As I was typing the title for this article, I realized that most naturalists and conservationists don’t really need a handful of reasons to plant a tree. You already know that trees affect positive environmental change wherever they take hold of the Earth. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your home or neighborhood is already surrounded by trees. If not, maybe this article will give you that extra boost to get out there and plant a tree with your kids!
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Trees of Life
Communities all across our nation (and the world) need trees now more than ever. Droughts, floods, wind storms, and pests are wiping them out at unprecedented rates. Without these trees, our lifeline to clean air and a healthy environment is slipping away.
Not long ago, rainforests were all over the planet, with a wide belt of temperate and tropical forests circling the globe. Today, our rainforests are rapidly being replaced by rubber plantations, cattle ranches, soya farms, cities, and dams. Every year, roughly 18 million hectares of forest disappears. That’s an area the size of England and Wales put together. Half of Earth’s rainforests have been eliminated in the past 100 years.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary gas responsible for global warming, and release oxygen. Deforestation results in the rapid buildup of CO2 in our atmosphere. Deforestation in tropical areas such as Latin America or Africa can affect rainfall amounts as far away as the United States and Europe. Research shows that about 12% of all man-made climate emissions comes from deforestation.
Why You Should Plant a Tree in Your Neighborhood Today
It’s hard to relate to the statistics presented above when you look outside your window and see trees everywhere (assuming that is what you see). But the numbers are real, and so is the threat of rapid climate change. Planting trees is just one thing we can do to help our planet. Here are a few ways planting a tree can help your neighborhood too…
Trees don’t just absorb CO2 and produce oxygen for us to breathe. They also absorb pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. Trees even trap dust and pollen. One tree can absorb roughly 10 pounds of polluted air every year.
Reduce Erosion and Runoff
As our climate changes, hurricanes, storms, and heavy rainfall are becoming more common. Without trees to help hold the soil in place with their roots, runoff into lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands increases the likelihood of major flooding. Tree canopies help soften the impact of heavy rainfall, which encourages water to seep into the ground instead of running off and taking soil and pollutants with it.
The trees around your home help you save money by reducing the amount of electricity, propane or natural gas you use during the summer and winter months. Trees provide shade in the summer, which means lower air-conditioning costs and less freon emitted into the atmosphere. Trees also shelter your home from harsh winter winds, reducing heating costs as well.
Not only will your utility bills be lower, but the value of your home increases when you have trees on your property. Studies show that home values may be as much as 15% higher for a property with trees versus one without. Planting more trees will help you build equity in your home.
Home for Wildlife
Trees provide shelter and food for wildlife such as birds, squirrels, and insects. Many people enjoy bird watching, and trees mean more birds in your neighborhood. Trees offer safe places for birds to build nests and raise their young. Insects hide inside the bark and on the leaves of trees, creating a buffet of sorts for various species of birds and other animals.
Good for Your Health
Studies in urban areas show that having a view that includes trees reduces stress, anxiety, and even crime rates. Trees just make us feel good. They provide shade on a sunny day, a cool place to picnic with our families, and strong branches to swing and climb on for fun. Sitting outside surrounded by trees full of chirping birds and chattering squirrels can help you relax, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress.
Growing and tending to bonsai trees has been a passion for many people. This relaxing hobby began in China over a thousand years ago and is common today across the world. Many believe that bonsai trees, along with providing stress relief, can also help you get over a cold faster, fight fatigue, and purify the air in your home.
Trees produce food that we eat everyday, including nuts, fruit, spices, and seeds. Trees also provide wood to build things and medicine to heal us. Trees are renewable resources, and when managed correctly, sustainable for the future. Products produced from wood are recyclable and biodegradable. The products and food we get from trees must be produced or harvested by people, so trees even provide jobs!
How to Plant a Tree
Planting a tree is not as hard as you might think. The Arbor Day Foundation offers a simple, step-by-step video that will show you just how easy it is to plant bare root trees. The video also addresses the common question of “When is the best time to plant a tree?”
Planting a tree isn’t just for Arbor Day or Earth Day. Make it a habit more than once or twice a year. Join a local club or volunteer for an organization that sets up tree-planting events periodically. Rotary clubs and Lions Clubs are a good place to start. The Arbor Day Foundation provides free trees and will teach you and your family how to help reforest the Earth, one tree at a time.
Oh, and there’s one last reason to plant a tree…
They’re great huggers! Go hug a tree; you’ll see what I mean.