Oakland County Planting Nearly 500 Trees on Government Campus

Oakland County is taking strides toward a greener, more sustainable government campus with the planting of about 500 trees this spring. When these trees mature, on average, each will remove 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s the potential to absorb nearly 12 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

In addition, the county successfully decreased its fleet fuel consumption by an impressive 123,000 gallons in 2023. The fuel savings averted the release of 2.46 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In comparison, the world released 2.57 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every second in 2023, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
"These initiatives underscore our continued commitment of sustainable practices – Earth Day is every day in the county," Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said. "By planting trees and reducing fleet fuel consumption, we are taking proactive steps to protect our environment and build a more resilient future."

Oakland County’s strategic sustainability goal is to reach net zero carbon emissions for county operations by 2050, with an interim target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

“Each action we take impacts our environment – big and small,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Erin Quetell. “It is our goal to make aggressive changes to reduce our emissions, while also creating a more accessible, safe, and enjoyable Oakland County campus.”

This ambitious tree planting initiative, which began April 8, will see a mix of native evergreen, deciduous shade, and flowering trees all over the main campus and at the South Oakland Office Building and South Oakland Health Center. It not only enhances the beauty of the campus but also plays a vital role in mitigating climate change, improving air quality, and fostering biodiversity within the community. The goal is to plant 2,027 trees on the government campus by 2027.

“There are several benefits to planting these trees such as air purification, oxygen generation, and reduction of the heat island effect,” said Mark Baldwin, chief of landscape services for Oakland County. “The biggest benefit I see is that people like trees and it makes them happier when they see more trees.”

The county purchased the trees, which are seven to 15 years old, from suppliers in both the Upper and Lower peninsulas. Oakland County Facilities, Maintenance & Operations grounds crews are planting them using current International Society of Arboriculture guidelines to help the roots grow outward from the root ball instead of in a circular fashion which results in roots girdling the trunk.

The other way Oakland County is building a sustainable campus is by reducing its fleet fuel consumption, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Its fleet of more than 900 vehicles is responsible for 15 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The county has adopted several measures to cut fuel use. These include adding electric and hybrid vehicles, with 10 EVs and three hybrids already in use. The county also replaces vehicles every five years, well below the 14-year average for private vehicles, thereby acquiring vehicles that are more fuel-efficient more often. Moreover, frequent wheel alignments, as part of a rigorous maintenance program at the county’s Central Garage, are saving around two percent in fuel consumption. These efforts are not only reducing emissions but also saving costs and promoting environmental sustainability.

Oakland County’s buildings, which cover nearly 2 million square feet, account for 76 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions. In a partnership between the Oakland County Facilities Management Department and the Office of Sustainability, the team is working towards building decarbonization, energy efficiency, and future building electrification.

Oakland County’s strategic goal of sustainability will continue to explore and implement innovative solutions to address environmental challenges and promote a healthier, more sustainable future. For additional information about Oakland County's sustainability initiatives, click on oakgov.com/sustainability.

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