Environmental Protection: How Planting Trees Helps The Environment
June 18, 2018

When we think about helping the environment, planting trees is typically an activity near the top of the list. While a lot of different plants have a positive environmental impact, planting a tree is typically seen as the biggest step you can take with a single action. We all know that planting trees is good for the environment… but how, exactly, do they help? What impact does the simple act of digging a hole, and putting a sapling into it, have on global warming, energy costs, and greenhouse gases?

Well, if you’re wondering how the process works, here are some of the ways that trees directly impact all of our lives.

Trees, CO2, And The Benefits of Forestation

Trees are fairly simple organisms. They take in nutrients and water from the soil, then combine those nutrients with sunlight in order to grow. What a lot of people may not know is that trees suck in carbon dioxide to use as building blocks for their trunks, branches, etc. So every tree you see is, in its own way, built out of the most common greenhouse gas we are trying to reduce, and prevent. In addition, not only are trees sinks for carbon dioxide, but they also release oxygen into the atmosphere as a byproduct. One tree can release enough oxygen in a year for the average family of four, according to Climate Rally. That’s no small thing, considering just how many families of four there are in the world.

Trees have other environmental benefits, as well. For example, trees that shade homes can block some of the sun’s heat, which means those homes use less power for air conditioning in the summer. Tree roots hold soil in place, preventing erosion from powerful winds, water runoff, and other environmental causes. Trees can act as windbreaks, homes for animals, privacy screens, and they’re a green way of changing your landscape (though they do take more time than simply installing a fence would).

Can Trees Dig Us Out Of Our Global Warming Hole?

While all of the environmental benefits that come with planting trees, it’s important to remember that, as the Guardian points out, we can’t just plant more trees and fix global warming. If that was all it took then there would already be efforts in place around the world to fix the problem. The environment is complicated, though, and while trees can be helpful, it’s important to know which trees to plant, and where to plant them, if you want to help the environment. As Cracked shows, there are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to how much good fresh trees will do, environmentally. Trees planted near the planet’s equator, for example, will have far more effect than trees planted near the poles. This is particularly true when you balance how much water, soil nutrients, and sun trees absorb, which may have a negative impact on certain areas.

While trees, and reforestation efforts in general, are an important part of the fight against global warming, they aren’t a silver bullet. They’re more like exercise; in general planting trees is good, and we could all probably stand to do a little more of it than we currently are. However, we also need to make sure we change our diet, stop smoking, and cut back on the excess bad habits we have if we want to see our health improve. Which is similar to how, in addition to planting trees, we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, embrace greener solutions for our problems, reduce our waste, and make sure we preserve the environment if we want to end global warming.

Planting more trees is part of that solution, but it isn’t the entirety of that solution.

June 18, 2018
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