How Planting Trees Makes Us Feel Happier, Healthier, and Even Richer

They say a tree grows in Brooklyn, but how many grow in all of New York City? You can’t have too many, and now the city has a million more trees than it did just 8 years ago.

New York is not the only city to see the value of trees. Others around the country have also joined in the Million Tree Initiative.

Why are cities jumping on the tree bandwagon? Because trees can do so much for us.

Benefits of trees

We love planting trees — it’s such a simple act with such big benefits! Trees can do all these things and more:

  • Fight pollution: Trees are great CO2 sinks, eating up the emissions that pollute our communities. They work so well at eating pollution that they put Bhutan in the news recently: the country’s forests absorb 3 times more CO2 emissions than Bhutan creates.
  • Improve our health: Sure, trees are great at sucking up the pollutants that cause asthma and other diseases. But it goes beyond that. Studies have shown that patients in hospitals recover more quickly if they have a tree outside their window.
  • Make us happier: Data from Wisconsin showed that people feel happier when there’s more green space in a neighborhood. People in neighborhoods with less than 10% tree canopy were much more likely to report symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
  • Cool down a neighborhood: Shade trees can make a city block up to 5 degrees cooler in the summer, and also lower air-conditioning costs.
  • Increase property values: Money can grow on trees! How much they increase property values depends on who you ask, but many say your home’s value can go up by $1,000 — $10,00 with one healthy, mature tree. And it doesn’t take a study to see how they can improve a whole neighborhood.
  • Reduce crime: There’s a strong inverse relationship between tree canopy and crimes like robbery, burglary, theft, and shooting. A 2011 study found there was 12% less crime in areas with a 10% bigger tree canopy.
  • Make us feel younger and richer: This list is getting crazy! But we’re not making this up. A recent study found that living on a street with just 10 more trees can make us feel as healthy as if we made $10,000 more, or as if we were 7 years younger.

How you can help get more trees planted

We compare a lot of clean-energy actions to their equivalent in trees planted, and that’s a good way of quantifying the benefits. It’s also great to go straight to the source and plant some trees.

If you have a yard with space for a tree, consider planting one or more — just don’t shade your roof, so you can still get solar panels installed! If you don’t have a yard, or if you want to do more, here are some ideas:

  • Get a tree planted in your neighborhood: See if your community has a tree-planting program. Here in the Bay Area we have Urban Releaf in Oakland, and Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco. Many cities around the country now have programs like these. If you can’t find one of these in your area, you can give to Global Releaf, which works to plant trees around the U.S. and in other countries.
  • Support the Plant a Billion Trees project: By donating to this Nature Conservancy program, you can help protect and expand forests around the globe.
  • Help Earth Day Network reforest and rebuild communities: For every $1 you donate, their Canopy Project will plant a tree to transform a community. That’s a lot of bang for just a buck!
  • Buy a living Christmas tree: This option is becoming more popular, so you have choices these days. It’s a good idea to buy your tree close to Christmas, and keep in indoors for a brief a time — and prepare your outdoor planting spot before the ground freezes too hard.

Each tree planted gets us on the way to more carbon reductions and a healthier world for all of us. So let’s all take action now to make our families and communities healthier for generations to come!

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Clean energy analyst, advocate, communicator spreading the good solar word

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Rosana Francescato

Rosana Francescato

Clean energy analyst, advocate, communicator spreading the good solar word

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