Tree Planting as a Summer Job
The most common summer job field for teens is the food service industry, followed closely by the retail trade industry, according to the American Bureau of Labour Statistics. That means that most of us spend our summers flipping burgers or folding t-shirts, honest work that feeds and clothes the capitalist masses. But for some, the call of consumer culture falls on deaf ears. 17 year old Sam Krawec has decided to earn his summer income while serving a greater purpose; tree-planting in Northern Ontario.
Sam is a freshman in St. Francis Xavier University’s Development Studies program. He has always been environmentally conscious, thanks to a family that values sustainable living and global citizenship. “My mom inspired me to care about the world when I was very young,” he explains, “I always felt that it was important to give back.”
By planting trees, Sam will be helping to filter pollutants from the air, reducing carbon dioxide levels in a community and producing healthy oxygen in a renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable way. Summer tree planting jobs generally coincide with the planting season; between six and eight weeks beginning in early May and ending in late June/early July. The average worker ends up planting upwards of 20,000 trees in that time, making a substantial impact in removing large quantities of the major greenhouse gases involved in global climate change.
Tree planting is ‘piece work’, wherein you are paid according to the amount of trees you produce. This means that the income you earn is a direct reflection of your productivity. In Ontario, agencies generally pay planters between 8 and 12 cents per tree, with first year planters averaging between $2500 and $5000 in gross pay for the season. This varies depending on several factors, including whether or not your agency is unionized. Unionized agencies typically have better health and safety options, and may pay slightly more. The Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association produces written packages to educate planters on their health and safety rights.
Joanna Gillies of Lakehead University compiled “A Qualitative Pilot Study of the Physical Demands of Tree Planting”, outlining them as specific areas of concern for any wishing to apply to a tree planting program. She claims that “factors affecting a planter’s performance include flexibility, grip strength, balance and agility, back strength, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, strength endurance, mental toughness, aerobic fitness, and body fat percentage.” There are tests online to see if your general health is cohesive to the demands of life as a tree planter. If so, you are ready to start digging and making a difference in your environment.
For Sam, every little bit he can contribute is worth the physical demands and summer time commitment. “The pay is good, and it’s something tangible that I can do to help the planet. The world is a beautiful place, and I want to have a positive part in maintaining that”.