4C Tree Project

Deanna Hoffman is the chair of Green Newton School Connections, a teacher, a Newton resident, and most recently–a blogger and podcaster. She interviewed the organizers of GN’s highly successful 4C Tree Project, which raised funds to plant and care for 270 new trees in Newton’s public spaces.  Give it a listen, and be sure to check out her other episodes!

This pandemic has been so difficult, especially for those who have suffered loss. Like many, Elizabeth Sockwell began to feel quite hopeless during her fully remote senior year of college. Instead of dwelling on her sorrows, Elizabeth channeled her energy into something positive, what became known as the 4C Tree Project. The 4 C’s stand for “Capture Carbon, Commemorate COVID,” and this is exactly what Elizabeth set out to do. She worked with community leaders and fellow student activists from her home city of Newton, Massachusetts, to plant trees as living memorials to honor lives lost to COVID-19. CLICK HERE to hear my interview with Elizabeth and others who helped with the project on Episode 5 of the Meet Me on Planet 3 podcast.

The 4C Tree Project in Newton reminds me of the work of the late Wangari Maathai, who was the impetus behind the planting of millions of trees in Kenya on the continent of Africa. Her revitalization of a region threatened by deforestation earned her the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first African woman and first environmentalist to receive this honor. Obviously Dr. Maathai’s work was much wider spread; however, it started with one single tree and expanded thanks to the help of a community. In her book, The Green Belt Movement, she refers to the Harambee spirit, which means to work together in Kiswahili. To learn more, you can read to younger children about Wangari’s Trees of Peace, and young adults (and grownups!) can tackle Unbowed, a Memoir or other book written by Wangari Maathai.

Follow @4ctreeproject on Instagram, and find out more about Newton’s Climate Action Plan and other green projects on Green Newton’s website. Elizabeth Sockwell also recently started her own blog called Achievable Green – check it out!

Is your community interested in commemorating lives lost to COVID-19? Could you pull together a student group to start your own 4C Tree Project or something similar? Post your comments below or @meetmeonplanet3 on Instagram or Twitter. And, as always, email me with topic suggestions or questions: deanna@meetmeonplanet3.com.

– Deanna


p.s. Here are a few reasons to love, save, and plant trees:

  • Trees are plants, which photosynthesize, providing the oxygen we breathe and absorbing carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that causes climate change!).
  • Trees are homes to many animals.
  • Trees are beautiful.
  • Tree roots help to manage water and prevent flooding and erosion.
  • Trees provide food for animals and humans, like maple syrup, tree nuts, and apples to name a few.
  • Trees provide shade, which cools the air and our homes.
  • Trees can be used by humans to create materials such as paper, tools, and shelter.


A newly planted 4C tree in the field behind my kids' school, May 2021

A newly planted 4C tree in the field behind my kids’ school, May 2021


Elizabeth Sockwell, Founder of the 4C Tree Project

Elizabeth Sockwell, Founder of the 4C Tree Project