Plant a Tree, Help Remove CO2

Cynthia Whitty
Trees are valuable for the beauty they provide but also because they remove carbon from the atmosphere. (Photo/Wildwood Cemetery by David Perry)
Issue Date: 
March, 2020
Article Body: 

When residents passed a Net Zero resolution at the last fall’s town meeting, the Ashland Sustainability Committee knew it would take new ideas and behavior to remove planet-warming carbon from our atmosphere. When the committee members looked around for solutions, they realized that the wooded areas surrounding our Ashland homes are more valuable than ever.
“Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere far more efficiently than any machine can,” Sustainability Committee Member Margy Gassel said. “Preserving our existing trees, and planting young ones, are critical to meeting our NetZero goal.”
“If you want to contribute in some little way to curb this global environmental crisis, then consider planting a tree,” American Arborists ( urges. “It’s the least expensive way to offset harmful greenhouse gases that we emit in our everyday lives.”
Consider these statistics:
In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. (TreePeople 2020)
The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. (USFS)  Strategically placed trees around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by as much as 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions—and save money. (TreePeople 2020)
One acre of new forest can sequester about 2.5 tons of carbon annually. Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year. At that rate, they release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings. (Urban Forestry Network)
Trees, the biggest plants on earth, are also the longest living species on earth. The canopies of trees act as a physical filter, trapping dust and absorbing pollutants from the air. An individual tree removes up to 3.75 pounds of other pollutants every year. Trees also provide shade from solar radiation and reduce noise. (TreePeople)
Trees also reduce storm runoff, soil erosion, and flooding. 100 mature trees catch about 139,000 gallons of rainwater per year. (USFS) Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. (TreePeople)
No Space in Your Yard? Plant a Tree in the Town Forest
“If you don’t have space in your own yard to plant a tree, contact the Ashland Town Forest Committee at [email protected] and we will plant one with your donation,” advised Rob St. Germain, who serves on the Town Forest Committee.
The Sustainability Committee’s resolution passed last November set a long-term goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions for the town by the year 2040. Some additional actions residents can take include having a free Mass Save energy audit done for their homes; adding solar panels; augmenting or replacing their furnace with cold climate air source heat pumps, which can heat and cool more efficiently than traditional furnaces; and signing up for curbside compost pickup, which can reduce a resident’s trash volume (and orange bag use) by 30-40 percent.