Cleaner Air: Benefit of Trees and Gardens or Civic Duty?

by on July 2, 2013


Growing a garden full of fruits and veggies. Planting a tree. These are things we do to make our homes more comfortable. They’re rituals. They yield fresh food, shade, beauty, aromas. But one of the forgotten—yet most important—benefits of trees and plants: they also provide us with clean air.

With so many people now growing food and planting trees to help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and food corporations, some see it as a responsibility. A grass lawn offers little more than a green fresh water suck, pulling a precious resource for no other reason than aesthetics. Municipalities have enacted lawn-watering restrictions across the nation to help preserve our resources.

But with pollution levels at all time highs, why is there no mandate on growing oxygen-producing vegetation?

Recent research concluded that the world’s carbon dioxide levels are at an all-time high not seen in recorded history. In fact, in just the 200 years since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels have nearly doubled.

One of the biggest contributors to global warming, carbon dioxide has implications for many life forms across many ecosystems—particularly humans. Levels are now rising above 400 parts per million, but safe limits are considered to be 350 parts per million or lower.

Clearly, we need trees.

Plant life feeds on carbon dioxide. In return, they offer us oxygen. And while destruction of the world’s rainforests may not be visible from where you sit, we are taking down the planet’s forests at startling rates. Regrowth can take centuries. And when those forests are cut down and turned into farms, factories or shopping malls, it’s unlikely they’ll return to their natural state any time soon.

So, should we be planting trees for the environment instead? Your little ½ acre of land might not seem like it can offer much, but never underestimate the value of a tree. Or an orchard. Or a garden.

We all represent thousands—if not millions—more people taking these issues seriously. And while it’s not yet our civic duty to plant trees for cleaner air, it might one day be as common as water restrictions.

Get a jump on that by planting vegetation today. If you’re a homeowner, that means trees. They’re excellent at cleaning the environment by pulling in the carbon dioxide and pumping out yummy oxygen for centuries. Once established, they need little maintenance unlike a garden. If you’re a renter unable to plant trees, can you plant a little garden? Perhaps a raised bed or some containers? What kind of houseplants do you have?

Besides the environmental and nutritional benefits, being surrounded by nature has been shown to improve mood and help alleviate depression in just a matter of minutes. Yes, our environment is struggling, but, it seems, growing green is the answer for many reasons.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: JD Hancock




{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Rivet September 25, 2013 at 4:24 PM

This is great commentary Jan, and I wholeheartedly agree.


Alojamiento web July 12, 2016 at 12:50 AM

It’s obvious that street trees and sidewalk gardens beautify our urban environment.  They provide so many other benefits that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and city planners regard them as part of a city’s “green infrastructure.”


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