How Trees Can Save Cities Money

How Trees Can Save Cities Money
By: Summer Price

Last week I wrote about how quickly our city is losing trees. Georgia is the leading state in the nation for tree loss. This of course affecting our city and its citizens in a lot of negative ways including problems with our physical and mental health. Loss of trees has also been shown to have major affects on crime rates in urban areas. But did you know that planting trees in urban areas can dramatically increase the amount of money a city can save?

According to a recent study led by Theodore Endreny, a professor at the College of Environmental Science & Forestry at the State University of New York at Syracuse, every dollar invested in planting a tree results in an average return on investment of $2.25. This would mean that the planet’s 10 biggest cities would save $500 million a year. The extra trees planted would help by reducing gases and particulates in the air, lower wastewater processing costs and significantly decrease heating and cooling costs. Most of the money saved can be attributed to health care costs. Disease related to particulate matter that gets inhaled into our lungs causes a multitude of problems that can be decreased by planting more trees. The study didn’t consider the amount of benefits on mental health, so the number of money saved could possibly be vastly higher than originally stated.

More people are calling urban areas home today than ever before. 4.2 billion of all 7.6 billion of people on the planet live in cities. This means that 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air and 7 million deaths can be attributed to pollution. Trees absorb the carbon dioxide we breathe out. They then produce oxygen after absorbing the carbon dioxide. One large tree can supply enough oxygen for four people. They also help by trapping airborne pollutants removing them from the atmosphere allowing us to breath better. They keep our lungs healthy and intercept pollutants. Therefore, keeping an abundance of trees within our city is extremely important to our health and our wallets.

In the study done by Endreny, he researched the relationship between trees and the ecosystem services they provide. These services include climate and flood control, clean air and water, food and clean air and water. He calculated that each square kilometer saved about $0.93 million in air pollution heath care costs. $20,000 by capturing water runoff, and $478,000 in building energy heating and cooling savings. What’s even more shocking is the median annual value of carbon dioxide taken away by tree cover is $7.9 million.

It’s clear we need to start focusing on adding more trees to our urban areas. Want to help your city plant more trees? Everyone can help! Even adding a potted shrub to your yard can help contribute similar benefits if planting a large tree isn’t realistic for your home. Volunteer with local non-profits such as Trees Atlanta to help with planting trees around the city or look for similar companies if you’re not located in Atlanta. Everyone can take charge and help reduce this problem!