Trees have been with us throughout our whole lives. They’re the background of a favorite memory and that welcome patch of green our eyes seek as we gaze out our windows. While they are silent and stationary, trees hold tremendous powers, including the power to make all our lives better and healthier. If a tree has power, a forest has even more.
1. More like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Trees’ food-making process, photosynthesis, involves absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in its wood. Trees and plants will store this carbon dioxide throughout their lives, helping slow the gas’s buildup in our atmosphere that has been rapidly warming our planet. Smarter management of trees, plants, and soil in the US alone could store the equivalent carbon of taking 57 million cars off the road! Trees are looking out for us, so we must look out for them. Older, larger trees store a lot more carbon than young trees, so it’s important that in addition to planting new trees, we conserve and protect the giants of our forests.
2. Trees boost our mental health while raising our physical health. A healthy tree can lead to a healthier you and me. A study by a TNC scientist shows that time in nature—like a walk among the trees in a city park—correlates with a drop in anxiety and depression.
The good news: it doesn’t take a lot of time in nature for these soothing powers to kick in. You may have felt the benefits from a short walk or hike in your neighborhood. We’re drawn to green spaces, and for good reason. In Houston, we have so many great places to enjoy nature like the Houston Arboretum or Terry Hershey Park.
3. Trees clean the air so we can breathe more easily. Leave it to leaves. Trees remove the kind of air pollution that is most dangerous to our lungs: particulate matter. This pollution arises from the burning of fossil fuels and can reach dangerous concentrations in the largest cities as well as in neighborhoods near highways and factories. Currently, the first controlled experiment testing neighborhood tree planting for health benefits in the same way that a new pharmaceutical drug would be tested is underway. Tree’s leaves will filter this dangerous pollution, but only if they’re planted near the people who need them; most of the filtration occurs within 100 feet of a tree. More trees in cities, especially in lower-income neighborhoods close to highways and factories, can reduce ailments like asthma and heart disease that cause 5% of deaths worldwide.
4. Trees filter your water, making your drinking supply cleaner and more reliable. Raise a glass to a tree near you! Actually, raise your glass to trees far from you, as your water has traveled on a long journey to your faucet. Trees store and filter more than half of the water supply in the United States. Forests do this by removing pollutants and sediments from rainfall and then slowly releasing the water back into waterways and underground aquifers. Thanks to trees, this naturally cleaner water is easier and cheaper to treat before it ends up in your tap. The water supply is also steadier because all of the rainwater didn’t end up in a river right away; it seeped through these natural filters over time.
While trees are resilient, they are not invincible—and they need our help. Supporting organizations that focus on tree conservancy and taking good care of your trees, both at home and at your commercial properties, makes a big difference. So, together, we’re helping our planet and giving an important gift to our children and their children.