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11 Reasons Why You Should Plant a Tree for Arbor Day

Climate

The benefits of trees are incalculable, from providing oxygen and cooling our streets with shade, to helping us relax and connect with nature.

But in a world experiencing increasingly extreme weather, many tree species are at risk. For instance, last year's devastating hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—snapped and downed innumerable trees, altering treasured landscapes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.


As the Arbor Day Foundation urged in a petition, "If ever there was a time to plant trees, now is that time."

So in celebration of National Arbor Day, consider these 11 amazing facts about trees (via the Arbor Day Foundation):

Trees help clean our air.

  1. Global forests removed about about one-third of fossil fuel emissions annually from 1990 to 2007.
  2. Trees remove pollution from the atmosphere, improving air quality and human health.
    • In Los Angeles, trees remove nearly 2,000 tons of air pollution each year.
    • In Chicago, trees remove more than 18,000 tons of air pollution each year.
    • In Greater Kansas City, trees remove 26,000 tons of air pollution each year.
  3. Roadside trees reduce nearby indoor air pollution by more than 50 percent.

Trees contribute to our health.

  1. A study of 10 cities found community forests save an average of one life each year. In New York City, trees save an average of eight lives every year.
  2. Office workers with a view of trees report significantly less stress and more satisfaction.

Trees provide us with oxygen.

  1. One large tree can provide a day's supply of oxygen for up to four people.
  2. More than 20 percent of the world's oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.

Trees help clean our drinking water.

  1. Forested watersheds provide quality drinking water to more than 180 million Americans.
  2. In 1997, New York City spent $1.5 billion to preserve the forested watershed that supplies New York City's drinking water by purchasing thousands of upstate acres of forested watershed. A filtration plant large enough to clean New York City's water supply would have cost more than $6 billion dollars.
    • Today, New Yorkers enjoy some of the cleanest drinking water in the world, and New York City has won regional water taste competitions.

Trees provide much-needed cooling.

  1. Trees lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade. Shaded surfaces may be 20–45°F cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials.
    • Trees cool the city by up to 10°F by shading our homes and streets and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.
  2. Evaporation of water from trees has a cooling influence.

Trees help reduce the effects of climate change.

  1. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air.
    • In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced by a car driven 26,000 miles.
  2. During one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange.
    • Nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced from burning one gallon of non-ethanol gasoline.

Trees help us save energy.

  1. Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.
    • The average Cincinnati community tree saves the average household $56 annually in cooling costs by reducing electricity use. More than 85,000 Cincinnati community trees save residents $4.8 million.
  2. Carefully positioned trees can reduce a household's energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25 percent. Computer models devised by the U.S. Department of Energy predict that the proper placement of only three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually.

Trees benefit wildlife.

  1. Trees provide vital wildlife habitat.
  2. Trees and forests provide important species range. Many animals have a range of hundreds of square miles. The mountain lion of North America, for instance, has a range of nearly 400 square miles.

Trees help reduce crime.

  1. In Baltimore, a 10 percent increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12 percent decrease in crime.
  2. Among minor crimes, there is less graffiti, vandalism and littering in outdoor spaces with trees as a part of the natural landscape than in comparable plant-less spaces.
  3. Chicago public housing residents with nearby trees and natural landscapes reported 25 percent fewer acts of domestic aggression and violence.

Trees are a good investment of our public dollars

  1. Every dollar spent on planting and caring for a community tree yields benefits that are two to five times that investment—benefits that include cleaner air, lower energy costs, improved water quality and storm water control and increased property values.
    • In Indianapolis, each dollar invested in the city's community trees yielded $5.55 in benefits.
    • In New York City, it has been calculated that community trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care.
    • In Cincinnati, the return on a $1 investment in the city's community trees is $4.44.
  2. The mature street trees in Beverly Hills, California, are worth $450 million.
  3. A cost-benefit analysis of the Berkeley, California tree canopy indicated that each camphor tree had an annual net benefit to the city and its residents of nearly $12,500, each shamel ash showed a $9,600 annual net benefit, and each London planetree had an annual net benefit of more than $8,700 per tree.

Trees increase our property values.

  1. In Portland, Oregon, homes with street trees sold for $7,130 more, on average, and 1.7 days more quickly.
    • Neighboring houses within 100 feet of street trees sold for $1,688 more, on average.
    • The sale premium of having street trees was the same as adding 129 square feet of finished space.
  2. In Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia, mature trees positively influenced home sale prices. Homes sold for nearly $105,000 more in neighborhoods with mature trees.

Of course, before you start planting, you want to make sure it's the right tree in the right place. Also remember to take good care of it!

Click here to find out what your town is doing to celebrate Arbor Day. Note that some states observe Arbor Day on different dates depending on the best tree-planting times in the area.

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