TUA offering free trees to customers as part of national program

Electrical customers of Tullahoma Utilities Authority who also possess a green thumb have a unique opportunity to enhance the tree canopy of the area and increase their energy efficiency, TUA officials have announced.

The utility authority is taking part in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Energy-Saving Trees program, which seeks to give communities free trees in order to offset their energy consumption and beautify their area. TUA is also the only Tennessee utility provider taking part in the program this year.

According to TUA Forester Monty Hawkins, he’s been wanting to get TUA involved with the program for the last two years.

“Even before the tornado in 2016 it was a program that I had looked at,” he said. “I said, ‘This might be a program we might be interested in because of the energy conservation.’”

While the TUA administration wasn’t originally interested in spring 2016, Hawkins said, the tornado that year changed their minds.

With how many trees were lost during the EF-1 tornado that ripped through the north and west portions of town, Hawkins said, participating in this program would better help the area restore its greenery.

“After the tornado,” he said, “it seemed like the timing was better.”

Free trees

 There are 100 trees to be given away, according to Hawkins, with more than 30 of them already spoken for.

“There are trees still available,” he said.

TUA will be giving away four different types of trees, all of which are native to or thrive in the Tullahoma area. They include a sugar maple, bald cypress, sweetbay magnolia and willow oak, according to Hawkins.

Each tree comes in a 5-gallon container, he said, and will range in size between 4 and 5 feet tall.

“They’re small enough that most people can handle them, but large enough to know … you’ve done something,” Hawkins said.

Those looking to pick up a free tree to plant on their property need only go to www.arborday.org/tua, Hawkins said.

The trees are limited to one per person, according to the Arbor Day website, though Hawkins said anyone who is an electrical customer of TUA can claim a tree.

“It can be an individual; it can be a business; it can be a church; it can be a school … anybody that gets an electric bill is eligible,” Hawkins said.

Even Franklin County TUA customers can go online and claim a tree for themselves, Hawkins added, “as long as they’re getting power from TUA.”

Hawkins will even give people more information on the types of trees available if they ask.

Tree distribution

The trees are scheduled to arrive next Monday, Nov. 12, and will be given out at TUA on Tuesday, Nov. 13, and Wednesday, Nov. 14, according to Hawkins.

While participating utilities have the option to allow the trees to be delivered directly to customers, TUA chose to have an on-site pickup rather than a direct mail dispersal.

Hawkins said the reason for the on-site pickup was to give the program a more personal touch.

“We felt that was worthy of our time and effort,” Hawkins said of the personal deliveries.

“What we wanted to do was a quality distribution,” he added. “We felt like we could get larger trees and meet with the person [receiving it]. It was a little more personal touch.”

Additionally, Hawkins said, he hoped some people used the free trees to spend time with family once Thanksgiving comes around.

“If you were looking for something to do to get outside, you could plant a tree and let that begin to be a kind of tradition,” Hawkins said.


Cost savings

According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, the Energy-Saving Trees program is designed to give homeowners information on how to maximize the energy-saving benefits that trees can provide.

When planted properly, a single tree can save a homeowner up to 20 percent on energy costs, the website states.

According to Hawkins, each of the four trees TUA will provide could range in price from $50 to $75 each, so there is both an up-front and a down-the-road cost benefit to these trees.

Trees also provide “tangible benefits” to the communities in which they are planted, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, including better air quality, reduced stormwater runoff, a smaller carbon footprint and aesthetic improvements.

Energy savings for each homeowner may vary depending on the location and type of tree, according to the Arbor Day Foundation website. Some areas may see energy savings up more than $30 per year, according to the tree selection tool.

There are still several trees available to claim, according to Hawkins. To reserve a tree, visit www.arborday.org/tua.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.