It’s Arbor Day for much of the country. People across the nation will be planting trees. But have you ever really considered why we plant trees? Most of us who will plant trees either today or sometime during the year are not major forest landowners planting trees as part of our business plan.
Most folks are like me and probably you. Ordinary folks plant trees for lots of reasons. Some are practical to provide shade on hot summer days, and others are less vital reasons, such as to hang a swing in. One critical reason to plant trees around homes is that it can reduce energy consumption. Research shows that mature trees shading a house can reduce energy consumption for air conditioning by more than 50 percent. Trees in the home landscape provide other important benefits including controlling erosion and reducing stormwater runoff.
encourages homeowners and cities to consider planting more trees.
But that’s at the individual level. What about why should cities plant trees? It’s a question that city governments struggle to answer during tough economic times. Planting trees is an important consideration for many communities. Tree planting and maintenance budgets are often the first to go in tough economic times, and advocates for trees need sound arguments to convince elected officials.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System tackled this question in its “Why Trees?” video. The video, available on YouTube, encourages homeowners and cities to consider planting more trees. Two Extension forestry professionals did the research and crafted the script behind the video.
This video, using free-hand drawing and time-lapse video, is commonly referred to as a lecture doodle. It is both fun and engaging with a goal of educating and promoting advocacy for planting trees. It is an excellent educational tool for events as diverse a town-hall meeting, a Master Gardener meeting or a school classroom.
The video provides an understanding of the benefits urban trees provide to the economy, the environment and society. Some research indicates that communities with shaded streets and parks have a stronger sense of community than cities with fewer trees. Other studies point towards lower crimes rates as urban forest canopies and maintained landscapes increase.
Economically, shops located around mature trees have shown a 12 percent increase in sales. Shoppers perceive these shops as having better merchandise and will travel larger distances to visit these businesses. In addition, homes with mature trees in the front lawn increase property values by as much as 20 percent. That’s right, healthy mature trees can add value to your home and residential property.
However, there are more than societal and economic benefits. Trees in urban landscapes have been found to lower incidences of asthma, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and shorten hospitals stays. Basically, as urban forest canopies increase so does people’s health and well-being.
The “Why Trees?” video provides an excellent synopsis of the benefits of urban trees. So the questions should not be “Why Trees?” but rather “Why Not More Trees?”. Perhaps, it’s a conversation Master Gardeners can lead in their communities.
To watch “Why Trees?” check out this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=74063UKSmXw
By: Maggie Lawrence and Beau Brodbeck with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System