Why plant trees?

Why plant trees?

There’s a seemingly endless stream of bad news in the world: the coronavirus pandemic has forced us stay inside more than we’ve ever had to in our lifetimes, and there’s the ever-impeding threat of the climate crisis. Our collective mental health is suffering, and more than ever we’re looking for anything that can provide some alleviation from this. 

The government recently found that almost half of the UK’s population say they are spending more time outside than they did before the pandemic, so it’s clear that green spaces are more important than they have ever been for both our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of our planet, which really begs the question ‘why not plant more trees?’ 

Why is tree planting good for the environment?

Forest ecosystems are one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks in existence. They hold up to 45% of all the carbon stored on land, as well as being home to 80% of the animal and plant life on land. Maintaining our forest ecosystems could be one very large step towards solving the climate crisis; and though this won’t be enough on its own, it’s definitely a good place to start. On a smaller scale, one hectare of young woodland  has the ability to lock up over 400 tonnes of carbon.   Imperial College estimates that a tree planting initiative on a worldwide scale could capture the equivalent to one decade’s worth of carbon emissions (at current rates) by the time these forests reach maturity, or up to 1/3 of all emissions from human activities that remain in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

How can tree planting can benefit you?

Local tree planting initiatives are an excellent means of drawing a community together. Forest For Peterborough, a tree planting organisation in the UK, started in 2010 with the aim to plant 230,000 trees by 2030, and at the same time provides a space where the community can come together and learn how to make responsible and sustainable choices. In 1980 Edward O Wilson, American biologist, popularised the term biophilia to describe the innate connection people have to the natural world, and it’s true that we as humans seek and crave the comfort of the natural world, particularly in times of stress. The UK government estimates that visits to UK woodlands have saved an estimated £185 million in mental health treatment and costs. At the same time, street trees in rural areas are thought to have avoided £16 million in antidepressant costs, so why are there not more trees being planted in rural and urban areas? More local tree initiatives like Forest For Peterborough could both help save people’s mental health and help the UK government reach their target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Planting trees can also help with our physical health. It goes without saying that having poor mental health can begin to have an impact on our physical health, and vice versa (in fact, loneliness has the same affect as smoking 15 cigarettes per day), and having green spaces near our living areas helps to improve our attention and creativity. Walking amongst trees even boosts our immune system and reduces our cortisol levels. It’s also been shown that in areas affected by tree loss, women have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (222,000 hectares of green space have been lost to urban sprawl between 2006 and 2012 in the UK) and senior citizen’s survival rate is 17% higher if their residence is within walking distance of a green space. 

Planting trees can even help your wallet, too (maybe money does grow on trees!). Aside from saving the UK government millions of pounds in mental health costs and the projected costs that could come with the climate crisis in future, planting trees next to buildings can reduce the buildings’ energy consumption by up to 26%. This lowers the buildings’ internal temperature by 4 degrees in the summer and increases it by 6 degrees in the winter, so there’s less of a need for central heating and cooling systems (and of course prevents further emissions into our atmosphere). House prices rise by 9 to 15% if they’re near trees: they add to the aesthetic value of a neighbourhood, make people feel safer, and have been proven to lower crime rates.

Why not plant trees?

So, why plant trees? If planting trees for the sake of the planet isn’t enough of a reason, then there are plenty of ways tree planting can help you and your community. If you’re looking for tree planting opportunities there are plenty of events coming up, such as National Tree Day, which this year will be celebrated on July 31st. For the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee a tree planting initiative - The Queen’s Green Canopy- will encourages people across the UK to 'Plant a Tree for the Jubilee.’  Tree planting land for sale is available through the Woodlands website- let’s get planting!

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Fascinating and yes, let’s her planting!

Rozzy Puttnam

18 May, 2022