“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Trees are such a normal part of our lives that sometimes we don’t really notice them. Especially pine and other evergreen trees – they don’t even have bright fall colors or sweetly scented flowers to capture our attention like deciduous trees do during different parts of the year. These steady objects may be silently standing, but they really are doing so much more for us than one might realize.
Below are just a few of those things.
1. Trees reduce stress
A pastime in Japan is making headlines and raising questions. The event is called “forest bathing.” It has nothing to do with water or cleanliness, and everything to do with spending time in nature. Studies have shown that you don’t have to hike or do any kind of strenuous exercise to reap the benefits; just being in nature reduces stress and increases health. Can’t get to a forest? Some studies have shown that even looking at a picture of trees can have a similar effect. New screensaver, perhaps?
2. Trees save you money
The Arbor Day Foundation has a calculator on their website that helps you figure out how much money you are saving (or could be saving) by having or planting trees on your property. For example, a 10 inch wide pine in Evergreen, Colorado provides benefits of $96 every year, and will grow to $125 a year as the tree matures. Trees shade in the summer, block winds all year long, and increase the value of your property (homebuyers are willing to pay more for healthy, well-maintained trees).
3. Trees improve air quality
Most of us learned at school that trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen – not only making the air around us healthier, but literally enabling us to breathe better. Did you know that during one of his nationwide tours, Justin Timberlake hired a company to figure out the carbon footprint of his concerts, and then paid to have trees and bushes planted in those cities to offset his impact? The bark and leaves of trees also absorb other pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
4. Trees seem to impact our moods and habits
Not only are trees great stress relievers, but we tend to spend more time shopping or visiting businesses on tree-lined streets. Minor crimes such as graffiti, vandalism and littering are less common in outdoor spaces that have trees. In short, we just seem to be more comfortable if trees are nearby.
5. Trees clean and control water
Did you know that forests are being replanted in Colorado wildfire areas? The root systems of the trees will eventually stabilize the ground, reducing the amount of soil that runs into the South Platte River, which provides about half of metro Denver’s drinking water. Trees also are a natural water filter, keeping chemicals from asphalt and concrete out of rivers and lakes. Additionally, trees reduce the amount of storm water runoff, reduce erosion, and control flooding.
6. Items that you use daily come from trees
Drink coffee? Beans and coffee filters come from trees. Use any kind of paper product? Trees. Food such as fruit and nuts, spices such as cinnamon, and even cocoa beans for chocolate come from different kinds of trees. Car wax and some household sponges? From trees. Olive oil and wine corks? You guessed it – a product of trees. Plus, think how many wooden objects you have in your house. Hardwood floors, cabinets, pencils…the list goes on and on.
7 . Trees provide privacy
Trees work well as property markers, and they create a natural fence, blocking peering eyes (especially if you’re close to your neighbors). They block noise too (trees have been shown to cut noise pollution by as much as 40%), which is even more helpful if you live close to a busy road.
8. Trees are a home for wildlife
Spotting a cardinal in the midst of winter or the first robin of spring brings life to our yards and outdoor spaces. Trees are a habitat for birds, mammals, insects and more – using them to build nests, shelter from the elements, and to provide food.
So the next time you see a stately Ponderosa pine, the trembling leaves of an aspen or the spring flowers of a ‘Canada Red Select’ chokecherry, remember how many benefits they bring to the landscape beyond just looking nice.