04/22/2016 07:35 EDT | Updated 04/23/2017 05:12 EDT

Planting A Tree Is An Investment In Our Future

Tetra Images - Daniel Grill via Getty Images
Man planting evergreen tree

This April 22, we will celebrate Earth Day. For us it is more than just a day where we collectively turn off the lights. It is a time for us to think about this planet and the impact we can have on it.

Today, there is a needed focus on climate change and the impact human activity has on global temperatures. We are seeing firsthand how climate change is creating unheard of periods of drought as well as "freak storms" that cause havoc, including this week's flooding in Texas.

The predictions are often frightening and the challenges seem insurmountable. But on Earth Day, we challenge people to also think about the positive impact they can have on the planet -- right now, starting today.

It can be as simple as committing to turning off lights, investing in clean energy, or choosing to take public transit, bike or walk to work. For us, it's also about investing in our tree canopy. As Canada's only national not-for-profit charitable organization established to encourage Canadians to plant and care for trees in urban and rural environments, Tree Canada is focused on educating people on the importance of trees to our communities and the planet.

Planting trees is one way Canadians can take positive action today to help the communities of tomorrow.

It's a necessary job because our precious tree canopies are under increasing pressure on many fronts. Over-population and densification of our cities are squeezing out urban forests. At the same time, invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer in Ontario and Quebec, Dutch elm disease in the Prairies and Mountain Pine Beetle in Alberta and British Columbia have ravaged tree canopies. In some communities, these infestations contribute to over 25 per cent of our canopy losses.

Planting trees is one way Canadians can take positive action today to help the communities of tomorrow. That's why we have launched the third annual Tree Canada 10,000 Tree Challenge, encouraging individuals and corporations to make donations to increase our communities' canopies in honor of Earth Day. It's a tangible action that will reap benefits for years to come.

We know scientifically that trees produce oxygen, intercept airborne particulates and reduce smog, enhancing a community's respiratory health. The urban canopy directly contributes to meeting a city's regulatory clean air requirements because trees sequester carbon (CO2), reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Urban canopies also contribute to human health: Access to trees, green spaces and parks promotes greater physical activity and reduces stress. Studies show that urban vegetation slows heartbeats, lowers blood pressure and relaxes brain wave patterns -- it even helps lower crime rates.

Trees also act as natural air conditioners. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room-size residential air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. A lush canopy ensures summer temperatures are at least six to eight degrees lower than in adjacent areas without trees, reducing the "heat island effect."

They also help improve our energy usage since tree windbreaks can reduce residential heating costs 10 to 15 per cent, while shading and evaporative cooling from trees can cut residential air-conditioning costs 20 to 50 per cent.

With all these benefits in mind, we ask Canadians this Earth Day to take positive action. Encourage tree planting with Tree Canada or plant with our partner Earth Day Canada at #Rooting4Trees.

Together we can reach our ultimate goal of maintaining and enriching our urban forest canopy.

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