The Orange County Tree Movement Project is an ongoing project to create an urban forest in cities across Orange County. It is aimed at combating climate change, building sustainability in a warming climate and increasing the health, civic pride and property values of local residents by establishing a healthy urban forest in Orange County.
It has been shown that masses of urban trees effectively sequester CO2 and act as filters for urban pollutants. While they clean the air reducing a city’s carbon footprint, they also provide energy-independent cooling shade for buildings and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing cooling water vapor into the air through their leaves. Trees beautify streets and neighborhoods while helping with water issues. They reduce urban runoff that pollutes the ocean, increasing water retention by the soil and recharging groundwater supplies. Health wise, spending time near trees also improves body and mind, decreasing blood pressure and stress as well as levels of depression, and anxiety.
Working with OC cities, faith-based communities and local schools the OC Tree Movement Project unites sustainable city planning with community volunteers to plant and maintain a network of specially selected trees stretching across the county. A collaborative project between OCICE and partner groups like People and Trees, Inc. of Santa Ana and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Climate Action Team this project is building public understanding of the healing power of trees in mitigating and fighting some of the most pressing ecological and health issues facing communities today.
1. TREES COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE
Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) is building up in our atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.
Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
Average temperatures in Los Angeles have risen 6°F in the last 50 years as tree coverage has declined and the number of heat-absorbing roads and buildings has increased.
Trees cool the city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.
Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.
Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only fifteen gallons of water a week. As trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.
On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds - where children spend hours outdoors.
An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife.
Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications. Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.
Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.
Is it winter, spring, summer or fall? Look at the trees.
Fruit harvested from community orchards can be sold, thus providing income. Small business opportunities in green waste management and landscaping arise when cities value mulching and its water-saving qualities. Vocational training for youth interested in green jobs is also a great way to develop economic opportunities from trees.
Whether as houses for children or creative and spiritual inspiration for adults, trees have provided the space for human retreat throughout the ages.
Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.
Trees can mask concrete walls or parking lots, and unsightly views. They muffle sound from nearby streets and freeways, and create an eye-soothing canopy of green. Trees are a natural destressor.
Studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in. A tree-lined street will also slow traffic – enough to allow the drivers to look at the store fronts instead of whizzing by.
The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent.
Sycamore and oak are among the many urban species that provide excellent urban homes for birds, bees, possums and squirrels.
22. TREES ADD UNITY
Trees can add unity and civic pride to an area or neighborhood. Beauty is soothing and eye-pleasing. Without Nature and Trees, children and adults can suffer the now evident symptom of Nature Deprivation.