Want to double or even triple the return on your investment? Plant a tree.
That’s what the Chicago-area Morton Arboretum hopes to demonstrate April 29, Arbor Day, when they hang bright green tags on hundreds of trees around the city and suburbs. Each 11- by 17-inch label spells out in dollars the amount each tree gives back to the community in environmental benefits over the next 15 years.
According to figures from the U.S. Forest Service, on average, every $1 spent annually to care for trees returns $2.70 in payback such as cleaner air due to carbon and pollution absorption, reduced energy costs for cooling thanks to shade and even higher property values. Trees also reduce polluted storm water runoff into sewer systems.
“Trees aren’t just beautiful and look great, they also perform a really important function,” says Donna Biernadski, vice president of marketing for the Morton Arboretum. “If we care about them, they’ll care about us.”
The Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre tree conservatory just outside Chicago, calculated the values on the tags using the National Tree Benefit Calculator, which takes into account the species and size of the tree, then compares its functionality against market prices for items such as carbon offsets and health care.
On Thursday night, in time for commuters to see the downtown tags on Friday morning, arboretum staff will label about 500 trees worth an estimated $620,000 in savings.
The goal is to help people see trees anew, Biernadski says. “Trees are everywhere but because they’re everywhere they fall into the background.”
Arbor Day, established in 1872 and observed nationally on the last Friday of April, celebrates the environmental importance of trees and encourages tree planting. For tree-planting events in your area, check out the Arbor Day Foundation.
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