Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: how planting a tree is one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on the environment.
Trees are essential for people, wildlife and the environment. The good news is that the UK is looking a lot greener these days than it did just four decades ago – the Woodland Trust alone has planted more than 43 million trees since 1972, while some 13,000 hectares of newly created woodland were reported in the UK in 2018-2019. Woodland Carbon Code projects, meanwhile, are predicted to sequester as much as 3.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over their lifetime.
But we still need more. Despite this progress, just 13% of the UK’s total land area has tree cover, compared to an EU average of 35%. There are a number of big initiatives designed to help increase the number of trees in the UK – Friends of the Earth wants to double the UK’s tree cover by 2045, for example – but you can take meaningful action on an individual level, too, simply by planting a tree of your own. Here’s seven reasons why you should.
- Trees fight climate change
Thanks to photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting the harmful by-products of fossil fuel burning.
- Trees clean the air
Trees don’t just suck up carbon dioxide, they also absorb odours and pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, ammonia and sulphur dioxide. They also produce oxygen, which helps to improve air quality even more.
- Trees help mitigate the impact of heavy rainfall
As climate change takes hold, we’re set to experience more extreme weather events, particularly in the form of increased rainfall, which can lead to flooding. A tree’s leaf canopy helps to buffer falling rain, and its roots hold the soil in place, encouraging water to seep into the ground instead of running off and exacerbating flood risks.
- Trees help wildlife thrive
Trees provide nesting sites, food and shelter for our feathered friends, as well as cosy homes for squirrels and bugs, which are important for the overall ecosystem.
- Trees can help lower your energy bills
Trees provide welcome shade in the summer, and shelter from cold winds in the winter. Planted in the right places around your home, they can help reduce the need for heating and cooling in the home, which saves you money on your energy bills as well as reduces your carbon footprint.
- Trees are good for your health and community
There are multiple studies touting the many physical and mental benefits that come with living or working near trees. Other research, meanwhile, highlights the social impact of greenery, with one paper finding that trees can actually help deter crime.
- Trees can boost the value of your property
Having a tree on your property is good news for your bank balance should you ever decide to sell – some species could up your asking price by as much as £8,500!
If those weren’t good enough reasons, how about this: trees are lovely to look at, and planting one is really easy. And now’s the time to do it, with most trees and shrubs faring best when they’re planted between October and April. The Royal Horticultural Society has a really straightforward guide to getting started. Planting a tree is one of the easiest ways to make a really positive difference to the environment – and it’s a gift for future generations that keeps on giving.
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