Meet Danylo Lazarenko of Woodbine

Originally from Ukraine, Danylo is a long-time Nashvillian who has served his neighborhood of Woodbine across multiple seasons as a Neighborhood Planting Captain.

Right off Nolensville Road, the Woodbine neighborhood is home to an incredibly diverse community. Danylo was the first planting captain to request outreach materials translated to different languages, setting a precedent for future cohorts. Hear from Danylo himself about why he loves his area, how he approached the Neighborhood Planting Captain role, and why he is interested in increasing tree canopy.

Q: First of all, could you share a little bit about yourself? 

Hello, my name is Danylo Lazarenko, and I am 20 years old. I am originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, but since then, I’ve lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, Nashville, and now Chattanooga. By far, the longest part of my life I have spent in Nashville. I’ve lived in Nashville for nearly 12 years before moving to Chattanooga last July for my school. [Danylo conducted his in-person neighborhood outreach during visits back home from school!]

Q: How did you first hear about the Cumberland River Compact and the Root Nashville campaign?

I first heard about Cumberland River Compact in my senior year of high school. My environmental science teacher invited everyone in my class to attend the Youth Climate Summit. [Save the date: this year’s summit is taking place March 4!] Being very interested in anything to do with the environment, I decided to attend. There I learned more about climate change and sustainability. I also got to know more about the Cumberland River Compact and the work they do. 

When it comes to the Root Nashville campaign, I got to know about it through some volunteering. I remember it was late 2020, and there was lots of uncertainty in the air. Covid was raging on, presidential elections were wrapping up, and record-breaking wildfires were burning around the world. Feeling a bit down, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do the best I could to improve the situation around me. The best way I could think of was through volunteering, and after doing some digging on the internet, I found Root Nashville. 

Q: You’ve served as a Neighborhood Planting Captain multiple times! What do you enjoy about being a captain?

There are many things I enjoy about being a planting captain. The sheer thought of bringing more trees to my neighborhood is incredible. On top of that, I enjoy seeing excited neighbors ready to plant some trees in their yards. Also, being a planting captain leads you to discover parts of your neighborhood you’ve never seen before, which I think is pretty cool.

Danylo with one of his neighbors who he helped get signed up for trees

Q: How would you describe the Woodbine neighborhood? 

The Woodbine neighborhood is definitely a melting pot of different styles and cultures. There are many different demographics in this neighborhood, from young to old, rich to poor, and everything in between. Woodbine has it all. 

Woodbine is also in a very interesting location. It is situated between major road networks, which does make it easier to navigate to and from, but it also comes with its issues. Living next to large roads and highways comes with increased noise, air pollution, and heat. This makes planting trees all the more important because trees help combat those problems. However, compared to other more developed parts of town, this neighborhood is still a quiet and charming community of friendly individuals.

Q: What do you love about trees?

Everything! I mean what’s not to love about them? Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors and have developed an understanding of the crucial role trees play in our environment. When I was around six, I lived with my grandparents in their small village in southern Ukraine. There I began to see the tremendous benefits that trees have. Many people, including my grandparents, had yards filled with various fruit trees, and each harvest, we would pick buckets of peaches, apricots, apples, pears, and more. As a matter of fact, the village my grandparents lived in would not exist if it was not for the nearby forest. Before it was planted, there used to be sand dunes, and oftentimes the wind would pick up the sand and cover the nearby villages with it. Once the forest was planted, that provided a barrier, and sandstorms became a thing of the past. Nowadays, the artificial forest is home to lots of wildlife, including boars, wolves, foxes, and bears. It also provides extra income to some people in the form of numerous mushrooms which cover the forest floor each fall. That is just one story of how beneficial the trees are, and I am not even getting into the unique properties of each tree species, which never ceases to amaze me.

Q: What would you say about the Neighborhood Planting Captain process to encourage others to apply and bring trees to their own neighborhoods?

I think the first and most important step in becoming a planting captain is realizing the power of trees in transforming our neighborhoods. There were times when I would go on a walk in wealthier, more-established, parts of town, such as Hillsboro West End in south Nashville or Inglewood in east Nashville. Those parts of town are a pleasure to walk in, and a significant reason for that is the trees. Having many large canopy trees helps create shade and significantly brings down the temperatures during the summer. 

I think once you have realized the importance of trees, then you can start applying it to your neighborhood. The best way to do that is, of course, to become a Neighborhood Planting Captain. The process is super simple and easy to manage even if you have a very busy schedule. The captains get around a month to distribute the trees, and even if you just spend an hour a week you can still achieve a lot. 

We are always looking for Neighborhood Planting Captains, and will continue to increase the number of trees we plant each season! Learn more here and consider applying for the next cohort (which will conduct outreach and sign-ups beginning in April for trees delivered in the fall).

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