Adopt-A-Tree is an innovative project of the city of Athens that enables citizens to search for a street tree in their neighbourhood through the free Novoville app, ‘adopt’ it digitally, and commit to keeping it healthy by watering it. The primary goal of the Adopt-A-Tree initiative is to help young trees survive and grow, by preventing trees from drying out caused by the lack of water during summer.
Every year, the city of Athens plants approximately 600 new trees that are placed in its existing or newly formed rows of trees. These newly planted trees need watering 3–4 times per week so they survive summer droughts. The city, during this period, loses 10%–40% of its newly planted trees due to high temperatures and fire protection needs.
The Adopt-A-Tree project is under the umbrella of the wider set of initiatives called ‘Adopt your city’, through which citizens and companies are invited to support the work of the municipality by ‘adopting’ larger areas of the city (e.g. streets, parks, squares). Focusing on individual trees and simple activities, Adopt-A-Tree enhances citizen engagement by using a user-friendly mobile application.
The project operates via the Novoville mobile app and web app, which Athenians have been using successfully since 2018 to report issues to and communicate with the city of Athens. The available trees for adoption visible on the app are distributed across the city. In addition, reminders are sent to the adopters through the app each time their tree needs watering to keep users engaged. Each resident can adopt up to three trees; similarly, each tree can have up to three adopters, who can work together to make a valuable contribution to their neighbourhood. This strengthens collaboration and support at the local level.
The pilot operation of the project was implemented in the summer of 2019. Following citizens’ positive response, the city of Athens launched the updated Adopt-A-Tree initiative in the summer of 2020 with additional functionality, such as the ability to record watering actions. In the first two years of activity, 493 residents performed 622 tree adoptions, while watering was carried out by citizens more than 1000 times.