November 22, 2010 in Features

Do Your Part: Time to stop taking trees for granted

Terri Bennett McClatchy
 
File photo

Take time to hug or, even better, plant a tree.
(Full-size photo)

Are you a tree hugger? Would you admit it if you were?

The term “tree hugger” is frequently used in a less-than-favorable way to describe someone who is passionate about protecting the environment. But once you understand all the good trees do, you might be inclined to hug a tree and decide to do your part by planting a few.

Trees are vitally important to our existence. We know that they produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, which helps remove dangerous chemicals from the air, land and water. In fact, one acre of forest can remove almost 3 tons of carbon dioxide from the environment every year.

Also, their leaves work to collect dust and other microscopic matter from the air, reducing levels of particulate matter that can damage our lungs.

Another crucial element to our existence is clean water. Trees help keep our waterways clean by stabilizing the soil and slowing storm water runoff, which prevents excessive sediment from eroding and washing into the water, where it can choke the life from the surrounding aquatic ecosystem.

Trees are also good at removing toxic heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil, keeping those dangerous elements from entering aquifers deep underground.

Without trees, the world would be a much dirtier place. Because of several factors that are affecting trees today, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Deforestation due to industry, wildfires and bug infestations is drastically depleting our country’s forests. That’s why it’s so important to support reforesting programs and to get involved in tree-planting events wherever you live.

Besides the environmental benefits, there are monetary benefits to consider as well.

Trees planted close to your home can actually save you money on your utility bills. A properly placed tree will reduce your cooling cost by shading your home from the summer heat. Tree leaves also release water vapor through a process called transpiration, which also serves to cool the surrounding air.

During the colder months, a row of trees can serve as a windbreak to reduce heating costs and snow drifts.

Established trees can also increase the value of your home by adding “curb appeal.” And a recent study by the U.S. Forest Service suggests that homes with established trees are less likely to be burglarized.

So you see? There are too many reasons not to hug a tree.

If you are interested in learning more about the proper way to plant a tree or you’d like to make a donation to plant trees around the world, visit doyourpart.com/columns for more information.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of DoYourPart.com, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.

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