Plant a Tree for the Planet -- and Yourself - - No One Gets You Closer

Plant a Tree for the Planet -- and Yourself

from greenlight Magazine in partnership with Earth 911  

Arbor Day, the traditional holiday that promotes planting trees, actually occurs on different days around the country--but, even if you've missed the official day in your state, it's never too late to plant a tree!

More benefits than just the environment

Of course, trees help the earth:

  • Trees make the air cleaner by filtering pollutants like carbon monoxide and making oxygen.
  • Trees provide homes for wildlife and regulate temperatures through the evaporation of water in their leaves.
  • Trees can even keep storms from being as severe by filtering the fall of precipitation, holding some of it in and lessening its impact.

But trees help people and are good for our health, too:

  • They can save us money by shading homes and office buildings and creating wind breaks.
  • In addition, their height and bulk, their brilliant natural colors, the sound of the wind through their branches... all of these traits bring us peace.
      • According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), hospital patients get well faster when their room has a tree view. Surgery patients who can see nature from their hospital rooms have a more favorable recovery than those who look out on brick walls, including 10 percent shorter hospital stays and fewer pain medications, according to a study by Dr. Robert Ulrich. In fact, a compilation of several studies shows similar research for clinics, nursing homes, and prisons-those that take advantage of natural elements have higher rehabilitation rates.
      • Trees help keep you mentally on keel. A study by Dr. Rachel Kaplan of desk workers shows that those who view nature from their office windows feel more patient and less frustrated about tasks and have more enthusiasm for their jobs and satisfaction with their lives. They also report better overall health.

3 ways to plant a tree

Think about where your life could benefit from more trees, more peace. Perhaps it's in your own yard, where trees can beautify your property and help you spend less on energy bills. Or maybe it's in your community, to reduce costs associated with storm runoff and heating and cooling city facilities-and bring a bit more of nature into an urban landscape. In the spirit of Earth Day, it could be just to help the globe overall, by adding to forests around the nation.

1. Donate to an organization. Groups like American Forests and the National Arbor Day Foundation let you pay online to sponsor a number of trees, often in the location of your choice (such as in regions hit by Hurricane Katrina). You can even plant trees to commemorate a special event or honor the death of a loved one.

2. Join a group or event. Nonprofit groups in large cities, like San Francisco's Friends of the Urban Forest, help city governments keep streets green by sponsoring neighborhood tree plantings. You can also join the Tree City USA program--it provides direction, technical assistance, public attention, and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs all over the US. Cities also organize their own tree-planting events during this time of year, making it a great time to volunteer. If there isn't an event where you live, but you think your area is in need of trees, contact your city officials and get involved in beautification efforts-or start them!

3. Plant one yourself. It's easy to buy trees, either through organizations or nurseries. Just be sure to get information about choosing and planting in advance: for tree health, it's crucial to plant the right kind in the right location, and set it in the ground properly. If you don't feel as comfortable, here's a few ways to research which trees might be good for your location.

  • Look at your neighbors' yards for flourishing trees
  • Ask your local organization or nursery
  • Consider hiring a professional. Arborists can plant, prune, and remove trees (and their heavy limbs), as well perform maintenance that will keep trees healthy and stable.

Tree Care is Important Too

When we plant more trees, it has an effect: An acre of tall-trunked beauties can absorb the same amount of carbon a car produces by driving nearly 9,000 miles. Unfortunately, it takes a tree about a decade to get to the place where it can take in maximum carbon, and the average city tree only lives about 8 years. So we need to worry about the health of currently growing trees in addition to planting new ones.  If you suspect that a tree on your property might be unhealthy (signs of bugs, rotting on the trunk), get more information from the ISA on how to care for a tree and hire an arborist to help.