GoodLands: An Ecological Approach to the Catholic Landscape

Impact Potential

Adding trees in a business district has been correlated with an increase in business [7]. Though studies have yet to be conducted with regard to places of worship, we wonder if increasing the number trees around a church could increase parishioner attendance in churches for the same reasons--for example, by calling attention to the space and by slowing down average rates of traffic near the site. Trees also contribute to place making and can help make spending time in an area more enjoyable.

Trees help increase avian biodiversity and create more habitat, as a whole, for animals of a variety of species, even within urban spaces.

Trees can increase the health of soils. They can significantly reduce soil erosion by wind and water. Trees can filter organic material from soil, preventing the material from reaching a water source in large quantities. Trees can reduce flooding, and can add organic matter deep in the earth, thereby increasing long-term soil fertility [9].

If 70% of Church Parishes, in the world planted an average of 3 trees on their property, it could draw down  10,363,953.6 lbs of CO2 annually [8]...

Trees can make us happier!


"An additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt. 'To get an equivalent increase with money, you’d have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger.'[10]. "


Trees can help create more peaceful environments.


Frances Kuo and Bill Sullivan of the University of Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory determined that apartment buildings surrounded by trees had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes than nearby identical apartments that were surrounded by barren land. Even a modest amount of greenery can make a big difference [11].

...that is equivalent to removing  about 1246 cars from the road [21].

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If we eliminated insects, including many pollinators, our world would cease functioning. The landscape of the planet would have fewer and fewer flowers, until it had almost none, and agricultural industries would collapse. It would be a very different and inhospitable place.


There are many landscape strategies that support insects, especially pollinators, by providing vital habitat patches and habitat stepping-stones that contain the food and shelter they need to survive.

Often, a change in mowing plans can be a starting point for creating more habitat. Allowing more flowers , rather than lawn, to grow can provide vital forage for pollinators.


  • Downed logs and leave detritus can benefit pollinators.


  • There is a potential to create a pollinator network of church properties by creating native plant patches, even as small as 4' * 4', and selectively maintaining these patches.


  • Selective-maintenance strategies will decrease maintenance costs.



E.O. Wilson once called insects “the little things that run the world.”

If in the United States, the average property of Catholic schools, parishes, hospitals, etc. has 0.5 acres of impervious surface...


...and if the management of 50% of these properties involved investments in green infrastructure, these investments could slow, filter, and sink an estimated 11,469,849,600 gallons of water every year [18][19].


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  • Critical habitat identification, evaluation, and protection.
  • Green-networking of religious lands.
  • The identification of opportunities for historic landscape preservation and protection on Holy sites.
  • Mapping that will identify housing opportunities.
  • Understanding community governance and relation to the world, spatially.
  • Independent contracting with parishes that desire to go-green in innovative ways that involve geospatial analysis.
  • Working with conservation groups and Church groups if lands change hands.
  • Working with organizations to connect their land-based programs to underutilized Catholic lands.
  • Assessing climate change vulnerability and providing adaptive strategies.


And more...



+potentially, other information, such as public health data

+potentially, other information

+potentially other information

+potentially other information

+potentially, other information

Mapping will allow GoodLands to help Catholic communities identify where adding trees can have the most positive impacts on on-site operations and a parcel's surrounding area. Our program will connect these sites to educational events and appropriate existing organizations that can help communities take action, like tree planting. We can potentially reach out to all parishes in a region, including those that usually can not afford to make stewardship commitments. We want to figure out how to include all Catholic communities in stewardship efforts--especially those that are underserved, and could often benefit greatly from outlined services.


A tree analysis will reveal Church properties in areas that will benefit their communities the most through tree planting programs. Mapping will reveal where adding trees will make the most significant impact on heating/cooling costs, and on the well-being of a community, based on epidemiological information, current tree coverage information, and other social data.


Mapping will allow us to easily identify urban and rural parishes that lack trees and connect them to tree-planting non-profits and interested support groups. These trees will contribute to a healthier community, both within the Church and surrounding areas.


Targeted Tree Planting Strategies



“Beginning in the middle of the last century and overcoming many difficulties, there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home. An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan.”


                      — His Holiness, Pope Francis I

              Laudato Si’, par. 164



Forest Management



People experience more deaths from heart disease and respiratory disease when they live in areas with a decreasing number of trees [1].


Trees improve the quality of life and health in a community by cleaning air; they remove dust and fine particulates, absorb ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.


It is estimated that trees annually remove 4.7 metric tons of small particulates (<2.5 µm) in Syracuse, NY, and 64.5 metric tons of particulates in Atlanta, GA. An urban tree canopy helps save as much as $1.1 million in Syracuse and $60.1 million in New York City, mostly related to health costs [2].

If 25% of Church Parishes in the United States use air conditioning 50% of the year, costing around $344.00/month, they could collectively save $2,706,368 in cooling costs through careful tree planting [3] [4] [5].

If 50% of Church Parishes in the United States require heating, averaging a monthly heating bill of around $1700.00, and if they do not have tree plantings to maximize heating savings, together they stand to potentially save $35,665,320 to $89,163,300 in heating costs through a tree planting plan [5] [6].

If adding one tree to the each parish in the United States increases the property value of the parish by $5,000, an arboreal addition could increase total parish property values in the US by $87,415,000 [12].

"The Top Ten Environmental Benefits of Forestry – courtesy of The Society of American Foresters. "Forestry is bringing back forests. - Until the 1920s, forests were often logged and abandoned. Now, across the country an average of 1.7 billion seedlings are planted annually. That translates into six seedlings planted for every tree harvested. In addition, billions of additional seedlings are regenerated naturally. "Forestry helps water quality. - Foresters carefully manage areas called watersheds (areas where we collect our drinking water) and riparian zones (land bordering rivers, streams, and lakes). These are places where maintaining water quality is the primary concern for foresters. Forests actually help to clean water and get it ready for us to drink. The trees, the soil, and bacteria are all part of this process. Forest cover protects and nurtures the soils that are the key to water retention, filtering, and quality. "Forestry offsets air pollution. - Foresters nurture forests, which are sometimes called “the gills of the planet.” One mature tree absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. For every ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen. "Forestry helps reduce catastrophic wildfires. - At the turn of the century, wildfires annually burned across 20 to 50 million acres of the country each year. Through education, prevention, and control, the amount of wildfires has been reduced to about two to five million acres a year--a reduction of 90%. By marking and removing excess fuels, such as underbrush and some trees, foresters can modify forests in order to make them more resilient to fire. "Forestry helps wildlife. - Foresters employ a variety of management techniques to benefit wildlife, including numerous endangered species. For example, thinning and harvesting create conditions that stimulate the growth of food sources for wildlife. Openings created by harvesting provide habitat for deer and a variety of songbirds. Thinning can be used to accelerate growth and development of older trees that are favored by owls and other species. In order to enhance salmon habitat, foresters also carry out strategic tree plantings and monitor forest health along streams in order to keep the water cool and reduce sediments. "Forestry provides great places to recreate. - Foresters manage forests that provide recreational benefits to communities. Forests are important areas for such recreationists as birdwatchers, hikers, nature photographers, horseback riders, skiers, snowmobilers, and campers. And because foresters put water values high on their list of priorities, the rivers and lakes in forested areas provide such recreational opportunities as fishing, canoeing, and rafting. "Forestry benefits urban environments. - Urban foresters manage forests and trees to benefit communities in many ways. Forests in urban areas reduce stormwater runoffs, improve air quality, and reduce energy consumption. For example, three well-placed mature trees around a house can cut air-conditioning costs by 10-50 percent. "Forestry provides renewable and energy-efficient building products. - Foresters manage some forests for timber and produce a renewable resource because trees can be replanted. Other building materials, such as steel, iron, and copper, can be reused and recycled but not replaced. Wood is a renewable resource which, in addition to being recyclable, can be produced anew for generations to come on sustainable managed forestlands. Recycling and processing wood products also requires much less energy than does the processing of many other non-renewable materials. "Forestry helps family forests stay intact. - Foresters help family forestland owners, who own 54 percent of all the forests in the US, understand the benefits of managing their forests in an environmentally friendly manner. Better management of private forests means that those forests will remain healthy and productive. Many endangered species spent at least part of their time on private land, more than 80 percent of our nation’s total precipitation falls first on private lands and 70 percent of eastern watersheds run through private lands. "Forestry is good for soils. - Foresters and natural resource managers are dependent on forest soils for growing and managing forests and, to a large extent, forest soils are dependent on resource professionals and managers. Foresters’ success in growing forests and producing forest products is dependent on their ability to understand soil properties and to then match species with soils and to prescribe activities that not only promote forest growth but also enhance and protect soil productivity and prevent soil erosion [13]."

There is no reason to bring forest management to a property if it does not have a forest. We will be able to identify Catholic lands that have forests. Specifically, we can identify Catholic properties with the largest forests and connect these with potential forest management resources that will help increase the forest's health while generating revenue for whoever owns the property, whether it is a monastery, order, or a parish. Additionally, any sustainably harvested wood can help decrease the pressure to collect wood in other areas of the world, where ecosystems are currently undergoing rapid deforestation.


Catholic properties that contain larger patches of forest or forests that are adjacent to larger patches of protected forest, should be protected.


Forests are the "lungs" of the earth--we must do our best to preserve them.

A 40 acre 50-year-old oak forest can sequester roughly 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre, and emit about 22,000 pounds of oxygen [14]. Larger forests at retreat centers, monasteries, and other large church properties could be making a big difference in the health of ecosystems. We should put measures in place to protect them now and for future generations.

Having a forest management strategy in place for one monastery with one stand of maple trees could potentially:


Provide additional revenue of at least several hundred dollars per year [15].


Help contribute to sustainable forestry and tree-harvesting practices by contributing to the replacement of unsustainable harvesting practices


Planting trees can increase the total size of a tree canopy and its network connectivity. It can create resting points for birds and insects moving between larger habitat patches. Having more trees can help create a more stable meta-population (collection of populations) for these creatures.

Sustainable Agriculture

If 50% of Catholic properties contained a 0.5 acre patch of farm land, they could, combined, produce 1,028,802,720 lbs of organic vegetables [16]....


...or, using permaculture farming techniques, provide enough nutritious food to feed over 20,000 people each year [17].

“For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly.”


                      — His Holiness, Pope Francis I

              Laudato Si’, par. 23



Green Infrastructure:

Stormwater Management

St. Francis Patch: Pollinator Patch Habitat

Changing how we approach Catholic landscapes could help build a better, more just, world and create healthier Catholic communities. Below, we have highlighted just some of the potential benefits of an ecological approach to Catholic lands, and how GoodLands could help to make these changes occur in high-impact locations.

Jump to:

tree planting

green infrastructure

sustainable agriculture

pollinator patch habitat



"Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and resilient approach to our water infrastructure needs that provides many community benefits.


As of 2008, the total reported water infrastructure needs for the United States included $63.6 billion for combined sewer overflow control and $42.3 billion for stormwater management... green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering many other environmental, social, and economic benefits.  These benefits not only promote urban livability, but also add to the bottom line."


--US Environmental Protection Agency

For a  list of benefits, and to learn more about green infrastructure, click here:


Our geospatial analysis and planning team could reveal innumerable opportunities for working with Catholic lands and collaborations amongst existing organizations to help with...

forest management

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Thoughtful land-use planning and design of Catholic landscapes could make

a world of difference.

References and Calculations

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additional opportunities

[a] Numbers from Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate:


United States Figures:

17,483 parishes in the US



95,246 Catholic Elementary Schools

221,740 Parishes

10,124 Catholic Orphanages

5,167 Catholic Hospitals

43,783 Catholic Secondary Schools


379,632 operations total, globe


28,321 schools, parishes, and hospitals in US



[a] Extrapolated from

3,572 Abbeys and Monasteries


[a] Business Insider

177 million acer estimate


[i] Air Conditioning Savings Estimate: [a][5][3]


Air conditioning cost estimates $344.01 * 6 = $2064.00


$2064.00 * 0.3 = $619.20 saved annually.


If there are 17,483 parishes in the US, and 25% plant trees strategically, they could, hypothetically, cut costs by 17483/4 * $619.20 = $2,706,368.40 in cooling costs

[ii] Heating Savings Estimate: [6][a][5]


Heating cost estimates (avg. US grid prices) $1700/month * 12 = $20,400/year.


$20400 * 0.2 = $4080 saved, $20400 * 0.5 = $10,200 saved.


If there are 17,483 parishes in the US, and half do this, they will cut costs by 17483/2 * 4080 = $35,665,320, to 17483/2 * 10,200 = $89,163,300


[1]Donovan, Geoffrey H., David T. Butry, Yvonne L. Michael, Jeffrey P. Prestemon, Andrew M. Liebhold, Demetrios Gatziolis, and Megan Y. Mao. "The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 44.2 (2013): 139-45. Web.


[2] "NRS News Release." NRS News: Forest Service Study Finds Urban Trees Removing Fine Particulate Air Pollution, Saving Lives. Web. Oct. 2015.

[3] "How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner? Calculator." All Systems Mechanical Air Conditioning. 10 Dec. 2014. Web. Oct. 2015.


3-Ton Air Conditioner – 18 amps

18 amps X 240 = 4,320 Watts

[240 volt power outlet which is the average size for a central air conditioner.]


4,320 Watts / 1,000 = 4.32 Kilowatt-Hours



4.32 Kilowatt-Hours * 11.06¢/kWh price = how much it costs to run your air conditioner for one hour ($0.48)  * 24 = one day's price  ($11.46)* 30 = monthly AC cost = $344.01


[4] 11.06¢/kWh  from "U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis." Electricity Monthly Update. Web. Oct. 2015.



[5] Cooling and heating savings numbers for trees: "Tree Facts - American Forests." American Forests. Web. Oct. 2015.


Cooling can be saved by up to 30%, heating by 20%-50%

[6] $1700/month heating bill estimated guess based on:


High estimate:


$8000/month extrapolated as high end, due to climate zone and Church size




[7] "Nature and Consumer Environments." Nature and Consumer Environments. N.p., n.d. Web. Oct. 2015.

[8] "Http://" Carbon Sequestration.Tufts University, n.d. Web. Oct. 2015.

[9] Forman, Richard T. T. Urban Ecology: Science of Cities. p. 223-225.: Cambridge, UK. Cambridge University Press. 2014. Print.

[iii] Carbon draw  down potential, planting trees [8][a]


379,632 operations total, 70% of these planted  3 trees,  trees sequester 13lbs of carbon/year (Tufts)


379,632*0.7*13*3= 10,363,953.6 lbs CO2 every year


[10] Hutchinson, Alex. "How Trees Calm Us Down." New Yorker 23 July 2015. Web. 2015.

[11] "More Trees = Less Crime." ACTrees. Web. Oct. 2015.

[12] A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000. Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.

[iv] Tree, property value increase [a][12]


17,483 parishes  * $5000 = 87415000

[13] "The Top Ten Environmental Benefits of Forestry." Oklahoma Forestry Services.


Wed, January 7, 2009 by Society of American Foresters

[14] Ray, C. Claiborne. "Tree Power." The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Dec. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

[v] Crop yeild calculation [16][1]


379,632*0.5 = 189,816 properties.

0.5 acre patches * 189,816 = 94,908 acres


94,908 acres, with potential averaged vegetable yields of  10,840lbs/acre


[15] "Forest Finance 1: Sustainable Forest Harvesting: An Economic Perspective (Forest Finance and Taxation)." Forest Finance and Taxation. Pnn State Extension. Web. Oct. 2015.

[16]  crop yeild/acre average: Kern, Barbara, and Ken Kern. The Owner-built Homestead. New York: Scribner, 1977. Print.

[vi] How many people you can feed using permaculture? [a][17]


26,000 meals/year.


65% provided by Zaytuna, = 16,900 meals provided by the farm.

16,900 per year = 325 meals per week or 46 meals per day.

46 meals with each person eating 3 meals a day = approx 15 people from whole farm; 15 people, 66 acres.


About 1 person per 4 acres


379,632*0.5 = 189,816 properties.

0.5 acre patches * 189,816 = 94,908 acres

Feeding 1 person/4acres, they could feed 23,727 people

[17] "Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm Video Tour (Apr/May 2012) – Ten Years of (R)Evolutionary Design." The Permaculture Research Institute. Web. Oct. 2015.

[18] "Average Precipitation in Depth (mm per Year)." Average Precipitation in Depth (mm per Year). World Bank,. Web. Oct. 2015.


715mm or 28.1496 inches

[19] "Rainfall Calculator How Much Water Falls during a Storm?" USGS Water Science School.  Web. Oct. 2015.

[20] Batchelder, B., Burhans, M., White, C.. "Portland Pollinator Vision Plan." Conway School. 2015. Web. Oct. 2015.

[21] "A Carbon Conundrum - American Forests." American Forests. American Forests, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

[vii] Rainfall Calculation [a][18][19]


28,321 schools, parishes, and hospitals in US * 0.5 = 50% of these * 0.5 acres = approximately 22 square miles.


715mm rain annually in US.


Calculations [19]

[viii] CO2 = X Cars Calculation [iii][21]


10,363,953.6 lbs CO2 every year [iii]/8,320 pounds of CO2 per vehicle per year = 1245.67

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