The TAZO Tree Corps will work with American Forests to help bring cleaner air and combat climate change in communities of color across the US, by increasing ‘tree equity.’
Today, the Tazo Tea Company announced a commitment to fight for climate justice — in partnership with recording artist and singer-songwriter SZA, and nonprofit organization American Forests. Together, they are launching the TAZO Tree Corps — a paid, locally hired workforce that will use tree planting and maintenance to transform neighborhoods while helping to combat climate change and create new jobs in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities of color across the US.
While it may sound like a simplistic solution, trees absorb million of tons of air pollutants; and in addition to making communities greener and cooler, trees can increase air and water quality, improve mental health, lower energy costs and lead to more overall economic opportunity.
For decades, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities nationwide have been disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of climate change. In fact, some neighborhoods can be five to 20 degrees hotter than predominantly white neighborhoods in the same city. Environmental inequities are so pervasive in low-income communities and communities of color that environmental experts have used the term "sacrifice zones" to describe these areas that carry a greater burden of air, land and water pollution, and warmer temperatures; because they are situated near chemical treatment plants, highways or heavy polluters.
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As Laraine Miller, President of Unilever Tea Americas — Tazo’s parent company — explains:
"The climate crisis is no longer a future problem — it's here now and BIPOC communities are disproportionately at risk. As a brand rooted in challenging the status quo, we believe we have a role to play in fighting for a sustainable and equitable future, which is why TAZO is announcing the first steps of a long-term purpose ambition to fight for climate justice. Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but also a human rights issue — so we're getting started by focusing on the racial injustices that must be addressed to make meaningful progress within the climate crisis."
The TAZO Tree Corps will be a paid cohort of 25 locally hired fellows employed by The Davey Tree Expert Company, who will receive training in climate justice advocacy as well as tree planting and maintenance. They will work over the next two years to achieve measurable tree equity in five cities — Minneapolis, MN; Detroit, MI; the San Francisco Bay Area, CA; Richmond, VA and The Bronx, NY — where discriminatory zoning practices have left many low-income communities and communities of color with less green space for decades. “Tree equity,” a term coined by American Forests, means that all communities — regardless of income or race — can experience the myriad health beneﬁts that trees provide.
"Across the country, BIPOC communities are facing the worst effects of climate change because they live in neighborhoods that are disproportionately burdened with more pollutants and fewer trees," SZA said. "Planting trees can help improve everything — from air quality to economic opportunity to mental health — and everybody deserves these benefits. I'm proud to partner with TAZO and American Forests to stand up for environmental justice and start making an impact in neighborhoods that need it the most."
The TAZO Tree Corps complements existing American Forests initiatives such as 1t.org. Launched in summer 2020 in partnership with the World Economic Forum, the US chapter of the global trillion trees movement has pledged the conservation, restoration and growth of over 855 million trees across the country, to help combat extreme heat and wildfires, and other adverse effects of climate change.
But merely planting more trees is not enough — so, American Forests is also training people to take care of them through urban forestry workforce partnerships that employ people from the neighborhoods that need more trees.
"Trees do more than beautify a neighborhood — they're life-and-death infrastructure for health equity and climate justice," said Jad Daley, President and CEO of American Forests. "Trees can transform neighborhoods and lives, and every person needs this healing power — regardless of income, race or location. But achieving tree equity is about more than just planting trees. The TAZO Tree Corps will help us turn this work into new economic opportunity for people in these disproportionately impacted communities. That is our full vision for tree equity."
In an effort to expand its environmental justice commitments, TAZO is working with sustainability consulting firm Pure Strategies to conduct an environmental and social impact audit of its business — from evaluating workers' rights in the regions where it sources its 50+ globally grown ingredients, to understanding the carbon footprint of its products, and more. The brand has also committed to support WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Intersectional Environmentalist — two BIPOC-led climate justice organizations that provide economic opportunities, education, resources, community and training for BIPOC youth.
*TAZO, SZA and American Forests encourage those eligible to apply to the TAZO Tree Corps by visiting *TAZO.com/TreeCorps.