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Earth Day Year-Round: 6 Top Benefits of Trees

Written by Dr. Edward Group Founder
 
A woman walking in a park.

Trees add so much value to our lives. From giving us oxygen to cooling our cities, the benefits of trees affect many parts of our lives. They’re not only good for the planet, but also for your health!

You may feel more at peace when you’re surrounded by trees. Even seeing a tree can make you heal faster, lift your mood, and help you feel more connected to nature.[1, 2, 3]

Rebecca V., a blogger from Portland, Oregon, loves spending time among the trees. For her, the benefits of trees extend beyond their beautiful appearance; trees improve her quality of life. "Trees lighten my mood, no matter what is going on in the rest of my life," she says.

"A walk in the forest near my home always makes me feel more relaxed," adds Rebecca. "I'll stop and place my hand against the trunk of a tree, or stand and lean against it for a moment. It feels as though the tension is drawn from me and into the tree. I feel renewed after time with the trees — ready to go back and face the world."

6 Amazing Benefits of Trees

Have you ever stopped to consider all the incredible benefits provided by trees — or how empty the world would look without them? We’re fortunate to live on a planet with majestic plant life in all its diversity.

Whether you plant a tree, take a walk among them, or donate to support tree-planting efforts, let’s all give gratitude for the beauty of trees and forests around the world — and the gifts they give us. Below are six of the top benefits that trees provide.

1. Trees Cheer You Up!

When Kaecey M., a creativity coach from Cupertino, California, is feeling down, she heads for the trees. "Ever since I was a small child, I'd escape to the sanctuary of trees when I felt sad or alone. Somehow being around them made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself, and my mood would lift. As an adult, I often find myself feeling more content or at peace after spending time in the woods," says Kaecey.

When adults who had depression spent time in the forest (also called forest bathing), they felt better.[1] Forest therapy can range from simply walking among the trees for a couple of hours to meditating while in a forest.[1] The adults noted their self-esteem was higher and their mood improved after forest therapy. Bottom line: trees are good for your mental health!

2. Trees Help You Heal Faster

If you’re physically unwell, spending more time in nature can also help. For instance, stressed adults who spent time in green spaces instead of an urban environment had lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate.[2]

Natural environments, including forests, help you reach a more positive state of mind. This, in turn, affects your body’s physiology and overall state of wellness.[2] In fact, sick people with exposure to nature heal faster than those who don’t — even if it’s just a view through a window![4, 5] Greenness around a home may even mean you live longer, especially in women![6]

One of the reasons people in society feel more stressed and sick is because we have separated ourselves from nature. We’ve spent less than 0.01 percent of our history on this planet in an urban environment.[7] While our bodies are adapted to living in nature, we’re mostly living in cities. This can’t help but stress your body and mind.

3. Trees Reduce Air Pollution & Improve Respiratory Health

Trees absorb many toxic pollutants from our environment. In the United States alone, trees and forests remove 17.4 million tons of pollution per year.[8]

Experts have valued the human health effects of these trees at $6.8 billion! These forests eliminate an estimated 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms and save 850 lives.[8]

Imagine how much better our air — and health — would be if we planted more trees!

If you live in a city, you’ve probably heard about air quality and high ozone concentrations. At ground level, ozone becomes a major component of the smog causes haze on the horizon in many cities. This smog negatively affects human health.[9] For several decades, smog levels have been rising, but trees can remove ozone and improve air quality.

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4. Trees Provide Oxygen

It almost goes without saying, but trees literally give us the breath of life: oxygen. "Trees are like the lungs of our Earth," says Milana P., an author from Salt Lake City, Utah. "They nourish us with oxygen while taking away our carbon dioxide and ask for nothing in return."

Trees provide us with oxygen during photosynthesis, absorbing the carbon dioxide people and animals expel. In this process, plants combine carbon dioxide with water and sunlight to make plant sugars and oxygen — which they release to the air.

A single tree can provide enough oxygen for four people.[10] And of course, trees provide food and shelter to birds and other wildlife.

5. Trees Counteract Climate Change

As trees give out oxygen, they also absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), which we expel in our breath. Cars, factories, and other industrial processes also produce CO2. As concerns about climate change and global warming increase, planting more trees is one part of the solution.

One tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO2 from the air every year.[10] While the ultimate solution is reducing dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels, planting trees is a proactive step that everyone can take.

On a bigger scale, if we reforest an extra 2 billion acres, the trees could store an additional 275 million tons of carbon dioxide.[11] This would increase the total amount of stored carbon dioxide in trees around the world by 25 percent. Yet 15 percent of the world’s trees are at risk of extinction.[12] Planting trees — and supporting global reforestation efforts — is even more important than ever before.

6. Trees Cool Cities

Did you know that trees are like nature’s air conditioners? In urban areas, you often end up with an "urban heat island," where the city stays several degrees hotter than the surrounding rural areas.

This well-known phenomenon occurs because parking lots, asphalt, and buildings absorb the heat during the day and it warms the surrounding air.[13] In contrast, trees cool things down by offering shade and through evapotranspiration — the process by which plants "breathe."

If you want to save energy in your home and make it feel cooler in the summer, plant more trees around it. Trees even save you money on your electric bill: When a tree offers direct shade to your home, you’ll use less air conditioning.[13] A shaded surface can be 20 to 45 degrees (11 to 25 degrees Celsius) cooler than one without shade. Wow!

How to Plant a Tree

The easiest way to increase your views of trees is to plant a few. While Earth Day helps us think of planting more trees and giving back, make sure to plant a tree at the right time for your climate. You can often get free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation or the U.S. Forest Service at certain times of the year.

Generally, early fall and late summer are the best time to plant (unless you live in a more tropical climate).[14] Even though springtime is not the ideal time to plant trees, you can always buy potted trees for the greenery and benefits they provide, then plant them at a later time.

Do your research. Depending on your location and other factors, choose a tree that can handle your weather, soil, sunlight, and pets.[14] You’ll also want to avoid planting near power lines or other structures that can be damaged by tree limbs or roots.

Once you’ve found the right tree, dig a hole twice as wide and a little shallower than the root ball. After placing the tree in the hole, fill it with soil and remove any air pockets. Water the tree, then add mulch around it.

In the first couple of years, you may find it beneficial to water the tree in dry weather. Once it grows, it will require less tree care.

How Global Healing Gives Back

At Global Healing, we love trees! We have planted thousands of trees over the past years, mainly with One Tree Planted. In 2019, our donations helped replace 5,000 trees lost in the California wildfires, and we have also supported tree planting after the Australian bush fires. We plan to continue supporting efforts to plant trees and support the environment as a core part of our mission.

Global Healing employees have engaged in volunteer efforts to plant trees in Houston, and the company has donated to groups that plant trees in Africa as well as those supporting sustainable, organic farming initiatives, among other things. Our company philosophy is rooted in a green philosophy. We use recyclable packaging materials, use certified organic, non-GMO ingredients, and source plant materials responsibly.

Points to Remember

When you consider everything trees do for us, it’s easy to see why they’re so beloved. Trees can improve our moods, boost healing, lower stress, reduce air pollution, counteract climate change, and cool down our cities. And of course, we all know that they give us oxygen! It’s no wonder that trees make us feel better whenever we see one.

In honor of Earth Day, consider planting a tree in your neighborhood or workplace. Do your research first and pick a tree that is right for your climate and area. Make sure you plant it in a spot where it can provide shade without interfering with power lines or other structures. Help our planet by planting a tree today!

What have you done for Earth Day? What do you love about trees? Share your experiences below!

References (14)
  1. Lee I, et al. Effects of forest therapy on depressive symptoms among adults: a systematic review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(3):321.
  2. Alvarsson JJ, et al. Stress recovery during exposure to nature sound and environmental noise. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010;7(3):1036-1046.
  3. Lovasi GS, et al. Children living in areas with more street trees have lower prevalence of asthma. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2008;62(7):647-649.
  4. Ulrich RS, et al. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. J Environ Psychol. 11(3):201-230.
  5. Ulrich RS. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science. 1984 Apr 27;224(4647):420-421.
  6. Greenness around homes linked to lower mortality [news release]. 15 Apr 2016. Bethesda MD: National Institutes of Health. Accessed 19 Mar 2020.
  7. Song C, et al. Physiological effects of nature therapy: a review of the research in Japan. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016;13(8):781.
  8. Nowak DJ, et al. Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States. Environ Pollut. 2014 Oct;193:119-129.
  9. Sicard P, et al. Should we see urban trees as effective solutions to reduce increasing ozone levels in cities? Environ Pollut. 2018 Dec;243(Pt A):163-176.
  10. The Power of One Tree - The Very Air We Breathe. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 3 Jun. 2019. Accessed 4 Mar. 2020.
  11. Bastin JF, et al. The global tree restoration potential. Science. 2019 Jul 5;365(6448):76-79.
  12. Beech E, et al. GlobalTreeSearch: The first complete global database of tree species and country distributions. J Sustain For. 2017;36:454-489.
  13. Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accessed 4 Mar. 2020.
  14. Tree Planting. National Association of Conservation Districts. Accessed 4 Mar. 2020.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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