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Sunbeams - Trees and Why We Should be Thankful for Them

Trees and Why We Should be Thankful for Them

Written by Ronna
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Birth tree: planting a snow bell Birth tree: planting a snow bell Woodleywonderworks on flickr!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Those who observe it remember all the things they are thankful for: families, friends and blessings such as a house or that dream job. This year, let us add to our list something which has always been there for us but we don't seem to appreciate enough: trees. We know that some trees are a source of food. Others provide lumber and raw materials for making paper and other products. The latter are values trees give us when cut. However, we seem to take for granted that they offer us a number of benefits when they are alive and strong. Besides being grateful for the products we get from them, why else should we be thankful for trees?

Environmental Benefits

Trees do not only make our surroundings green in color, they do make our environment cleaner and "greener." Trees help reduce global warming by absorbing greenhouse gases, the foremost of which is carbon dioxide. Through photosynthesis, a tree takes in carbon dioxide, stores it in its trunk, branches, leaves and roots, and releases oxygen into the atmosphere as a byproduct. Aside from absorbing gaseous pollutants, trees also improve air quality by filtering airborne particles. It is no wonder that the air smells so much fresher in a forest! Trees help moderate local climate. When planted at the right places around our homes, trees save us warming costs in the winter and air conditioning costs in the summer. Of course, the less energy we use, the less we contribute to global warming! We can always count on trees to provide us shade from scorching heat or to protect us from rain. They are especially beneficial during stormy weather. Trees soften the fall of rainwater and the impact of wind. They prevent soil erosion and slow down water runoff, thus mitigating floods. This erosion and runoff control feature of trees results to a replenished groundwater supply. They also remove harmful pollutants and nutrients from the soil and prevent them from getting into our water system. Thus, aside from cleaning our air, trees also help keep our water clean! Trees attract birds, insects and other wildlife to an area. They also support the growth of other plants that might not have been there otherwise. The more trees in the surroundings, the more life is supported.

Emotional/Psychological/Sociological Benefits

Trees are pleasant to behold. They beautify the surroundings and give us a feeling of relaxation and tranquility. It is said that workers with a view of trees feel better and become more productive. The presence of trees is especially important to those who frequently use the computer. Looking at trees from a distance is a good way to rest eyes tired from staring at a computer screen. The sight of trees along motorways reduces driving stress. Hospital patients are said to recover better when they can see trees from their windows, instead of just facing a blank wall. A study also showed that the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are relieved after playing in nature. The presence of trees in a community increases outdoor activities. There are stronger ties among neighbors in communities that have a lot of trees. A study from the University of Illinois found that there are fewer reports of physical violence in homes that had trees outside. Because trees can live for many, many years, they can serve as living memorials. Trees can be planted in memory of a loved one or a special event.

Practical Benefits

Trees provide privacy to homes by acting as a wall. They also cover unpleasant views and soften a very urban landscape. Trees reduce glare and reflection. They also reduce noise pollution by absorbing sounds. Trees direct pedestrian traffic and increase traffic safety. The presence of trees makes it easier for motorists to differentiate the sidewalk from the road. Seeing trees along a curved road also makes the driver anticipate the curve ahead of time. Trees make the road appear narrower, making motorists slow down.

Economic Benefits

Trees increase the real estate value of properties. Apartments and offices in areas with an abundance of trees are rented more quickly. Trees attract tourists and businesses. It has also been found that people tend to shop more in well-landscaped areas. Savings from reduced energy costs do not only benefit individual homes, but also the community or city in general. Trees can also save the city from costly erosion control structures.

Why not plant a tree with us?

Last March, Sunbeams, with the help of the forest association VBV (Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen), organized a tree planting event in Tienen. With the participation of schools, organizations, companies, embassies and individuals of different nationalities, 2,280 trees were planted on Belgian soil.

We are doing it again on March 20th, 2011 and we hope that more people can join us! Register for updates right here on our website.

Ronna Mercado-Delvoye

Further reading:

This article was originally published in the November 2010 edition of the Sunbeams newsletter.

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