The mantra for municipalities today seems to be: “how will it save us money?” These difficult economic times have pressed communities to come up with new, creative ways to reduce expenses. However, an old-fashioned idea may be one answer to this question: plant trees. You may ask, “So how can trees help reduce costs? We’ll just have to spend money maintaining them!” Matching the right species to the site minimizes maintenance, and maximizes the economic benefits trees provide. And the benefits of trees have been found to outweigh their costs. Study results brought together by the US Forest Service have found:
- Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 % and can save 20 – 50 % in energy used for heating. (USDA Forest Service)
- Using the city of Davis, California as a model, existing data on the benefits and costs of municipal trees were applied to the results of a sample inventory of the city’s public and private street trees. Results indicate that Davis maintained nearly 24,000 public street trees that provided $1.2 million in net annual environmental and property value benefits, with a benefit–cost ratio of 3.8:1 (Maco and McPherson, 2003).
- Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent. (The National Arbor Day Foundation) More on this topic can be found at: http://www.naturewithin.info/consumer.html.
To calculate how much your community’s trees are worth, the USDA Forest Service has developed a free suite of computer programs, called i-Trees (http://www.itreetools.org/index.php). i-Trees Streets uses tree inventory data to quantify the dollar value of annual environmental and aesthetic benefits: energy conservation, air quality improvement, CO2 reduction, stormwater control, and property value increase. You can input data using a PDA for a street, neighborhood, or entire city, and it calculates the figures. So whether you plant shade trees at the municipal building, or begin a community-wide urban forestry program, trees will beautify your community and benefit your bottom line.