Greener Healthier Neighborhoods

Did you know that kids in tree-lined neighborhoods play outside 10% more and have lowers rates of ADD and asthma?

Urban forestry is simply about trees in places where people live.
Ultimately, conservation is about empowering citizens to improve the communities where they live and work. The Alliance for Community Trees is the only national organization working to improve the urban forests where 80% of Americans live- our cities, towns, and villages. ACT’s national office assembles coalitions that drive broad environmental success for our more than 180 organizations in 41 states in the pursuit of Clean Air, Green Streets, and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Cleaner Air
Trees provide the oxygen we breathe. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe each day and eliminates as much carbon dioxide from the air as is produced from driving a car 26,000 miles. Tree leaves help trap and remove tiny particles of soot and dust which otherwise damages human lungs and tree root networks filter contaminants in soils producing clean water. Forty trees will remove 80 pounds of air pollutants annually. That is, 4 million trees would save $20 million in annual air pollution cleanup.
Lower Rates of Asthma
Children who live on tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma. Columbia University researchers found that asthma rates among children aged four and five fell by 25% for every extra 343 trees per square kilometer. The link between numbers of trees and asthma cases held true even after taking into account sources of pollution, levels of affluence and population density. They believe more trees aids air quality and encourages children to play outside.
Childhood Obesity
Play is essential to development, because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. There is a growing concern among parents, educators, physicians, and others that children aren’t playing outside much anymore-not even in the back yard or the neighborhood park. This change in our relationship with nature has profound implications for the mental and physical health of future generations. The effects of sedentary indoor lifestyles are already evident among children: startling rates of childhood obesity, the onset of childhood diabetes (at one time only an adult condition), and a shortened life expectancy. Young people need opportunities to experience and learn from nature during their growing years in order to become citizens and future decision makers.
The best landscape for children is often one which has been left to the power of nature. Some of these most valued features are: Water, sand or dirt, trees, bushes, and tall grass. Children place great value in being able to find and make places for themselves. In April 2006, the call to reduce childhood obesity led to the Leave No Child Inside Act. Experts hope that good health will be a major motivator in bringing families back to nature.
Environmental Design Encourages Physical Activity
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 65% of U.S. adults are overweight. But we’re not doomed to such a high statistic. Studies show that residents of neighborhoods with abundant greenspace enjoy better general health. The character of neighborhoods exerts significant affects on residents’ physical activity; thus neighborhood design is becoming a public health issue.
With sidewalks and trails in place, people walk more errands such as to the store. Similar studies by RAND and in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who live within one mile of a park or public open space exercise more and are three times more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity. Having a park near one’s home was more important than the size of the park itself. Although the trend was only as pronounced in women who lived less than one-half mile from a park, the health benefits were found to be most apparent among the elderly, housewives, and people from lower socioeconomic groups. Not only are trees themselves beneficial, but tree stewardship programs can also be beneficial to one’s health. The very acts of planting and tending trees have health benefits.
However, people need help from city planners and elected leaders to build stronger, healthier cities. Poor planning harms health in several ways. While research shows that trees and nature support outdoor activity, it also shows that outdoor spaces are much more likely to be used if they are nearby, attractive, and join up with larger parks. Here’s an inexpensive idea… How about we make all school parks and playgrounds accessible to children on weekends?
At this moment, the nation wants action to secure safe and healthy communities, action that goes beyond buzzwords such as green and sustainable. Healthy urban forests are key to helping our growing cities and towns to address public health and safety concerns.
Find Out More:
Urban Forestry at the Forest Service
Greener Neighborhoods are Safer Communities
Trees and Smart Growth
The Health Benefits of Parks: How Parks Help Keep Americans and Their Communities Fit and Healthy
Trees Improve the Environment
Build Parks to Climate Proof Our Cities
The Alliance for Community Trees is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization (EIN # 68-0319301), and also participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC # 12402). To discuss planned giving opportunities, call us at 301-277-0040.