PECO to add 1,550 trees to Philadelphia’s urban canopy

The energy company’s ReLeaf program will plant a new tree for every tree removed for electrical maintenance.

A fruit tree planted in North Philadelphia

Nine fruit trees were planted on a lot on the 1900 block of Norris Street in North Philadelphia on July 11, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This morning, 1,550 trees will be unloaded from trucks at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, destined to be planted in neighborhoods across the city.

PECO is launching a new initiative, ReLeaf, to plant a new tree for every tree that the energy company removes.

“There are going to be times when trees have to be removed because of locations, problems with reliability related to electricity,” said Romona Riscoe Benson, PECO’s director of corporate and community impact. “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.”

ReLeaf is part of a larger program of PECO’s parent corporation, Excelon, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from operations. The company has vowed to do such things as convert half of its vehicle fleet to electric by 2050, and make infrastructure investments focused on energy efficiency and clean energy.

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PECO is partnering with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to expand Philadelphia’s urban canopy. Most of the trees will be going to neighborhoods in South, Southwest, and North parts of Philadelphia where there are relatively few trees compared to other neighborhoods.

In addition, PECO is donating $200,000 to PHS for its tree planting efforts, which is twice the company’s normal support. The trees will be put in the ground largely through PHS’s Tree Tenders neighborhood program.

“It is part of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and being able to use our trees program as part of that initiative,” Benson said. “We are very interested in not only doing our part as a company, but partnering with others in the community to support initiatives that are related to having a cleaner environment.”

Some of the trees will be planted beyond Philadelphia: in Delaware County around Darby and Swarthmore, and in Chester County at the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove.

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