Can you put a price tag on a tree? Those who sell timber for paper and other products certainly do, but what about the worth of a living tree? When you add it all up, a tree’s price is incalculable. That didn’t stop Portland Parks & Recreation in Oregon from hanging actual price tags on trees in the community to give people a sense of the benefits they provide. What are those benefits? We picked ten of the most important:
2. Jobs. According to the U.S. Forest Service, recreation visitor spending in National Forests amounted to nearly $11 billion in 2012. All that economic activity sustains about 190,000 full- and part-time jobs. And that’s just in our National Forests!
3. Clean Water. Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that process nearly two-thirds of the water supply in the United States. When you drink a glass of tap water in a New York City restaurant, you’re drinking water that was filtered largely by the forests of upstate New York. The forests do such a good job that the city only needs to do a minimum of additional filtering.
4. Carbon Sequestration. Burning fossil fuels puts heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, changing our climate in dangerous ways. Planting trees can slow down this process. A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.
5. Reduced Crime. Neighborhoods with abundant trees have significantly fewer crimes than those without. Researchers think that this is because green spaces have a calming effect and encourage people to spend more with their neighbors outdoors, bolstering community trust.
7. Mental Health. Feeling down? Take a walk in the woods. Several studies have found that access to nature yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline, and greater mental health overall. One study even found that hospital patients who can see trees out their windows are hospitalized 8 percent fewer days than their counterparts.
8. Temperature Control. The shade and wind-breaking qualities that trees provide benefit everyone from the individual taking shelter from a hot summer day to entire cities. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. Planting trees reduces this “heat island effect”. And households with shade trees could spend 12% less on cooling costs in the summer.
10. Wildlife Habitat. Wildlife use trees for food, shelter, nesting, and mating. These habitats support the incredible variety of living things on the planet, known as biodiversity. By protecting trees, we also save all the other plants and animals they shelter.