Planting trees: Good for the planet, good for you

Overwhelmed by climate change and not sure what you can do? Planting trees is a small, simple way to help the planet.

By Abby Murphy
Posted 11/27/20

Overwhelmed by climate change and not sure what you can do?

Planting trees is a small, simple way to help the planet.

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Planting trees: Good for the planet, good for you

Overwhelmed by climate change and not sure what you can do? Planting trees is a small, simple way to help the planet.

Posted

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) offers residents free street trees through their “Tree Tenders Program.” Chestnut Hill’s Tree Tenders are trained volunteers who plant street trees in the community in April and November. Property owners simply complete PHS’s street tree application and submit it to CH Tree Tender Co-Chair, Jean McCoubrey by November 27th. Once approved by PHS, the trees will be planted in April 2021. For an application form, contact Jean McCoubrey at jean.mccoubrey@gmail.com, or go directly to the PHS website (phsonline.org) and select the “Tree Programs” tab. 

According to McCoubrey, “Chestnut Hill already has plentiful trees, but many are aging out or succumbing to disease or development and need to be replaced. Planting young trees now means reaping even more benefits year after year as the trees mature.”

While Philadelphia’s northwest quadrant has many trees, Philadelphia has only 20% tree canopy coverage (the area of land shaded by trees). Ideally, PHS notes a “good” tree canopy coverage is 30% of land area. Yet, in some areas of Philadelphia, tree canopy coverage makes up as little as 2.5%. These areas are mostly home to low income communities and communities of color due to historic inequities and systemic racism. For neighborhoods that have economic and racial privilege, planting trees can be one way to invest in climate mitigation that benefits everyone.

What do trees have to do with climate change?

Increasing the number of urban trees improves the health of our communities and environmental resilience to climate change. And studies show that trees add value to your home, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower heating costs and provide food for wildlife (Arbor Day Foundation).

Trees are natural climate change fighters: they remove carbon dioxide from the air, store the carbon, and release oxygen for us to breathe.

Trees benefit both physical and mental health. They help improve air quality and filter drinking water. Research has shown that living in closer proximity to green space can improve one’s ability to cope with stressful life events.

Additionally, trees help mitigate the “urban heat island effect,” where large amounts of pavement absorb and trap heat in cities. Residents of areas with fewer trees and more heat-trapping pavement are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses as the severity of heat waves increases with a changing climate.

According to the USDA Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.”

PHS sums it up: “Planting trees is a powerful way to enhance the health and well-being of neighborhoods.”

Won’t you consider planting a tree in your neighborhood, community, street or yard? This simple act of planting trees helps to combat climate change and better your own community. Apply for your free street tree by November 27.   For an application, contact Jean McCoubrey at jean.mccoubrey@gmail.com, or go directly to the PHS website (phsonline.org) and select the “Tree Programs” tab.

Abby Murphy is a recent Georgetown Day School graduate on a gap year before attending Williams College and Sustainability Intern with Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.

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