We rely on them to clean the air we breathe, filter our water, and provide homes for plants and animals.
But how important are trees in our fight against climate change?
A single mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a year and about a ton’s worth by the time it reaches age 40. And there’s strength in numbers. An acre of forest can absorb the amount of C02 produced by two average cars in a year.
That’s one reason some experts estimate that an extra 2.4 billion acres of trees could slow global warming enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Growing more trees can also translate into job growth. Experts have estimated that every $1 million invested in reforestation and sustainable forest management supports nearly 40 jobs.
SO, HOW CAN I HELP WITH TREE PLANTING?
If you want to contribute to tree planting, first decide, do you want to get your hands dirty or not? Or do you prefer donating to a reforestation project?
Here are four options for putting the power of trees to work. Check ’em out.
1. DO A SEARCH, PLANT A TREE
What could be easier than planting trees with the power of online search? Enter Ecosia and the www.ecosia.org search engine. Search ads shown to you generate money for Ecosia, a non-profit organization. Ecosia then uses the cash to plant trees all over the world.
In West Africa’s Burkina Faso, tree planting supported by Ecosia helps re-green the desert and improve crop fertility while providing jobs for locals where there’s little opportunity due to ongoing conflict. With 15 million active users, Ecosia has already planted 120 million trees toward its goal of one billion. So next time you think search, replace the “G” word with the “e” word.
2. PLANT A TREE IN THE SEA
Mangrove forests store about five times as much C02 as tropical forests. They’re critical to keeping coastal ecosystems healthy. Shorebirds and marine wildlife rely on their habitat. The forests also protect against storm surges, sea level rise and extreme weather events like hurricanes–which, fueled by climate change, are only getting more destructive.
Through non-profit Sustainable Surf’s program, SeaTrees, people can help restore coastal ecosystems like the mangrove forests of the Biak Island Region of Indonesia. Local community members are hired to plant trees close to their own villages. With 100 percent of profits going to the mission, SeaTrees is on track to plant 1 million mangroves in the next year through partnerships with communities in Indonesia and Kenya. Aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, that translates into hundreds of jobs, restored habitat for all sorts of animals, birds, and marine life, and the potential to sequester more than 300,000 metric tons of CO2. Closer to home, SeaTrees, which is supported by Bank of the West, is also working to restore California’s giant kelp forests, which provide habitat and food for over 700 species of algae, invertebrates, and fish.
3. PLANT A TREE IN THE CITY
Tree planting isn’t just for the wilds. The urban environment and urban dwellers alike benefit from tree cover. More shade cuts down on air-conditioning’s energy use in the summer. In the winter, trees act as windbreaks, so homes need less heating. Homeowners can save up to 25 percent on energy bills by planting the right trees in the right place. Trees also improve water quality and reduce stormwater runoff in cities.
Studies have shown more tree cover in neighborhoods correlates with lower crime and higher property values. Find out if your city is one of thousands in The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. If so, reach out to your local parks and recreation, environment or public works department to find out how to do some volunteer planting.
The Arbor Day Foundation also partners with cities to give homeowners free trees to plant. Some cities have programs like San Jose, California’s Our City Forest, which offer a one-stop-shop to help you choose a tree, get city permits and teach you how to plant and nurture.
If your community lacks an urban forestry program, the Urban Forestry Toolkit has a grab bag of resources to get started.
4. PLANT A TREE IN THE FOREST
Our national forests face a wide range of environmental challenges. Trees are a common denominator for positive impact. As an official partner of the US Forest Service, One-Tree-Planted plants trees on public lands across the country. With a donation as small as $1, a tree will be planted in one of 150 national forests across 43 states. Donations can be gifted, come with certificates, and the tree planting project you support can be tracked online.
Trees planted in California help restore the Tahoe National Forest after wildfires. In Colorado, tree planting helps the Gunnison National Forest recover from beetle infestation. Reforestation in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee will help repair watersheds and bring back lost wildlife habitat.
One-Tree-Planted also has interactive global forest maps. See the threats facing forests around the world and learn about the biodiversity we’re at risk of losing if we don’t protect them.
Just like you practice recycling and conscious consumption, planting trees is a simple way to take personal action for the common good of the planet.
What we stand to gain if we plant more carbon-storage superheroes on top of reducing our CO2 emissions is priceless. Quite simply: A world with clean air, healthy ecosystems, and a stable climate.