Earth Day is just around the corner, and as an arborist I want to take some time to reflect on the positive benefits of trees and share some things I like to do to care for our terrestrial home.
A tree is an incredible specimen of the earth. Large, stately oaks arise from small acorns often overlooked in the floors of forests and crunched by our feet on sidewalks all around us. Imagine what a summer in Texas would be like without these champions of the landscape! Trees provide shade, but also so much more. Retaining large trees in residential and commercial urbanized areas can reduce cooling costs and sequester carbon, filtering the air we breathe and reducing pollutants around us. Trees also intercept and slow down rainfall, allowing the ground and surrounding landscape to capture more water, reducing not only runoff and stormwater but assisting in lowering water bills.
Trees also provide emotional benefits. Many studies have shown that trees and greenspaces can assist with overall quality of life, improving health and happiness, reducing crime, and even providing gathering spaces for humans to fellowship under. Native American tribes would often use large trees as designated meeting areas, such as the Council Oaks and Treaty Oak in Austin. Specifically, the Comanches would even go so far as to modify young saplings to become “marker trees”. These trees would be bent and staked down with yucca rope, pointing out directions as a compass (due north) or even pointing towards important resources such as rivers for low water crossings and a water source. Trees are often a source of food. Here in Texas we know all about the delicious kernels of the pecan tree! In the tropics, the Coconut Palm tree is a source of food, drink, oil, fiber materials, and many other products of economic importance.
Earth day is about more than just trees though. Trees are just one part of the equation. Earth Day is about what we can do to better care for our earth, our home. Planting a tree or two is certainly beneficial, but I consider the whole ecosystem and surrounding environment. Some simple ways to care for the earth include recycling your plastic waste, such as reusing plastic containers that are in good condition or reusing those plastic bags we all get from the grocery store. Also consider supporting local farmers and producers, which benefits those around you, as well as the local economy. Sourcing locally can also reduce our carbon footprints over time. If you cook often (as I do), you can save your fruit, vegetable, eggshell, and other scraps to make compost. Compost is a great way to reduce your input into landfill waste and improve the soil in your garden. Compost added to garden soils will provide something for native beneficial microbes to break down and over time improve soil structure. You may choose to start a simple pile in your backyard, or venture into other realms, such as vermicomposting, using every healthy soil’s favorite invertebrate: earthworms!
Consider what you can do for our terrestrial home. Plant a tree (we know some great folks who can help you with that…), reuse your plastic materials, start a compost pile, source food and beverages locally when possible, the list goes on! Happy Earth Day!
Earth Day Network. “Restoring the Urban Tree Canopy”. 2018. https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/reforestation/restoring-urban-tree-canopy/ Accessed 05 April 2018.
Houser, Steve, et al. “Comanche Marker Trees of Texas”. College Station, Texas. Texas A&M Press. 2016.
Texas Forest Service. “Famous Trees of Texas”. 2012. http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/websites/FamousTreesOfTexas/TreeLayout.aspx?pageid=16138. Accessed 05 April 2018.