Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Money really does grow on trees

The Green Guy


Ever heard the statement “Money doesn’t grow on trees”? I’m sure at some point or another, especially when just a little tike, all of us had someone make the comment to emphasize frugality. Granted, we can point out that indeed goods from trees (like fruit or timber) are abundant in our economy suggesting that money really does grow on trees, so long as you can sell the tree product to someone. That’s easy to recognize too because those products have a market price, and prices are great because they provide us a decision-making structure. For example, you might buy a bag of apples when they are priced a $1/lb but when it jumps to $3/lb you may skip out.

What can be said about things that we don’t usually put a price on though? What do we do then? I’m thinking specifically about the values that we realize after the fact. As some things don’t show their true value until later down the road. Getting a gym membership is a perfect example. Your up-front cost might seem a waste if you only go once or consider the results of one week, but if you’re disciplined in using the facility for half a year the value is better understood. Stay consistent and you’ll reap the reward of better health and likely lower healthcare costs in the long run.

I’ll relate this to trees planted in our towns and cities. At first glance, it may seem easy to underwrite the value in planting trees in your yard or along a street. We might look only at the upfront costs and work, all to simply scratch it off all together. However, research on all the services provided via stormwater collection, shading, energy reductions, habitat, and pollution reduction (just to name a few) shows that value in the long run far outweighs the initial burden.

Now putting a price on this isn’t always the easiest and varies depending on site location. However, the general consensus is that for every $1 invested into urban trees, the community can see a return between $2 and $5. This is coming from estimating the value through services like: street trees reducing summer temperatures by 3-5°F; a single mature tree able to collect 1,600 gallons of precipitation a year; the shade over pavement reducing long term resurfacing costs by over 40%; a mature tree providing similar summer cooling as 2 air conditioners; trees in a yard increasing home values by 5-20%; noise being reduced by over 50% along corridors with trees; one properly placed tree able to reduce carbon by nearly 1,000 lbs through absorption and avoided emissions; reducing particulates from exhaust gases by half; and the list goes on.

A variety of online materials can supply you with similar and more information to inform you of the many services provided by our urban forests. But instead, I’ll encourage you to simply go out and see for yourself what difference a tree makes for you. Consider too that outside of new plantings, one can bring a lot of benefit in properly caring for already established trees. The benefits listed are most effectively achieved by those properly grown. And who says money doesn’t grow on trees?


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