Let's Plant Trees In Parma—There Are Excellent Economic Benefits
When I first moved to Parma, one of the first things I did was plant three trees in my front yard. This choice wasn't environmentally motivated. I'd simply grown up around trees and missed the greenery. Eight years later my Red Maple has doubled in size and offers enough shade to picnic with my kids on the lawn. The two cherry blossoms on the treelawn flower each year with beautiful white and pink petals, before quietly shedding their spring coat and switching to photosynthesis full-time. To me this is relief. My road, Maplecrest, is curiously short of maples. It's short of trees, period.
According to the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, the list of benefits for planting more trees include "improving water quality, reducing erosion, reducing stormwater runoff, saving energy, lowering city temperatures, reducing air pollution, enhancing property values, providing wildlife habitat, facilitating social and educational opportunities, and providing aesthetic benefits." If the city of Cleveland were to increase our tree canopy from its current 19% coverage to 30%, the economic and social value of land in Cleveland would rise from $28 millionannually to $42 million, a hefty 50% increase. Home values rely on greenery to make neighborhoods look and feel inviting. Trees also reduce water and pollution damage to infrastructure. Parma, a city which badly needs to address its water runoff and sewer line issues, would greatly benefit from having trees reduce the amount of water entering our pipes and getting processed at the treatment plant.
Trees also matter to young home buyers looking to start families, the very demographic Cleveland should want to attract the most to safeguard its long-term economic health. Environmentally-conscious of impending climate change, millennials are far more likely to buy homes in green areas. This is important because the rate of home ownership by adults under the age of 35 is nearly 40% and is climbing every year.
The trees we do have offer measurable benefits. Among others, our trees save Cleveland property owners $3.5million in energy costs annually, they intercept 1.8 billion gallons of rainwater (valued at $11 million if released into our sewer systems), they prevent upwards of 1,200 incidents of health problems including asthma, diabetes, and mental health, and remove 42,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. If we relied on CO2 capture methods to clean up the pollution captured by our current canopy it would cost taxpayers $800,000 each year.
In terms of climate change, planting trees is a wonderful means of prolonging its worst effects. Planting trees on 0.9 billion hectares of land could trap two-thirds of the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution. Most importantly, methane—a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide—is absorbed by certain types of trees like pine,spruce, and birch.
That’s all a lot of numbers. Here’s a simple one: the EPA found that depending on where you live, every dollar invested in planting trees provided a ROI ranging from $1.50 to $3.
I believe the answer is twofold: we need to demand the local government launch a green initiative and we must take it upon ourselves to plant more. Roughly 75% of Cleveland land is privately-owned, which means government initiatives alone will not improve the problem. It is not upon Parma’s citizens to solve climate change, but it is up to us to contribute to the fight against it. Every tree counts. And even if you believe climate change’s worst effects are overblown, I urge you to consider the potential financial benefits listed above.
There are two things you can do to help:
1) Plant trees. You can buy seeds, which are relatively cheap, or purchase from a nursery. If you are not a homeowner, consider donating to an environmental group that plants trees for you. There are plenty of valid charities online.
2) Contact your city counselor. They will not act unless we ask!
There is zero point in being defeatist about climate change or poo-pooing the impact of our actions. Now is the time to create the kind of world we want our children to inherit.
Jeremy is an author living in Parma with his wife and two kids. He is the founder and facilitator of the West Side Poetry Workshop. To view his publication history and other going-ons, please visit www.jeremyjusek.com.