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tree lined streettree lined street

Tree-lined streets have been getting studied, and not only do they look pretty, but they dramatically affect our health and our cities. Why? Read on!

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Recently, a study came out that basically said money may not grow on trees, but living near trees feels like money’s growing on you.

When it’s down to cold, hard cash, the experts say that living on a tree-lined street can make you feel like you’re $10,000 richer.

The Tech Insider explains what was revealed in the study published in Scientific Reports:

“To get their findings, researchers measured green space around Toronto using high-resolution satellite images and existing data on 530,000 trees. Next, they pulled relevant information from the Ontario Health Study, which has health data on the community gathered from short online surveys.

When the researchers compared the two data sets (and controlled for variables like income and age), they found that an additional 10 trees on a block corresponded to a 1% increase in how healthy the respondents felt. While this correlation doesn’t mean that the trees directly impacted the respondents health, other studies have suggested that even short periods of time spent outdoors or in nature have emotional benefits.”

Trees are money

I love when studies like this come out and support trees, because I love trees. Always have. I’ve lived on tree-lined streets all my life and I’m curious how it’ll feel when I’m in living in European Old Towns for the next year, where there are so few trees and so much stone.

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It’ll be a dramatic shift for me, but I guess it’s a lifestyle enjoyed by most urban dwellers around the world.

Fortunately, these tree-barren towns are realizing the lack of city trees is more than just a cosmetic problem. Trees provide fresh air, clean out carbon, they return moisture to the air and help make cities cooler in summer, and they regulate rainwater run-off by pumping it back into the atmosphere rather than letting it run down drains.

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These are valuable services for cities in a time of climate change, but if, along with all these perks, trees are just plain good for our health and our soul, we can only hope to trees will become an essential part of urban planning — and not just a perk for those who can afford the “nice” neighborhoods.

Trees can no longer be for privileged neighborhoods. They must be the landscape of our lives no matter where we live. If not for our souls, health, and mental well-being, then for the planet.

Trees change our lives

A city planner in Sacramento, which has had one of the most ambitious tree-planting programs in the United States, laments that the “privilege” problem is a big deal. Even in Sacramento, you’re more likely to live on a treed street if you’re in a wealthier neighborhood.

This was echoed March this year when researchers from several universities compiled their findings on tree canopies compared to income, as modeled in the cities of Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Sacramento, and Washington D.C.

“Money may not grow on trees, but this study suggests that in a way, trees grow on money,” the authors wrote in the study published in this month’s PLOS ONE journal.

Sure, trees look cool against a backdrop of brownstones. But they also “have a profound impact on public health,” said Geoffrey Donovan of the U.S. Forest Service who studies urban tree cover.

Trees have been associated with reduced child obesity, stress, anxiety and fatigue. In addition, Donovan and others have found that areas with more tree canopy have fewer babies born underweight.

U.S. counties that have suffered from Emerald ash borer infestations, which decimate ash trees, had an uptick in heart and respiratory-related deaths, according to a 2013 study. Donovan also has found that heart and respiratory health seem to benefit from tree cover. Read more here.

Get involved

If your area doesn’t have enough trees, you can try to effect change. Call or write your local representatives. Attend city council meetings. Talk to your neighbors.

Trees can help us overcome climate change, level out the health disparities between classes, temper mood disorders, and regulate water and its shortages. By lining our streets with trees, we’ll create a better society for all people of all classes, and it’s up to all of us to make sure our cities know trees cannot only be about keeping the rich neighbourhoods pretty.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.