ve been working with a team for several years to develop heat island maps for Portland and its surrounding region. We’ve also worked with Dr. Linda George and her lab to study traffic-related air quality, and the impact of trees on that air quality."

"Right now we’re working on an interactive version of the map that will help policy makers and citizen groups drill down on specific Portland streets and neighborhoods to find trouble spots. Notable in our analysis is that trails and greenways factor prominently in reducing air pollution and mitigating urban heat. The more extensive tracts of greenery present in specific areas, the greater cleaning and cooling of the air."

OK peoples: we can do so much more to further the research about air quality, and keep adding more trees to do their part for cleaning the air.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015

After a long month of canvassing throughout the Gibson neighbourhood, the Street Tree Project is wrapping up for the 2015 season. 

A few of this years volunteers 

To quantitatively see the results of the project over the last 3 years, check out the following map!

It’s not too late to get your free tree. Although the requests for fall planting are due June 30, any further requests will be planted in spring! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Volunteers Needed

The Street Tree Project is still looking for volunteers if you'd like to come out to the Gibson neighbourhood and help out with door-to-door canvassing!

If you are interested, sign up on this Doodle Poll: