April 11, 2022 |Shannon Lee | Partnerships

Engaging Customers and Inspiring Employees: Celebrating a 15-Year Partnership With U-Haul

It’s our mission to ensure smart conservation and sound economic outcomes go hand-in-hand. By working with America’s leading businesses and their customers, we can accomplish just that—measurable, lasting results for conservation, climate and communities that also meet company sustainability goals and engage customers in positive solutions.

Back in 2007, U-Haul, the largest do-it-yourself moving company in North America, wanted to offer its U.S. truck-sharing patrons at more than 19,000 locations, a simple way to make their move a little bit greener. The company partnered with The Conservation Fund to offer customers a chance to donate $3, $5 or $10 at checkout to plant trees and offset their moving-related emissions.

The response in that first year was energetic, and U-Haul customers donated a quarter of a million dollars to enable the planting of nearly 2,500 trees at the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas and the Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Fast forward to today, we recently celebrated a total of 1 million trees planted across 12 national wildlife refuges and 4 national forests. Over 2,500 acres of wildlife habitat has been restored—an area more than twice the size of Chicago’s Lincoln Park—thanks to U-Haul and to the generosity of its customers.

Left: Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steve Puppe. Right: Planting tree saplings at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Sean Gardner.

In 2013, U-Haul began supporting urban greenspace restoration projects that also help to build more sustainable and “greener” economies in communities of color impacted by historic inequities. These efforts began at Rouge Park in Detroit where 1,600 trees were planted over 2 acres in partnership with Greening of Detroit. To support green job creation, we also launched the Growing Detroit’s Green Economy Fund, which made small grants to Detroit organizations that support entrepreneurs who use natural resources responsibly. This small grant program has since provided resources to community-based partners and entrepreneurs in Atlanta, Durham, and Kansas City, and will soon offer support to partners in Baltimore and Washington, DC.


Tree planting at Rouge Park. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

U-Haul and its customers played a key role in helping to launch our Parks with Purpose program, which focuses on creating new and expanded parks and greenways in historically Black and disadvantaged communities that suffer from a variety of economic and social vulnerabilities. With principles and strategies rooted in equitable development and a commitment to a community-centered approach, the Fund and local partners work together with residents to transform underutilized and often neglected urban spaces into new parks and greenspaces. These improved natural areas provide much needed greenspace in highly urbanized communities where residents often lack access to nature. New parks not only provide places where kids can play, families and friends gather and community members come together, but they also provide critical habitat for urban wildlife, capture stormwater runoff that might otherwise flood nearby properties, and provide opportunities for environmental education and workforce development.

The first Parks with Purpose project—Lindsay Street Park—was completed in 2015 in Atlanta, and since then 12 more Parks with Purpose sites have been completed or are underway thanks to support from U-Haul and its customers in Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; College Park, GA; Durham, NC; Kansas City, MO; Raleigh, NC; and Richmond, CA.

Left: Lindsay Street Park in Atlanta. Photo by Whitney Flanagan. Right: Bailey Drive Gateway in Raleigh. Photo by Corey Dodd.

Most recently U-Haul customer giving is supporting the creation of a much needed seven-acre nature preserve in the shadow of the world’s busiest airport, just one mile north of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, in the city of College Park. The Flint River Headwaters Nature Preserve will provide critical access to nature for neighbors and nearby wildlife, which have been severely impacted by decades of airport expansion and other industrial activities in the area. In addition, U-Haul support is helping a community development organization in East Durham, North Carolina, transform an overgrown and underutilized greenspace into a community garden and food forest that will benefit nearby residents in need.

U-Haul customer giving has also helped the Fund to support local economies in rural areas. This includes communities throughout West Virginia where innovative financial assistance has helped grow small business entrepreneurs who focus on sustainable use of natural resources.

Finally, thousands of acres of critical working forest landscapes across the U.S. have been secured in part thanks to U-Haul customer giving, including projects in New Hampshire, Tennessee, Georgia and Maine. These forests are sustainably managed for timber production, supporting local jobs and providing forestry products for a variety of needs, while also protecting habitat for threatened species, providing access to nature for nearby communities, and supporting long-term climate resiliency goals. This year, support from U-Haul customers will help to protect additional forestland in Vermont that is part of the 30,000-acre Four State Working Forest.

“U-Haul has decades of experience helping people move to a better life. Convenient and affordable options for mobility are fundamental to a community’s resiliency, yet come with a measurable environmental impact. U-Haul embraces our responsibility to increase the shared use of our resources while mitigating the impact of their use. By engaging our customers to share in the awareness and power to offset their DIY move with a donation to The Conservation Fund, we are expanding the capacity of conservation and creating lasting benefits for the environment and the communities where we live and serve. U-Haul is proud to partner with the Fund and our customers in this effort and extremely proud and grateful for the support that has created such a positive 15-year impact.”

- Michelle Sullivan, U-Haul’s Manager of Corporate Sustainability

Conservation outcomes like these are only possibly when we work together. The Conservation Fund is exceptionally grateful to U-Haul for its vision, trust and partnership that has allowed us to create lasting benefits for people and the environment.

Find Out More

15 Years of Conservation Outcomes

1 Million Trees Planted in the U.S. Thanks to U-Haul Customers

Written by

Shannon Lee

In her role as Senior Major Gifts Officer at The Conservation Fund, Shannon Lee connects our passionate donors to a variety of conservation opportunities—from community-driven parks in dense urban neighborhoods, to working farms and forests that support our local economies, to expansive landscapes and wildlife habitats.