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Trees

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It's surprisingly hard to talk about the importance of trees without sounding like one of those '80s National Arbor Day Foundation commercials.

After all, “sometimes people take for granted...the best things ever planted.”

It's also difficult not to sound like a fourth grade science teacher. In our defense, have you ever really thought about the benefits of planting trees?

True, trees are essentially the lungs of our planet; they “breathe” in carbon dioxide and “breathe” out oxygen. But trees are so much more important (a gold star for anyone who can describe photosynthesis).

Even if you are aware of how trees positively impact the environment, we thought mentioning a few things would be a good refresher course for those of us who've misplaced our science books. Here are some fun facts found on TreesAreGood.org:

  • The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
  • One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
  • Shade trees can make buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in summer.
  • Trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.
  • Tree roots stabilize soil and prevent erosion.
  • Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.

So, while that's all well and good, we know you're probably more concerned with how trees can positively impact you...more importantly, your power bill.

Thankfully, TreesAreGood.org has some great information.

“The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak [trees help shield the home from cold winds]. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted until they mature. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes are more valuable than nonlandscaped homes. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each home owner.”

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In fact, The Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture state that the overall effect of the shade created by planting a healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day! The Journal of Horticulture claims that savings on heating costs can reach as much as 25 percent!

But the website adds, “The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. These benefits are available to the community or region. Lowered electricity bills are paid by customers when power companies are able to use less water in their cooling towers, build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities also can save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings are small, but to the community, reductions in these expenses are often in the thousands of dollars.”

The National Wildlife Federation says that “There are about 60- to 200-million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs.”

So, if you're ready to start planting, ArborDay.org has a few tips.

Height. Will the tree bump into anything when it is fully grown?

Canopy spread. How wide will the tree grow?

Is the tree deciduous or coniferous? (Will it lose leaves in winter?)

Form or shape. A columnar tree will grow in less space. Round and V-Shaped species provide the most shade.

Growth rate. How long will it take for your tree to reach its full height? Slow-growing species typically live longer than fast-growing species.

Soil, sun, and moisture requirements.

Fruit. No one wants messy droppings on busy sidewalks.

Hardiness zone indicates the temperature extremes in which a tree can be expected to grow. Visit the City of Bakersfield's website (www.bakersfieldcity.us/recreation/TreeInformation.htm) to find out more about trees in your neighborhood. Once you've planted, you can kick back, relax, and enjoy your tree and its impact on the world around you.

Article appeared in our 28-1 Issue - April 2011