Thankful for trees

Thankful for trees

Nancy Buley, communications director of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., explains the importance of trees and why people should be thankful for them.

November 23, 2022

Why should people be thankful for trees?

NB: Without trees, there is no life! Our lives, and all ecosystems and living things depend on trees. Trees are the answer!

Photo courtesy of JFS

An alleé of Emerald Queen Maples extends a leafy welcome to visitors while providing numerous environmental benefits.

What are some of the benefits of trees?

NB: Trees improve human health and well-being: Trees cast cool shade that reduces the urban heat island effect in cities – reducing heat-related illness and deaths. Trees relieve stress – spending time among trees is a prescription for better health. A healthy urban tree canopy reduces the incidence of childhood asthma, and sudden loss of tree canopy contributes to a remarkable increase in deaths from heart and respiratory illness. Also, studies show that hospital patients heal faster with a view of trees from their window, and students exposed to nature perform better academically and focus better on their studies. Trees bring people together – planting trees and taking care of them builds community.

Trees also have many economic benefits: Trees boost the economy and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs – in the nursery industry, tree planting organizations, city forest and parks departments, arborists and more. Trees cool streets and extend the life of pavement, and shaded parking lots reduce emissions from the gas tanks of parked (hot) vehicles. Shoppers spend more and linger longer in shopping districts that have trees, and trees improve property value, curb appeal and make our communities more beautiful.

Photo courtesy of JFS

A young boy spins with delight in the falling leaves of a beech tree in the Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon.

In what ways do trees help the environment?

NB: Trees remove harmful particulate matter and gases (CO2 and others) from the air. Via photosynthesis, they turn those harmful gases into the air we breathe, oxygen. Trees remove carbon from the air and capture it in their wood. In the U. S., $2 billion in annual energy costs are saved per million mature trees. Trees cool streams and create habitat for fish and other marine and streamside creatures. Trees capture stormwater, reduce runoff and prevent erosion. Trees provide food and shelter for animals, birds, insects and last but not least, humans!

Photo courtesy of JFS

Redpointe Maples growing in a stormwater management structure reduce runoff and filter pollutants before the water is returned to the local aquifer.

How can people show their appreciation for trees this thanksgiving?

NB: Include thanks for trees in your Thanksgiving blessing. If prayers are not your cup of tea, bring up the topic of trees and their benefits as you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. If raking leaves is on your holiday chores list, don’t complain. Instead, enjoy the exercise and thank those piles of leaves for all the fresh air and cool shade they made for you this summer. Hug a tree or climb a tree. It will make you feel good!

For a deeper dive, references and studies that back up Nancy’s comments, see these websites:

Green Cities: Good Health

Human Dimensions of Urban Greening and Urban Forestry

Vibrant Cities Lab

Benefits of plants & landscapes (resources compiled by Dr. Charlie Hall)

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition

Economic Contributions of the Green Industry in the U. S. in 2018