They stand there, limbs outstretched, leaves rustling in the wind. They don’t seem to do much, nor do they seem to change much. They are part of that green smear that forms the backdrop of our everyday lives. They are just there. Trees. We don’t really think about them much. Nor do we consider the tremendous gifts they give to us and to the world.
Think about this. Take a hand full of sunlight and stuff it into your mouth. Chew and swallow. Now that is what you might call a “light snack.” Try as we might, we humans can’t get our food from sunlight. But trees can. Truly, this is a miracle if you stop and think about it. Trees make their own food! As they grow with the help of the sun’s energy, water and carbon dioxide, they give off oxygen. Take a deep breath. Your body is breathing in the gift of trees. In fact, two mature trees can give off enough oxygen for a family of four. At the same time, trees uptake carbon dioxide – a natural carbon sink. An acre of mature hardwood trees can absorb the carbon produced by an average sized car, in one year. In a world of climate change and ever more erratic weather, finding natural ways to sequester carbon is more important than ever!
Here are some other Tree-ific tree facts:
- A large oak tree can transpire over 400 liters of water a day – acting like a natural humidifier. That cools the surrounding air while the broad oak leaves act like a large umbrella. Strategically placed trees can shade our homes and reduce air conditioning by up to 50%!
- Trees absorb air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and ground-level ozone, helping to improve our air quality.23-tree-face-winter
- Trees prevent erosion and reduce flooding during storms by catching rainfall in the canopy. For every 5% of tree cover added to our community, we reduce storm water runoff by 2%.
- Trees enhance property values by up to 15%. Craig Alexander and the TD Bank Group have estimated that the value of the Toronto’s Urban Forest is an astonishing 7 billion dollars. They also calculate that the tree canopy provides an additional $80 million worth of environmental benefits and cost savings.
Trees also make us physically and mentally healthier. In Japan, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have recognized the positive health effects a walk through a forest can provide. They even have a phrase for this. They call it “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku – literally soaking up the beauty, peace, and tranquility of a nearby forest. A number of studies have demonstrated that by simply being around trees, you can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress by reducing stress-related hormones like cortisol and you can improve your overall mood and sense of well-being.
Remember this. When you are feeling down, tired or just not yourself, give yourself a little tree therapy. Go for a walk among our green giants. Breathe deeply. Soak up the surrounding woods and bathe in the forest. Think about all the positive things that trees do for us. Don’t forget to take the time to give thanks.
By Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director, Camp Kawartha