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April 20, 2022

PHS gets 1,550 trees from PECO as power company sets out to replace every tree it cuts down

The donation is part of Excelon's new ReLeaf initiative and included a $200,000 donation to the horticultural society's tree-planting programs

Environment Trees
Trees PHS PECO Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

PECO unveiled its ReLeaf initiative on Tuesday, providing the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society with a $200,000 donation along with 1,550 trees to be planted. The power company's goal is to replace every tree it cuts down with a new one.

PECO employees unloaded 1,550 trees at the Navy Yard this week, as part of energy company's collaboration with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's tree programs. Next, the more than 80 PHS Tree Tenders groups will plant the trees throughout Philadelphia as the organization continues its work to improve the city's tree canopy. 

The trees are one part of PECO's new ReLeaf initiative, also intent on improving the city's tree canopy and replacing the trees the company cuts down. The program's goal is to plant one tree for each tree the company removes as a result of energy maintenance or other business operations. 

"When planted right, trees offer our customers a number of benefits, including energy and money savings, and help support our efforts to promote a cleaner, brighter future for the communities we serve," said Romona Riscoe Benson, director of corporate and community impact at PECO. "It is our partnerships with organizations like PHS that allow us to build on our goals and explore new ways to enhance our commitment to environmental stewardship and social equity." 

The 1,550 trees delivered to PHS will be picked up by PHS volunteers, who will plant them in areas across Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. The intention is to fill gaps in communities with fewer trees.

Trees will be planted in Nicetown, Olney, and Point Breeze in Philadelphia. There will also be trees planted in Darby and Swarthmore, Delaware County, as well as the Medal of Honor Grove in Phoenixville, Chester County. 

PHS is looking for volunteers to help support its tree tenders programs. More information is available on the horticultural society's website

The ReLeaf program supports Excelon – PECO's parent company – in its goal for zero emissions by 2050. The corporation committed to the goal in August, along with smaller goals, like converting its vehicle fleet to electric power, making investments to improve its own operations, and replacing the trees PECO cuts down in Philadelphia. 

The city's narrowing tree canopy has been a cause for concern to PHS for years, and its replenishment is among the chief purposes of its tree programming. Each spring, the organization hosts yard tree giveaways, providing Philadelphia residents trees to plant in their own backyards. 

Other programs, like the TreeVitalize Watershed Grant Program, prioritizes planting trees in water protection zones near streams and stormwater basins. Both of these tree programs received a boost in funding with a $200,000 donation from PECO on Tuesday morning. 

"There are going to be times when trees have to be removed because of locations, problems with reliability related to electricity," Riscoe Benson told WHYY. "Perhaps trees are being removed because they are not healthy. We certainly are looking at ways that we can ensure that when trees are removed like that, that we make other trees available to our residents and customers." 

Philadelphia released an assessment of its urban tree canopy in 2019. In it, city officials discovered that the canopy declined from 2008 to 2018. Meanwhile, the city's goal is for at least 30% of each neighborhood to under the tree canopy by 2030. 

An assessment by the Northern Research Station found that expanding the tree canopy can benefit the physical and mental health of residents over time. Further, the study found that, if the city reached it goal to improve its tree canopy, it could prevent 403 premature deaths each year citywide, including 244 premature deaths in low-income communities. 

PECO's partnership with PHS began in 2021, which has resulted in 8,700 trees and 1,400 shrubs planted in the region.