Environment: Making it better wherever you are
Time with a Tree
Elm trees anchored my childhood. Sentries that lined both sides of my sidewalk. Every time I stepped out my front door, there they were, ready to escort me through the streets shielding me from the heat of the day during those sultry Northeast Ohio summers. And in winter, there they were, letting the fresh-fallen snow alight on their naked limbs to glisten in the moonlight. I spent many a winter evening, mesmerized by the snow cascading under the streetlights. And I spent many a winter morning, gazing out my bedroom window in total surprise and wonder at the completely new landscape that a night’s snowfall had produced - everything covered in crystals of splendor. The pine trees bowed deeply and the elms stood upright in stateliness.
I love trees. They’ve always seemed more than just giant plants that dot the landscape. They really are living beings that provide a sort of wisdom, a way for me to understand why we’re all here. What would life be without trees?
A locust tree served as the best companion of my childhood. My father had made a rope swing under a perfectly horizontal branch. I spent untold hours on that swing, looking upward at the lacy leaves swaying in the breeze as if to say, “Enjoy the ride!”
The grand old elms of my childhood are long since gone, having succumbed to the Dutch Elm scourge of the 1960s. But other trees have taken their place, just as stately, and just as grand. What’s not to love about a maple, oak or hickory? And then the redwoods!
If you spend some time with a tree, you will notice that your overall sense of well-being greatly improves. People have known this for centuries, but just now are doing the actual scientific research to prove the heretofore benefits.
Here are a few of the recent findings that may give you reason to go plant a tree!
Carbon sequestration, air quality, and climate change
• A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.
• One large tree can provide a supply of oxygen for two people.
• According to the USDA Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating.”
• The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
• In one day, one large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air.
• For every five percent of tree cover added to a community, stormwater runoff is reduced by approximately two percent.
Recreation and Wildlife
• Healthy trees provide wildlife habitat and contribute to the social and economic well-being of landowners and community residents.
• A national study in the United Kingdom showed that people exposed to the greenest environments have lowest levels of health inequality related to income deprivation. Physical environments that promote good health are important to reduce socioeconomic health inequalities (Mitchell and Popham, 2008).
• Residents in the Netherlands with only 10% green space within 1km of their home had a 25% greater risk of depression and a 30% greater risk of anxiety disorders than those with the highest degree of green space nearby. (Maas et al., 2009).
• A worldwide review of scientific literature showed that an urban park was on average 0.94 °C cooler in the day than the surrounding urban area, making warm days more tolerable (Bowler et al., 2010).
And for those who would like to read the actual research, here’s a link to the published white paper.