Increase happiness and lower your carbon footprint: plant a tree

September 15, 2016


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With all the recent focus on high-tech ways to increase your sustainability and lower your carbon footprint, it’s easy to overlook one of the oldest, cheapest, and most beneficial ways to go green: plant some trees.

Trees benefit your facility by:

  • Regulating temperatures & reduce cooling costs
  • Filtering air pollutants
  • Removing carbon from the air
  • Filtering rainwater, stabilizing soil and protecting you from flooding
  • Improving workers’ mental and physical well-being
  • Beautifying your landscape

Regulating temperatures & reducing cooling costs

Facilities—especially those with large parking lots—help contribute to what is known as heat islands (built-up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas). Hotter local temperatures mean higher cooling costs for your facility. Adding trees to your landscape can actually reduce these costs (a well-placed tree can save 100 kWh of electricity annually).

Trees reduce temperature in two ways: they provide shade and release water through evapotranspiration. According to EPA, “Shaded surfaces, for example, may be 20–45°F cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials. Evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F.”

Adding trees to your parking lots can help shade what is usually a facility’s biggest offender in terms of generating local heat. Plant trees around cooling equipment, transformers, entrances and exits, and south-facing windows to maximize your trees’ ability to regulate temperatures.

The EPA recommends planting deciduous trees (especially opposite south-facing windows). They provide more shade in the summer, but during the winter, their bare branches will still allow solar rays to provide solar heat gain to the interior of the building.

Filtering air pollutants

Trees actually clean our air. Tree leaves absorb pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone) while their bark filters out particulates (pollen, ash, and dust). According to the Urban Forestry Network, “Studies have shown that in one urban park, tree cover removed 48 pounds of particulates, 9 pounds of nitrogen dioxide, 6 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 0.5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 100 pounds of carbon – daily. It has also been noted that one sugar maple along a roadway removes 60mg cadmium, 140mg chromium, 820mg nickel and 5,200mg lead from the environment in one growing season.”

Removing carbon

Trees sequester carbon during photosynthesis and return oxygen to the air. A mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO2 a year, and an acre can sequester 2.5 tons of carbon annually, making trees an incredibly efficient carbon sink. If you are conducting a carbon assessment, you can count the carbon sequestration from the trees on your site as a carbon offset.

Trees not only absorb water but they reduce the risk of flooding by allowing water to infiltrate into the ground rather than pooling on streets and sidewalks. Trees also improve your soil quality, allowing more moisture retention, which can reduce your irrigation and landscaping costs.

Trees are a low-cost way to beautify your property, raise the morale and happiness of your employees, add flooding protection, and reduce your annual cooling and water costs. For more information on how to best employee trees at your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.