A spirit of environmental stewardship on Arbor Day

Read Special Section

As climate change looms with increasing urgency, environmental stewardship and sustainable living are top of mind with many Youville residents. In celebration of Arbor Day, on Friday, April 28, staff and resident volunteers at Youville House in Cambridge spent the day planting new herbs, vegetables, and flowers to inaugurate newly installed raised beds in their community garden.

The day's activities underscored Youville's sustained commitment to environmental stewardship, which in the past year has included the initiation of a robust in-house composting program. According to Bob Salamanca, director of environmental services, Youville House has composted upwards of 8.4 tons of food waste since the program began. This homegrown compost was front and center in the Arbor Day planting activities. Yun Wu, an accountant at Youville House, has been cultivating her own batch of compost using Youville's food scraps, which was used in the herb garden.

"We came up with a fun experiment that residents will be able to track throughout the growing season," said Nicole Breslin, president and CEO of Youville. "We have two side-by-side beds with new herbs: one of them is using the compost Yun made with our in-house scraps. The other is using store-bought compost. We are very curious to see which planter will have the best outcome!"

Composting is a highly effective way to reduce our carbon footprint. As a nation, the United States produces enormous amounts of food waste every day. When thrown in the trash, this waste ultimately arrives in landfills and generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is a major culprit in climate change. By diverting food waste into compost, we can significantly eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions. In addition, compost generated from food waste improves soil quality, leading to better outcomes for agriculture, less need for chemical fertilizers, and happier vegetation. Compost also enhances water retention in soils and can sequester carbon.

Did you know that Arbor Day has roots (no pun intended) within the Catholic church? One of the earliest Arbor Day celebrations was organized by a Spanish priest named Don Juan Abern Samtres in 1808. Believing that trees promoted public health, wellness, and beauty, Don Juan led villagers and clergy of Villanueva de la Sierra in a festival of planting and feasting that lasted for three days. Don Juan also attempted to spread word by writing to neighboring communities about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Youville House and Youville Place Assisted Living Residences are not-for-profit and sponsored by Covenant Health. Youville House, located in Cambridge, and Youville Place, located in Lexington, have provided values-based assisted living options to the community for 25 years. The Courtyard at Youville Place offers memory support with an emphasis on habilitation. Offering both short- and long-term residency, combined with services, Youville communities provide a unique combination of comfort and social support. Seniors enjoy residence in an energetic community while taking advantage of the dining, housekeeping, and personal care services available.

For more information about Youville House, Youville Place, or The Courtyard, contact Yanira Burgos, director of community relations, at 617-491-1234, yaniraburgos@youvillehouse.org or visit www.youvilleassistedliving.org.