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Sustainability News

September 26, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. Shade - we all crave it during sun-scorched days, and the shade that trees provide creates an escape from the heat. So where are all the trees?

The Sustainable Cities Network at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability is aware of this need for more trees in our urban world. Partnering with the cities of Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix, the Network hosted the Valley’s first Regional Tree and Shade Summit on March 9, 2011, in Phoenix. The Summit brought together public officials, municipal staff, nonprofit organizations, and professional associations to identify strategies for increasing tree and shade and green infrastructure, and creating a healthier, more livable and prosperous Arizona.

On Sept. 17, the Regional Tree and Shade Summit received an Award of Merit at Valley Forward’s annual Environmental Excellence Awards program in the Environmental Education/Communication: Public Sector category. The awards recognize outstanding environmental achievement and projects that promote environmental initiatives. 

Funded by the State of Arizona Forestry Division and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the Regional Tree and Shade Summit stressed the importance of collaboration in cultivating green infrastructure. By bringing together those who have the power and skills to address the problem, the Summit set out to increase awareness about tree and shade issues, and promote practices to maintain trees and shade.

Local and national experts spoke on the importance of coordinating efforts to increase green infrastructure in Arizona. They addressed the importance of increasing the tree canopy, overcoming obstacles with local codes, increasing the quality of life in neighborhoods, reducing water consumption, and promoting sustainable landscape design and maintenance. These topics inspired lively discussions and diverse perspectives of how to address these challenges. 

The City of Phoenix’s Shade Phoenix 2030 plan was presented in order to provide attendees with a working model that could be built upon for future success in expanding the region’s urban forest. By providing community leaders with the blueprints for the City of Phoenix’s plans, these communities can build and adapt their own plans to increase urban forestry in their cities.

Scholarships were awarded to eight arborists in valley cities to protect the future of our urban forests, increasing the number of certified arborists working for government agencies. This part of the program is meant to  help minimize long-term costs associated with tree planting and maintenance, contribute to water conservation efforts, aid in educating additional city staff on the importance of green infrastructure, and promote and expand regional urban forestry efforts.

In order to continue the success of the Summit, ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network is hosting Green Infrastructure Workgroup meetings. These meetings aim to continue discussions, networking, and collaboration in order to increase awareness and understanding of green infrastructure.

The award-winning Summit was held in downtown Phoenix at the Civic Space Park, providing a location that exemplifies some of the sustainable techniques featured during the Summit. Participants were given a tour of the park and educated on how it is possible to blend trees and landscape to create sustainable public spaces.

About the Sustainable Cities Network  

The Sustainable Cities Network was created to help municipalities in the Phoenix-Metro area and around the state with sustainability.  The Network, convened by Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, serves as a coalition of cities, towns and counties that meet to share best practices and support one another in their quest to become more sustainable, livable communities.  What started out as an exploratory meeting of ten desert communities in the summer of 2008, now includes 29 entities including cities, towns, tribal communities, and Maricopa County, one of the largest counties in the country. For more information visit

About the Global Institute of Sustainability

The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education, and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers transdisciplinary degree programs to create practical solutions for environmental, economic, and social challenges. For more information visit

About Valley Forward

Valley Forward is a 42-year-old, non-profit public interest organization that brings business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues and to promote cooperative efforts to improve the sustainability and livability of the Valley and state. For more information visit

By Michael Marconi, ASU Global Institute of Sustainability