By Pam Sapko
Wilmington, DE (October 4, 2009)- What makes a community a great place to live? Perhaps a low crime rate, friendly neighbors, and good schools spring to mind. Trees don’t rank very high on everyone’s list. However, trees are an easy way to increase a neighborhood’s economic value and psychological well-being.
For instance, my home has no central air conditioning, so I appreciate the large trees surrounding my house. Thanks to the shade they provide, the inside of my house stays comfortable, even when outside temperatures soar into the 90s. These days, we’re all concerned about the cost of energy, so it’s good to know studies have shown that just three well-placed trees around a home can decrease utility bills by 50 percent, lower air-conditioning bills by up to 30 percent, and save up to 25 percent on winter heating. In California, some cities even give homeowners free trees to plant strategically on their property to reduce utility costs.
Trees increase the property and resale value of homes. Research has shown that properties with trees are valued at 5 percent to 15 percent higher than properties without trees. Mike Porro of Patterson Schwartz verifies that nice trees and landscaping definitely add value to a home. Mike says that houses with trees always sell for more.
In addition to economic benefits, trees have a positive psychological effect. Crime rates decrease in areas with more greenery. Views of nature reduce the stress response of both body and mind, reducing aggression and increasing calm. The greener a building’s surroundings, the fewer reported crimes.
People with views of nature from their work environment are less frustrated, more patient, have greater enthusiasm for their job, better health, and overall a higher life satisfaction than those without views of nature. Hospital patients with a view of trees need less medication and have faster recovery times following surgery. Children who have access to green space consistently perform better in school. Exposure to nature has been shown to reduce the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder.
Tree planting activities are also a great way to meet neighbors and increase community cohesion. The Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) plants and maintains more than 500 trees in public areas each year with the support of hundreds of people, including legislators, the city of Wilmington, state and federal agencies, foundations, corporations and 650 volunteers.
But there’s still a lot more work to do. Delaware’s tree canopy cover in our towns and cities is well below the national average, and we’re not even in the ballpark for the tree cover goal of 40 percent recommended by the nonprofit American Forests for metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi River. The Delaware Forest Service reports that tree cover in Delaware municipalities ranges from 7.5 percent in Newport and 8 percent in Middletown to 13 percent in New Castle and 16 percent in Wilmington.
Everyone can help improve Delaware’s tree cover and increase the number of trees in our towns and cities.
Delaware Voice- A great return on investment
State of the urban forest in New Castle County
Delaware Center for Horticulture