Monday, September 20, 2010

Trees Are In The Neighborhood, Breathe Easy

Trees not only look beautiful and inviting to any neighborhood, but they add so much value on so many levels, sustainable designers use the phrase coined by William McDonough design "Like A Tree” as a guideline when approaching their projects.
With trees in the neighborhood, you can breathe easy.  Tree-lined streets are a visual testiment to the value they provide to a community, and that is just the beginning of the benefits trees provide to us. 

We all agree that trees are beautiful to look at and provide tranquility.  A view of trees from the hospital window helps us recover quicker from surgery.  On hot days, we run for the wonderful shade and cover a tree provides.

Trees also improve the air around us, help conserve water, provide wildlife habitat.  Because trees sequester, or breathe in so much of the carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, loosing thousands of acres a year is actually contributing to global warming.

It is estimated that 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is a result of deforestation.  Global Change states “About one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are gone.  Each year, another 16 million hectares disappear.”

The benefit of a tree’s work can be seen much closer to home.  Let’s take a look trees, rain and runoff. 

With the natural water cycle, rain, ice or snow falls, fills streams, rivers and lakes and then eventually flows back to the oceans.  Here, evaporation occurs and water vapor rises into the clouds.  Then the whole cycle repeats.

In an undisturbed environment, about 50% of that rainwater gets soaked into the ground.  About 40% gets soaked up the plants, and the remaining 10% becomes stormwater runoff.

When we disturb the natural flow of the water cycle and watershedding process, by adding roads, houses, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways, the water doesn’t get soaked into the soil. 

Instead, it is forced to evaporate or run off into our storm drains gathering chemicals, gasoline, salts and litter.  This runoff is polluting to the waterways, our wetlands, our drinking water and is damaging to ecosystems.

The more these watersheds are disturbed, the more runoff there is.  This means that less water gets to penetrate and soak into the soil. 

In large cities and in commercial areas, the majority of water turns into runoff.  Less than 1/3 of the water gets soaked into the ground after development compared to before development. 
Treating this runoff in water treatments plants becomes expensive.  Planting trees, however, can protect the water and help the ground soak of the water better.

Here’s the cool part.  With the Arbor Day Foundation Tree Benefit Calculator designed by Davey Tree Expert Company and Casey Trees, this tool can give you a good estimation of the value and benefit you will receive or are receiving from planting a tree.

I  ran the numbers for a coastal redwood sapling I picked up at the State Fair.  Every year, I make sure to get one and after it spends 1-1/2 years planted in a pot on my porch, I transfer this graceful and fast growing tree to the great outdoors, behind my house, of course.

As I look over the back yard, I can see it growing rapidly although it still is a bit skinny. 

With the Tree Benefit Calculator, I was able to see that this free sapling with its 1-inch diameter of a trunk has increased my property value by more than one hundred dollars. 

This little coastal redwood will also intercept over 72 gallons of stormwater this year!  It will conserve 4 kilowatts of electricity in energy use.  Plus, my little darling of a tree is absorbing pollutants!

This skinny rascal sequestered or locked up in its roots, trunk, stems and leaves, almost 2 pounds of carbon dioxide and avoided almost 4 pounds of carbon dioxide.

While this redwood isn’t giving me much shade, at this point, I get a lot of satisfaction noticing its growth spurts.  I feel the tranquility coming over me and I breathe deeply.

To find out how to capture the water in your yard and divert it to better uses, sign up for DIY Greenstyle Tips and slow down the runoff.

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