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The idea behind the student-led effort is to plant trees to make up for the reams of paper used by schools

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Students Vanessa Wallace (center), Lexi Scholl and Johan Alonzo Lopez are involoved with Tree-Plenish, an effort to plant trees in the community.You would think in this digital age, with so much work being conducted online, that we would save on paper usage.

But that's not the case, according to Tree-Plenish, a student-led national organization with the mission of planting new trees to make up for the reams of paper being used daily by schools.

Heading up the Tree-Plenish mission at St. Helens High School is Vanessa Wallace, who is president and founder of the school's Environmental Club.

Wallace, who is a sophomore at the school, describes her club as "a community service-based club that advocates for the environment."

The goal of the club, according to Wallace, is to educate people about problems that affect community members and the Earth. About 16 students are involved in the Environmental Club this year.

The push now is for Wallace to get members of the community to purchase trees that can be planted at their homes or property.

The goal of Tree-Plenish is to make up for paper usage at schools.

"I think this year the school, in the 2019-2020 year, purchased 1.15 million pieces of paper. But every school uses a lot of paper," Wallace said.

She continued, "The point of it is to replant those trees to make up for the sheets of paper we've used."

Depending on who purchases the trees, the trees could be planted in St. Helens, Scappoose or surrounding areas.

Wallace has been able to gather up sponsors for the local Tree-Plenish project, which she hopes will make the trees available at very low prices, perhaps even free.

"There are so many great businesses and people who helped and reached out," Wallace said. "I honestly thought it was going to be harder to get sponsors, but then I realized how great our community is and how helping they are."

Wallace's goal was $550 to account for the trees, but sponsors provided $750.

"That basically means we can get more trees out there, and the trees might also be free or very cheap to purchase for your property," Wallace said.

Tree-Plenish's St. Helens chapter hopes to plant more than 100 trees itself.

Interested individuals can visit the local Tree-Plenish website at tree-plenish.org/sthelens.

If you wish to purchase a tree, Wallace explained the procedure: "We would come to your property, we would have volunteers and, obviously, we would follow all the COVID guidelines (masks and social distancing). We would plant it wherever you like."

It's expected that orders can begin soon or right away, but if you are interested, you are advised to check the website to learn more.

Wallace has always had an interest in preserving the environment.

Looking back at her earlier years, she said, "Ever since I was a kid, I've always liked to be outside. I always found the beauty in everything when it came to nature — I would look at a tree and think, 'Wow, that's beautiful.'"

Wallace continued, "It might sound kind of cheesy, but what really sparked it for me was going to Outdoor School. It was one of the best times, because I could learn about everything. I retained so much information at the time. That's when I really realized I would love to work with nature. I would love to work with the environment."

The St. Helens School District revived its Outdoor School program for sixth-graders in 2015, after years without the program due to budget constraints. At the time, St. Helens High School also organized an Outdoor School experience for seventh-graders who had missed out on the opportunity in 2014.

In seeking sponsors for the local Tree-Plenish effort, Wallace noted the generosity of the community.

"It made me realize how amazing this community truly is and how supportive everybody is," Wallace said. "Basically, everyone I called was totally willing to help out — it really made me feel so good. It was great to see that our community really does care."


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