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Living With Climate Change: This Arbor Day and any day: Plant a tree and make money in the long run

Did you know, a landscape that includes healthy trees adds 10% on average to your home’s value?

The real-estate bonus is just one fruitful attribute of trees on this Arbor Day Friday and any day when considering how to add beneficial shade and other features to your home, your community and an Earth that’s challenged to mitigate and adapt to global warming.

Read: Arbor Day reminder: Vital tropical forests were destroyed at a rate of 10 soccer fields a minute last year

According to the tree advisory board of Bowling Green, Ky., the value of a well-landscaped home with mature, healthy trees can be as much as 10% higher than a similar home with little or no landscaping. And, they caution, topping a tree — the abrupt sheering off of top branches — will reduce the value of your trees, and your home.

The group, whose role is to keep the community green, makes it clear there are also household benefits to being smart about trees.

Well-placed trees can reduce cooling costs in the summer, especially if you shade the south and west sides of your home. If deciduous trees are used, they’ll allow the sun to pass through and warm your home when they are bare-branched in the winter. That said, coniferous, or evergreen, trees on the north side of your home and shrubs around the foundation can act as a windbreak to reduce the cooling effects of winter winds and cut down on heating bills.

It’s important to think broader as well. Indirect economic benefits of trees can be achieved because as homes reduce energy use, utility companies will have less demand placed on the infrastructure, reducing operating costs which can be passed on to the consumer.

Read: Here are the top 10 electric cars of the year

Replacing trees can be expensive if not cared for properly and if root-heavy trees are not distanced far enough from structures; roots can infiltrate a home’s pipes. Trees can also be dangerous if power lines are ignored. The Arbor Day Foundation also stresses the importance of only using professionals, including arborists or other pros who know about the species, when it comes to trimming or tree removal. The organization says it’s common for potential scams to harm homeowners, especially after major storms or other damage, when nonlicensed individuals tend to crop up to make a quick buck for tree removal. The Arbor Day Foundation has guidance on the issue.

Beyound household benefits, there is the community and global payoff. This can be a valuable discussion kickoff to educate and involve the whole family in your tree landscaping decisions. Trees produce oxygen everyone gets to breathe. They pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that may have been produced on the other side of the globe. It’s this manmade carbon dioxide from cars, buildings, food production and more that has sharply increasing Earth’s temperature.

Trees filter, meaning they clean, the water that ends up downstream, perhaps ending up coming out of someone else’s faucet. 

Even President Biden’s most recent executive order focused on — that’s right — trees. The action he announced on Earth Day steps up efforts for better management of U.S. forests after deadly wildfires and maintain old-growth trees for carbon absorption.

Landscape professionals appreciate aesthetics as much as homeowners, but the pros caution against only considering the appearance of particular tree species. Reality is, some types do better in certain environments than others.

“We should be planting trees that are native to our areas,” says Rebecca Wolken, of the Happy Sprout gardending and landscape site. “These trees are hardy, disease and pest-resistant, and are already used to growing in our area’s conditions. This not only increases the likelihood of the tree’s survival, but it also decreases the amount of work for you.”

Wolken recommends a black walnut tree for the size of its canopy; several coniferous selections, including the fast-growing quaking aspen; the dogwood and tulip tree for springtime blooms followed by lush foliage; and the unique London plane, a hybrid of sycamore tree and Asian plane tree, and a good fit for most medium-sized yards and a wide range of soil types. Read more of Wolken’s tree-picking guidance.

The Arbor Day Foundation site also has a quiz for homeowners to help determine the best conditions for a variety of trees. And a convenient way, by zip code, to look up the level of tree hardiness appropriate for the zone you live in. The site also includes landscape design ideas, which might run you less money than hiring a consultant, if budget is a consideration.

Read: Biden says all light bulbs have to be more efficient — here’s how LED can save hundreds of dollars over a bulb’s lifetime

Peter Smith, writing for the Arbor Day Foundation, stresses the importance of understanding soil.

“Most of our urban and suburban homesites are built on highly disturbed and compacted soils, dosed with salt in the winter and perhaps lawn chemicals in the summer, subject to both overwatering and underwatering (depending on irrigation systems), possessing low organic matter and often a high pH — the list can go on,” he says.

“What you’re really seeking is a tree that can tolerate the conditions you have in your yard, and the first step toward identifying such a species involves doing a little digging (literally) to discover the key properties of your soil,” he writes.

You can take soil samples and send them to your county extension office to have an analysis completed, but Smith and the foundation teach us some of the key soil properties and how to understand — and even correct — the problems you find.

His blog posting also discusses drainage, temperature, diversity of species and more.

Need additional guidance?

Your state urban forester’s office will often have tree selection guides available.

Your state cooperative extension office is a great local resource that can advise you on what trees to plant on your property.

Local utilities often have publications that highlight trees that are recommended for planting near powerlines.

Visit Choosing the Right Tree for additional resources when planting.

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