Sustaining Our Urban Landscape

Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL) is driving a resilient and environmentally equitable New Orleans by reforesting our urban landscape. Since its June 2016 inception the organization has planted 790 large, native trees in its partner communities.

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Category: Environment
Parish: Orleans
After losing 100,000 trees due to Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Forest Service declared New Orleans the most deforested city in the country. Yet in order to have a tree canopy that is equivalent to Atlanta's, Chattanooga's or Birmingham's, New Orleans needs to plant 1 million trees. This matters.

Trees intercept and absorb stormwater, perhaps New Orleans' most existential challenge. They also slow subsidence, decrease air, water and soil pollution, lower air temperatures and energy bills, all while making the city a more beautiful and liveable place. The importance of trees is undeniable. However, planting them strategically and as a system is crucial to trees' ability to truly make an impact. This was the impetus behind the founding of SOUL.

SOUL's COMMUNITY FORESTRY PROGRAM plants one community at a time. It works closely with its partner neighborhoods, empowering them to determine which trees are planted and where. SOUL is truly a grass roots organization. Next season its goal is to plant 1,000 large native trees its partner communities, including Mid-City, Tulane-Canal, Algiers, Broadmoor, Freret-Climana, while also expanding into new areas.

The COMMUNITY FORESTRY EDUCATIONAL SERIES is crucial to educating the public. In order to strategically drive reforestation at a meaningful scale and as a system, a critical mass of informed individuals is necessary for driving these concepts forward at the citizen level.

SOUL's ADVOCACY PROGRAM encourages stronger tree protection measures that will help the urban tree canopy thrive. It has successfully introduced changes to the Master Plan, and will begin working with the new administration in May to produce criteria for Heritage Tree legislation.

The VOLUNTOURISM PROGRAM utilizes tourist volunteers to upkeep under-maintained public trees. The program also produces earned income for SOUL as the voluntourists pay a per head fee in exchange for a meaningful experience.
"As well as being a significant asset to the environment, the magnolia trees provided to us by SOUL have added a brilliant focal point that greets you everytime you enter and exit the store. To all the many volunteers, your work has not gone unnoticed. A day does not go by without an acknowledgement of your time and effort, always accompanied with a smile. We at Terranova's can not thank you enough for giving us something we didn't know were needed, but adds such joy. I look forward to nurturing them and watching them grow and bloom for years to come." - Karen Terranova, Owner, Terranova's Super Market

"I attended SOUL's community forestry education series as a professional development tool. I expected to learn more about trees. I left with a greater understanding of my own city of New Orleans and its capacity to handle rain and subsidence, the legal aspects of tree planting (who knew?), and most importantly, sheer excitement that SOUL helps develop tools for individuals to become neighborhood activists. I participated in a community tree planting with them at Whole Foods, and have since felt a greater connection to that little spot every time I am over there. SOUL inspired in me a sense of empowerment that I can help turn my street, neighborhood, and city into a beautiful green space, and it has really kept me energized to their cause. I hope they continue with this series!" -Erin Genrich, Environmental Education Coordinator, The Green Project