Get your hands dirty and plant things — things that make a person happy to be outside, things that kids climb, and things that improve our air, soil, and streams. Trees, flowers, and shrubs don’t just provide beauty and shade but also improve your property value, lower energy costs, clean the air and water, and even lower your heart rate.
For the community as a whole, planting and enjoying shady, green spaces are like magnets. Public spaces are transformed into backyards we all own, socially energizing a neighborhood and drawing people together.
In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.1
Any exposure to nature, even viewing landscape from windows, makes people feel better and heal quicker. Studies conducted in health care settings show that exposure to nature promotes physiological and mental healing.2 Patient recovery rooms with plants reduce time needed for healing.
Flowers and plants are so soothing that even passive exposure to nature promotes healing and “can significantly speed up recovery time.”3
Hospital patients with plants in their rooms display less fatigue and pain, shorter hospital stays, less anxiety, and higher hospital and room satisfaction.4
Spending time outdoors with plants creates benefits from increased activity, improves health, and reduces health care costs.1
Residents of neighborhoods with beautiful parks are much healthier. They exercise more which makes them less susceptible to physical ailments and more resilient against minor illnesses.
Because of less susceptibility to ailments and illnesses, those residents spend less annually on health care and medical treatment because they require fewer of those services.
Additional research shows that outdoor activities can alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, and depression. Those activities also can improve cognitive function.2,3
1 Hall, Charles and M.W. Dickson. Economic, Environmental, and Health/Well-Being Benefits Associated with Green Industry Products and Services: A Review. Journal of Environmental Horticulture 29(2): 96–103.
2 Hartig, T., M. Mang, and G. W. Evans. 1991. Restorative Effects of Natural Environment Experiences. Environment and Behavior 23.
3 Taylor, A.F., F.E. Kuo, and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior 32.
A well-designed landscape increases property values adds beauty to your home, helps cut water use, improves a home’s comfort, and lowers energy costs throughout the year.
In tree-shaded neighborhoods, the summer daytime air temperature can be as much as six degrees cooler than in treeless areas.
Position trees and shrubs correctly to shelter your house from the sun and wind and you can reduce heating and cooling energy consumption by as much as 25% (which should lower your blood pressure even more). Skillful placement of landscaping can reduce an unshaded home’s air conditioning costs by 15% – 50%.
The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours daily.
Plant a tree today on the west side of your home and in five years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.
Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10% to a property’s value.
A mature tree can often have an appraised value of $1,000 – $10,000.
Having large trees in yards along streets increases a home’s value from 3% – 15%.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research
USDA Forest Service
Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers
Kathleen L Wolf, PhD, University of Washington
Shade trees and landscaping along paved streets can cut the cost of street repairs, lower the costs of maintaining nearby buildings, and make people more comfortable by moderating the effects of the weather.
When asphalt is exposed to direct sun it can reach extremely high temperatures, causing it to break down quicker requiring more frequent repairs. Protecting streets with a shady canopy cuts costs.1
Smart landscaping protects buildings from the sun’s rays in summer and the frigid winter. Situated properly, plants can create buffers between buildings and the elements.
Plants also protect building walls themselves so wear and tear and the costs of upkeep are reduced.2
Because they absorb heat and sunlight, leafy trees, shrubs, and other greenery reduce reflected heat from paved surfaces and buildings and create a more pleasant urban environment.
1 McPherson, E.G., & Muchnick, J. (2005). Effects of street tree shade on asphalt concrete pavement performance. Journal of Arboriculture 31:303–310.
2 Hall, Charles R., & Dickson, M.W. (2011). Economic, Environmental, and Health/Well-Being Benefits Associated with Green Industry Products and Services: A Review. Journal of Environmental Horticulture 29(2):96–103.
Urban streets offer an incredible opportunity for green benefits to our cities and their residents.
There are about 60 – 200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year saving $4 billion in energy costs.
Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and can save 20% – 50% in energy used for heating.
Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent quicker, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent.
National Wildlife Federation
USDA Forest Service
The Arbor Day Foundation
Plants account for lower crime rates in cities. When city buildings have trees and well-maintained vegetation, communities are healthier and safer.
Inner-city Chicago housing communities with higher levels of vegetation had 52% fewer total crimes when compared to architecturally similar buildings. There were 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes than buildings with lower levels of vegetation.1
A lesser amount of vegetation in 10 Florida subdivisions corresponded to higher rates of property crime compared to subdivisions with more vegetation.2
In Portland, trees along streets reduced all types of crime, including burglary and vandalism. Larger trees on residential streets also reduced crime.3
1 Kuo, F.E., and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Environment and Crime in the Inner City: Does Vegetation Reduce Crime? Environment and Behavior 33, 3:343–367.
2 Lorenzo, A.B., and D. Wims. 2004. Do Designed Landscapes Deter Crime? Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 117:297–300.
3 Donovan, G.H, and J.P. Prestemon. 2012. The Effect of Trees on Crime in Portland, Oregon. Environment and Behavior 44, 1:3–30
Playing in natural settings helps develop creativity and imagination in children, promoting problem solving, supporting intellectual development, and enhancing concentration and retention of new information.
Experiences involving nature support academic gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math.1
Exposure to plants helps to build positive social relationships and cooperation. Green settings enhance peace and promote self-control and self-discipline with inner-city youth, especially girls.
Besides benefits of active physical play, just being in nature has been found to reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD) therefore allowing outdoor activities to effectively supplement medicinal and behavioral treatments.2,3
It helps children and their families stay active.4
Gardening provides fresh, nutritious food and teaches children about local food reliance while building stewardship skills.4
1 Benefits of connecting children with nature: Why naturalize outdoor learning environments (The Natural Learning Institute, 2012).
2 Hall, Charles R., & Dickson, M. W. (2011). Economic, environmental, and health/well-being benefits associated with green industry products and services: A review. Journal of Environmental Horticulture 29(2): 96–103.
3 Green Cities, Good Health. University of Washington.
Besides improved water quality, planting trees results in less runoff and erosion allowing more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent sediment and chemicals running into streams.
One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.
Over 80% of Americans live in urban areas with air pollutants ranging from visible smog to particulate pollution consisting of dust, dirt, pollen, ash, and smoke. Trees and other plants catch airborne particulates with their leaves and bark, absorb gases and odors, contribute oxygen, and reduce heat through respiration.
A mature leafy tree generates as much oxygen in a single season as 10 people inhale in a year.1 Trees release water vapor through their leaves, cooling the surrounding air, which is especially important in urban areas where heat is trapped by solid surfaces.2
100 trees can remove two tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually.2 Urban trees in the United States have been found to remove nearly 800,000 tons of air pollution from the atmosphere annually.
Green plants have been found to eliminate city street pollution up to eight times more than previously thought.3
USDA Forest Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. How Much Oxygen Does One Tree Produce? ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020.
2 American Forests blog
Plants bolster complex networks of life and provide essentials those networks depend on — fresh water, clean air, robust soil, and diverse wildlife.
Especially in urban and suburban areas where natural ecosystems have been degraded, plants clean the air, produce oxygen, and provide habitat and food for insects and birds.
Plant roots support a treasure trove of organisms, from bacteria to earthworms and larger animals, all of which in turn benefit the plant.
Aided by leaves and branches, roots capture and filter rainwater and groundwater, removing toxins and debris. Every element of biodiversity — animal, plant, and micro-organism — helps sustain the ecosystem.1
Plants are major players in the complex web of interdependent life forms, contributing essential services to humans and other organisms, and helping to ensure their mutual survival.2
1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
2 Conservation International