Trees and Vegetation
Tree planting cools the air and brings communities together
Planting trees and vegetation is a simple and effective way to reduce heat islands. Widespread planting in a city can decrease local surface and air temperatures. Strategic planting around homes and buildings directly cools the interior of homes and buildings, decreasing air conditioning costs and peak energy demand.
Vegetating urban landscapes not only improves community livability and air quality by reducing summertime temperatures and air conditioning demand, it provides additional benefits:
Carbon Dioxide. When trees and vegetation reduce energy use, they also reduce CO2 emissions from power plants. In addition, vegetation removes atmospheric CO2 by sequestration. Trees sequester – or store – between 35 and 800 pounds annually depending on their size and growth rate. The total quantity of carbon stored in mature trees may be 1,000 times more than the storage in small, young trees. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that carbon storage by urban forests is between 400 and 900 million metric tons nationally.
Stormwater Management. During rain events, the ground can become saturated and turn excess rainfall into runoff. Stormwater runoff problems, such as flooding and polluting of open water bodies, are worsened by the large amounts of water-resistant surfaces in urban areas. Trees and vegetation can help reduce the runoff problem by decreasing the volume of runoff. Researchers found that evergreens, conifers, and trees in full leaf can intercept up to 36% of the rainfall that hits them.
Quality of Life. Trees and vegetation can help reduce noise, which may be highly valued in urban areas. They also provide shade from harmful ultraviolet radiation, particularly in playgrounds, schoolyards, and picnic areas. (Visit EPA's Sunwise program for more information on protection from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.) In addition, trees and vegetation may increase property values, as several studies have shown that home values are higher on tree-lined streets. Lastly, community gardens and neighborhood parks can help reduce physiological stress, aesthetically improve an area, and provide an urban habitat for birds, animals, and insects