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Corporate Volunteers Lend a Helping Hand in the Olmsted Parks

In October 2006, an historic system of parks in Buffalo, chock full of 12,000 trees, was devastated by a pre-season ice storm. Starting Wednesday, June 11, a total of nearly 200 corporate volunteers will pitch in their time to restore the Olmsted Parks, and in doing so will contribute to a $100 million effort to fight climate change around the world.

On June 11th, roughly 50 employees from HSBC, the world’s largest bank, will abandon their offices for a day to catalog hundreds of trees that were planted by their colleagues in the parks last year.

Similar volunteering events in the Olmsted Systems—spearheaded by a partnership between Earthwatch and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy—will be held June 14th and 17th. The projects are one component of the largest known employee program on climate change spearheaded by Earthwatch—a major partner in the five-year HSBC Climate Partnership that launched last year.

“The motivation to make lasting change starts when the employees get their hands dirty and see up close how climate change affects their lives and the natural world,” said David Morse, Corporate Fellowship Manager at Earthwatch. “We are excited to spearhead this work in a special place like Buffalo, working with proud local residents to restore the ‘City of Trees.’ Bringing people together to make a positive change in the world is what Earthwatch is all about, and it is especially rewarding to work in an area so that’s been devastated by recent storms.”

HSBC provided the initial funding to start the planting of the new trees last year.

“As the world’s local bank, HSBC feels very strongly about supporting the communities where we live and work,” said Paul Lawrence, President and CEO of HSBC Bank USA, N.A. “With a significant presence in Western New York, I am proud our employees are helping to restore this natural treasure in their neighborhood.”

At the event the volunteers will also learn about how trees sequester carbon, a trait that makes the trees “superheroes” in the fight against rising carbon dioxide levels from climate change.

According to a USDA Forest Service analysis, the tress that comprise Buffalo Olmsted Parks had a total value of more than $22 million, stored 40 metric tons of carbon and removed four metric tons of pollutants from Buffalo’s atmosphere.

“Volunteers are essential to maintaining the 1200-acre Olmsted System and we are so pleased to have the folks from HSBC here to provide their support,” said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, President and CEO for Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “We really appreciate their energy and commitment.”

The Buffalo Parks project is one of 17 volunteering projects Earthwatch has set up around North America for this summer. Others will take place in New York, Chicago and Vancouver. To date, more than 1000 volunteers have contributed in excess of 2,600 hours of volunteer work to various projects in North America.

HSBC staff who participate at an event in the Parks are eligible to apply to become Climate Champions who spend 12 days at Earthwatch’s new climate center in Maryland—one of five Earthwatch established around the world. At the climate center the employees work side-by-side with scientists doing forest research during the day, learn about climate change in evening sessions, and develop year-long sustainability project they will implement back in the home office.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and this kind of aggressive engagement program is the only way to make a real difference,” said Edward Wilson, President and CEO of Earthwatch.

By the end of the HSBC Climate Partnership in 2012, 22,000 HSBC employees will have participated in local volunteering projects around the world, and 2,200 employees will have become Climate Champions.

The HSBC Climate Partnership is a US$100 million, five-year partnership funded by HSBC, working with the Climate Group, the Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. Launched in May 2007, the HCP will:

• make some of the world’s great cities—Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Shanghai—cleaner and greener, which the partners will promote as models for the world;

• create ‘climate champions’ worldwide who will undertake field research and bring back valuable knowledge and experience to their communities;

• conduct the largest ever field experiment on the world’s forests to measure carbon and the effects of climate change; and

• help to protect four of the world’s major rivers—the Amazon, Ganges, Thames, and Yangtze—from the impacts of climate change, benefiting the 450 million people who rely on them.

Earthwatch Institute is the world’s largest environmental volunteer nonprofit organization. Its mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Earthwatch was founded in Boston in 1971 and affiliate offices are based in the UK, Australia, and Japan. With approximately 120 projects fielding in more than 55 countries worldwide, Earthwatch focuses its research efforts on climate change, endangered species and resources, marine biology and ocean conservation, and threatened traditional cultures.

Joy Testa Cinquino | newswise
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