The best investment you can make right now is to plant a tree
With the recent near-apocalyptic events of earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear accidents, it’s easy to think that individual actions don’t matter. Instead of fretting about climate change and other world problems, there’s something you can do right now as a gift to future generations: plant a tree.
In tough economic times, some argue that – although trees are nice – spending money on planting and maintaining them is not a justified cost. Contrary to that sentiment, research on urban trees shows that they provide vital economic benefits.
Jill Jonnes’s article What Is a Tree Worth? examines the benefits that trees provide. She discusses studies done in Chicago, Sacramento, and New York City to assess the value of urban trees. According to the 2006 New York study, the half million trees in New York City provide $122 million in benefits. These include:
Energy savings: New York City’s trees annually saved roughly $28 million, or $47.63 per tree. Air pollution: Each street tree removed an average of 1.73 pounds of air pollutants per year (a benefit of $9.02 per tree), for a total of more than $5 million... [And] street trees reduced stormwater runoff by nearly 900 million gallons each year, saving the city $35.6 million it would have had to spend to improve its stormwater systems.
The report also estimated the economic value of “esthetics, increased property values and economic activity, reduced human stress, and improved public health” at $52.5 million. Based on these results, New York Mayor Bloomberg increased the city’s forestry budget from $8 million to $31 million.
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But what would this mean to an individual homeowner? Planting just one tree on the west side of a house reduces energy use for air-conditioning by two to seven percent. Additionally, a single tree intercepts 1,432 gallon of stormwater – which would help keep the basement dry –as well as removes nearly 2 pounds of air pollutants. To calculate the benefit of an individual street-side tree, visit the National Tree Benefit Calculator.
Extracting resources, fishing out the ocean, and emitting pollution draw on and reduce our stock of natural capital. Planting trees is a simple way to invest in, rather than draw down, our natural capital. Planting a tree is a powerful gesture of hope for today and an invaluable gift for tomorrow.