The Importance Of Trees

Colleen Carroll
Owner, NatureTalks

Please tell us about your business. NatureTalks is an environmental-education company. There are different types of programs I offer. For example, I work with schools that wish to use an outdoor classroom for teaching, and I also go into more in-depth research in the urban forest, as far as technical aspects of trees and the environmental benefits of trees are concerned.

What kind of work do you do with schools? Every school is different, as far as what they’re looking for. Schools might want something as simple as just growing a few plants that the children can learn to appreciate, like kale. They get this excitement of growing it on their own and making a salad and eating it together as a community.

What is the urban forest aspect of your business? I work a lot with Urban and Community Forestry Council on Oahu. A big part of my job is to help people get excited about trees and their benefits – their beauty, the shade they provide and their cultural importance. The other thing I’m doing is visiting projects that have been in the ground for 10 to 20 years, like the Koloa bypass that has 170 rainbow shower trees that were planted in 1996. I look at them and assess their health, and I see how good of a project it is after all those years.

When did you start appreciating plants? I was 3 years old and I planted my first sunflower. It was like magic to me; it was this massive flower you could see anywhere in the neighborhood – it was like a beacon. It was beautiful and amazing. My mom harvested it, and we got to have a party with all the neighborhood kids. And so I was hooked. It was beauty and food all in one thing.

Why did you start your business? I’ve always been interested in helping people get some connection with nature so that they appreciate it more and care for it more. That is the heart of what I think is important.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? You’re helping people and providing a service to them, and also seeing the excitement of someone growing a plant themselves.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? When you see trees in the landscape treated inappropriately or just clear cut for development. There’s not this caring ethic demonstrated toward trees for how they are maintained and selected. It’s hard for me to see trees get taken down or be pruned so poorly.

What is the importance of trees? First of all, I love trees. They have so many environmental benefits. Think of this island with no trees. What would hold in the sand and the dirt? An island can’t exist without trees. We wouldn’t have watersheds without ohia gathering the water. They also help cool the temperature. They are good at slowing down stormwater runoff, and if you have trees planted strategically and the right types of trees, you actually can slow down nitrogen and other pollutants from getting into the reef. They are a buffer and protector of the ocean. Plus, they provide food, beauty and, of course, oxygen.

Please tell us about your new eBook. It’s called Inspirational Gardeners Growing Food for the Soul: Stories from Hawaii, and is a collection of Hawaii stories told from the gardener’s perspective about why they garden. The goal is to get people inspired to see what they can do in a landscape, and how they can work with a small or big yard and relate to plants in that way. The inspiration for me was to show different ways that people use their landscape to grow food or medicine and why they do it.