Saturday, 26 November 2016

Why We Love Trees: 5 Reasons to Get Involved with National Tree Week

At CFH we love trees.

In fact, as anyone who has ever attended an exhibition that we are at will know, we are downright obsessed with trees.

To date, through our Toptree initiative in association with the Woodland Trust, we have planted over one hundred thousand trees throughout the UK and we intend to plant many more than that in the coming years.

So, you may reasonably ask, what with all the trees?
Well what better time to tell you than National Tree Week!

Trees have a huge number of benefits other than just the obvious ones, such as they look pretty and they help to combat climate change, but we can start with the obvious ones and work our way down to some of the weirder ones.

Trees Combat Climate Change

This one is an oldie but a goody. As I’m sure everyone reading this knows tree’s remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and release oxygen. The removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is essential to prevent global warming as Greenhouse Gasses (GHG’s), such as CO2, are significant contributors to the heating up of our planet and an acre of mature trees will absorb the equivalent of roughly twenty-six thousand car miles worth of CO2 every year[1].

Studies have shown that a 33% increase in woodland cover in the UK would result in an abatement of 10% of current GHG emissions by 2050, as well as improving biodiversity and air quality.

However, trees do more than just taking the CO2 out of the air they actually store it in their wood in a process known as carbon sequestration, helping to further reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere.

But that’s not it, trees do one more thing that tackles climate change. They stop us using energy in first place.

Everyone knows trees provide shade in the summer, so it makes sense that they would have a cooling effect on surrounding building as well in the summer months. By breaking up the urban heat island effect, releasing water vapor into the air from their leaves and providing much needed shade trees keep urban areas significantly cooler reducing the need for air conditioning.

What you might find surprising is that trees also save energy in the winter months. By providing shelter and subsequently reducing wind speed trees reduce heat loss from buildings during the winter months resulting in lower energy bills.

Studies have shown that trees can save as much as 10% on annual energy bills.[2]

Trees Make You Healthier

Air pollution is a major cause of respiratory problems, with air pollution contributing to 28,000 deaths in the UK as recently as 2010[3], and research has established that trees remove a number of pollutants from the air (including, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and harmful particulates). [4] The same study estimates that doubling the number of trees in the West Midlands alone could reduce deaths due to particulate pollution by up to 140 people per year.

With recent studies also finding links between Alzheimer’s Disease and particulate pollution reducing the amount of particulate pollution we inhale could be essential to our wellbeing.[5]

Trees Make You Happier

Trees are also really important for our mental health.

Firstly trees have numerous social benefits, including encouraging people out of their homes and into public green spaces where they interact more with others and build stronger social relationships.[6] This is especially important as recent studies have found that social isolation can actually significantly contribute to the risk of early death, potentially having as much of a negative impact on health as smoking![7]

If that wasn’t enough trees can even help to stop you getting sick in the first place. Desk workers who can see nature from their desks experience 23% less time off sick than their colleagues who could not and they also reported greater job satisfaction. [8]

Trees also help to reduce stress levels. Urban residents suffering from stress have been shown to experience less anxiety and insecurity when they can see trees and the physical signs of stress, such as higher heart rate and muscle tension are measurably reduced within three to four minutes of a stressed person being exposed to leafy green surroundings.

They also reduce noise pollution which, among other things, is a major contributor to causes of stress. Almost 67 million people in cities across Europe are exposed to daily noise levels exceeding the level at which it starts to have negative impacts on people’s health; including sleep loss, stress issues, elevated blood pressure and minor psychiatric issues. [9]

Trees Keep You Safe

Trees help to keep us safe in a number of ways, the first of which is very relevant given the recent weather conditions on much of the UK.

Trees stop flooding! 

They do this by slowing down the flow of water into our river systems, optimally placed woodland shelterbelts can reduce the peak flow of a river by up to 11%[10].
But this isn’t the only way trees keep you safe.

Importantly in the urban environment trees help to improve road safety and they do this in a number of ways. Firstly, a tree lined street gives the impression to drivers that the street is narrowing and this has the effect of encouraging drivers to slow down. Secondly, the stress reduction benefits of tress make road rage much less likely, which improves the attention of drivers and thirdly trees provide a buffer between pedestrians and traffic. [11] [12]

Some studies have even found that the presence of trees in the urban environment can reduce the likelihood of crime.[13]

Trees Make You Richer

Finally, trees help to boost the economy.

They do this by encouraging spending and increasing the value of the local area. 

Consumers in a landscaped and green area were willing to pay, on average, 11% more for goods, 50% more for convenience goods and even more for parking in those areas than they would be willing to pay in non-landscaped areas. [14]

Trees also improve house prices with several studies in the USA analyzing the effect of tree cover on the values of residential house sales and finding that the value of property in tree lined areas may be up to 6% greater than similar areas without trees. [15]

Trees Are Great!

So there you have it. Trees are pretty amazing and can have a beneficial impact on everything from your health to your wallet. Hopefully this has convinced you that you want to see a few more trees in your area.

Well unfortunately this isn’t going to happen without your help. The UK is one of the least wooded countries in the entirety of Europe and recognizing this and the benefit of trees the government committed to increase our tree coverage from 10% to 12% by 2050.
This would need the government to plant, on average, 5000 hectares of forest every year.
Last year they planted 700 hectares, not the best of starts, so I’m afraid it may be up to us!
This is where National Tree Week steps in.

How Can You Get Involved?

To quote an anonymous person “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now”.

It’s as simple as that, go and plant some trees.

We at CFH will be visiting local schools to plant trees, talk about trees and the environment and we will be sharing our very own book about trees called “Treesa Green Goes to School”.

There are many brilliant organisations keen to get you planting trees so why not take a look at some of the websites below and get planting!

[4] Hewitt, N, Et Al (undated) Trees and Sustainable Urban Air Quality, Research summary from
Lancaster University at
[6] Kuo, FE. (2003) “The Role of Arboriculture in a Healthy Social Ecology” [in] Journal of
Arboriculture 29(3), pp148 - 155
[8] Wolf, K, 1998(d) Urban Nature Benefits: Psycho-Social Dimensions of People and Plants,
University of Washington College of Forest Resources, Factsheet #1.
[9] Cavill, N. (Et Al) “Cycling and Health: Whats the Evidence” Cycling England.
[11] Kuo, FE and Sullivan, WC, 2001 Aggression and Violence in the Inner City - Effects of Environment via
Mental Fatigue, [in] Environment and Behavior 33(4), pp 543 – 571
[12] Wolf, K, 1998(d) Urban Nature Benefits: Psycho-Social Dimensions of People and Plants,
University of Washington College of Forest Resources, Factsheet #1.
[13] Kuo, FE and Sullivan,WC, 2001 Aggression and Violence in the Inner City - Effects of Environment via
Mental Fatigue, [in] Environment and Behavior 33(4), pp 543 - 571
[14] Wolf, K, 1998(b) Trees in Business Districts - Comparing Values of Consumers and Business, University of Washington College of Forest Resources, Factsheet #31.
[15] Wolf, K, 1998(c) Urban Forest Values: Economic Benefits of Trees in Cities, University of
Washington College of Forest Resources, Factsheet #29.

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