Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Neighborhood Watch: Look Out for the Green Guys

by HEEC Member Amanda Rich

After visiting Arnold Arboretum or other beautiful tree-lined parks during the fall, it’s somewhat easier to see the direct correlation between increased tree canopy and environmental benefits.  Trees provide a nurturing habitat for wildlife, reduce soil erosion and water run off, provide cooling benefits/ shade, and provide air filtering and carbon sequestration capabilities[1].

But what of the social and economic benefits directly related to the “triple bottom line” of sustainability?  According to a Baltimore, Maryland study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12% decrease in crime.2  An even greater decrease in crime rate was seen when comparing public land to private, indicating the significant need to maintain trees in parks and other public urban areas[2].

Increasing tree canopy provides a well-kept look to neighborhoods, encouraging time outdoors and positive social interaction.  Trees and park settings have a calming effect; green surroundings have the capability to reduce stress, increase relaxation and improve cognitive performance[1].  A study conducted in Chicago, Illinois associated increased presence of trees with reduced mental fatigue, irritability, and aggression[3]. Significantly less violence was reported inside the homes of residents with more greenery than those without trees[3].

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Trees encourage a stronger sense of community, and many urban areas are struggling to maintain a green canopy.  Do your part to provide new trees with the care they so desperately need!  Great sites such as are available for volunteers to identify newly “orphaned” trees in local neighborhood(s) and receive the assistance they need from green organizations.

Adopt a tree!

[1] Konijnendijk, C. C., Nilsson, K., Randrup, T. B., & Schipperijn, J. (Eds.). (2005). Urban forests and trees : a reference book. Berlin: Springer.

[2] Troy, A., Morgan Grove, J., & O’Neil-Dunne, J. (2012). The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban–rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landscape and Urban Planning, 106(3), 262–270.

[3] Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Aggression and violence in the inner city: effects of environment via mental fatigue. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 543-571.

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