If you’re breathing easy, thank a tree.
The City of Chicago just announced it will plant 6,260 trees by the end of October—800 more than originally planned. That’s good news for city dwellers who like breathing air, saving on air conditioning bills, driving on unflooded streets and having fewer ozone days.
Many of us think of parkway trees as just nice amenities, especially when mature branches reach out across the street. But they also add significantly to your property value, even if they’re in the parkway. According to Front Door, mature trees can add between 7 to 19 percent to the value of a home.
City trees aren’t just another pretty face; they have a big job to do by helping with flooding, air pollution and quality of life.
If the city is planting trees in your neighborhood, here’s why you should welcome your little neighbors with open arms:
- Air quality. Even a baby tree absorbs 13 pounds of Co2 a year. By the time it is about 10 years old, it will be grabbing 48 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it in the wood. By the time a tree is elderly, according to Urban Forestry Network, it has been keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, reducing the greenhouse effect and possibly slowing climate change, for decades. A full-grown tree can release enough oxygen to support one or two humans, depending on the tree.Through the leaves, trees also absorb sulfur dioxide, ozone, particulates and nitrous oxides produced by car exhaust.
- Flood control. A tree can intercept 760 gallons of rainwater in its crown, according to American Forests. With so much of the ground covered by asphalt, concrete, buildings and other impermeable surfaces, trees are a huge advantage when it rains. More rain is intercepted by the roots and the soil around them.Trees also purify rainwater, which collects pollutants from the air and ground.
- Natural air conditioning. A mature tree placed in the right spot can reduce your air conditioning bills by up to 30 percent.
- Enjoy the quiet. American Forests says that “tall, dense trees with soft ground surfaces can reduce noise by 50 percent or more.”
- Quality of life. Trees create a calming atmosphere that reduces stress, road rage and possibly accidents, according to studies cited by Safe Streets, Green Cities at the University of Washington.
Closeness with nature is especially good for children and the elderly. Urban nature, whether it is a leafy street or a nearby park, the same site says, benefits children by improving their connection with the physical environment, and can also reduce symptoms of ADD. Other studies have found that for older adults, outdoor activity improves longevity and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Between public and privately owned trees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Chicago has 3.5 million trees, which cover 17 percent of the area.