There are almost no benefits of streets without trees, perhaps only that it is more difficult for criminals to hide from view. Perhaps your houses might be a bit warmer in winter because of more direct sunlight, but on the other hand, trees are useful to break winter wind and therefore keep out the cold.
Let’s separate the benefits of trees into four major categories:
Benefits to Individuals and Their Place of Residence
We all know that trees make a street more beautiful, but how do tree lined streets affect us? First and foremost, trees provide shade, which cools houses and apartments in the summer, which is especially important in hot climates. Studies show that the cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equal to 10 room-size air conditioning units operating 20 hours a day.
Trees make life comfortable for us. We have shady porches to sit on, shady sidewalks to stroll or ride our bikes on and shade for our cars (and there are ecological advantages as well as comfort). And the lack of trees makes for streets with fewer people walking or biking, and makes it a less desirable neighborhood to live in, which, of course, impacts our property values.
Without trees, houses are hotter in summer and we use more fans and air conditioning, and therefore more electricity. Our grass and flowers get dry and burnt out unless we water them a lot and we use more water and electricity to pump the water.
Amazingly, a lab research project reported that even when people are exposed only visually to settings with trees, they have less stress, which was indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Similarly, a hospital study showed that surgery patients who could see a grove of trees got well faster and required less pain-killers than similar patients with a view of blank walls.
Benefits to Towns and the Central Business District
A primary asset of a town is its beautiful, “walk-able” quality, not only in its neighborhoods, but in its business district, where people frequent restaurants and shops. Central business districts are where small businesses meet the everyday needs of residents. They contribute to the local economy and provide jobs, and trees help make these places more welcoming and attractive. The character and quality of a streetscape can affect the appeal of a business district and visitors’ buying behavior. We have learned that consumers are influenced long before they ever enter a store. First impressions start at the curb and sidewalk. Studies show that because of these attributes, shoppers stay longer and thus spend more money .
There are varying studies and also assessments from real estate agents regarding the economic value of trees on a property . The stated values range from a 10% to a 23% increase when there is landscaping and trees on a property.
Further, trees impact help lessen your energy bills. Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research says “…If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.”
Ecological advantages and Climate Changes
- Streets without trees upset the ecological system. Trees provide an environment on top for birds, squirrels and other urban life as well as below the surface for insect and bacterial life. Further, planting trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion.
- In one study, stands of trees reduced particulates by 9% to 13%, and the amount of dust reaching the ground was 27% to 42% less under a stand (a group of fairly uniform trees).
- With trees, you use less energy, which causes the utility company to use less energy. Then less fossil fuel is consumed by the utility to create that energy and finally, less fossil fuel consumption means less carbon dioxide emissions.
- Whether you plant trees around your home and property, in your community, or in our national forests, they help fight climate change. Through the natural process of photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 and other pollutant particulates, then store the carbon and emit pure oxygen.
- Changes occur over time in an urban environment. Buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation. These changes cause urban regions to become warmer, forming a “heat island” of higher temperature. Shaded parking lots keep automobiles cooler, reduce emissions from fuel tanks and engines, and help reduce that heat-island effect.
As Joyce Kilmer wrote: “I think that I will never see a poem as lovely as a tree”…. and with as many benefits.