We always hear about how important trees are, how companies are planting a tree for every purchase you make, how $1 means 1 tree planted, but it is not always clear why trees are so important besides the general consensus that planting trees are good for the planet. We decided to break down exactly why trees are so important, and how they became Mother Nature’s solution to climate change.
Carbon Capture 101
If you have paid attention to anything climate related, you know part of the issue stems from the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, or CO2. CO2 is bad in certain contexts due to its role as a greenhouse gas, meaning it traps heat from the sun in Earth’s atmosphere. More CO2 means more heat trapped. AKA Global Warming. This is a natural process, however, that does keep Earth a habitable planet, but too much CO2 means too much heat. Often, in climate conversations, people discuss ways to trap or sequester CO2. This means remove it from the atmosphere in carbon sinks, like trees, which need CO2 to live, similarly to how we need oxygen (shoutout photosynthesis). According to the USDA, one mature tree can sequester or capture about 48 pounds (22kg) of CO2 each year. For context, the average car releases 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, or 2,204.62 pounds. That means you need about 45 trees per car to be carbon neutral. And that’s just cars! Coming up with ways to pull carbon from the atmosphere is one of the many steps we need to take to combat the climate crisis and trees are a great place to start.
A Lifetime of Sequestration
Planting trees has many benefits which is why so many companies choose to support reforestation as a way give back to the environment. One of their greatest strengths is their ability to store carbon, but not just for short periods of time. When trees capture carbon, they store it in their branches, in their leaves, and even in their trunks. This carbon sink lasts for decades or even centuries depending on the tree and doesn’t require extra technology for storage.
Many of us are aware of the devastating wildfires that have swept over the West Coast of the US and large parts of Canada as well as various other locations across the globe. While certain forest fires are a part of nature, the manmade kind can be especially harmful to the natural balance of ecosystems. Other endeavors that harm this balance are development projects and the timber industry that clears thousands of acres of trees around the world. All of these have the ability to make it extremely difficult for forests to regenerate which is crucial for biodiversity, air, and overall forest health. Planting trees not only helps carbon sequestration efforts, but it also helps forests become more resilient to future challenges that will stem from the climate crisis.
Local Cooling Heroes
Have you ever heard of the urban heat island effect? When we replace natural green spaces with things like concrete and buildings, we are introducing materials that absorb and retain heat, meaning cities and urban areas are often hotter than their suburban or natural land counterparts. Having trees along sidewalks, pavement, parking lots, etc., is actually crucial to keeping urban areas cool. Trees aren't just fighting climate change by sequestering carbon, they are also making your neighborhood cooler – literally! Trees provide shade that can lower temperatures in urban areas, reducing the need for energy-dependent air conditioning. Plus, they are natural air purifiers, filtering out nasty pollutants and making your surroundings healthier.
Cooling, carbon capture, what else can they do? On top of these super characteristics, trees are also home to countless of species. By planting trees, especially in highly developed areas or areas affected by natural disasters, we are giving our animal buddies a fighting chance. The National Forest Foundation notes that more than 400 endangered species depend upon US National Forests for habitats. This doesn't even account for areas that have become more developed like cities that were once home to numerous species, both plant and animal. Supporting biodiversity helps us ensure the functioning of essential ecosystem services that support all life (yes, humans too) on Earth.
How to get involved?
At Out of the Woods® we pride ourselves on being part of 1% For the Planet, meaning 1% of our profits are donated each year to an organization that is giving back to the planet. Last year, we donated our 1% to the National Forest Foundation, helping them get closer to planting 50 million trees by 2025. We also source some of our materials in partnership with The Forest Stewardship Council works to uphold responsibly forestry standards that support zero deforestation, safeguarding of ancient and endangered forests, fair wage and work environment, biodiversity preservation and community rights including the rights of Indigenous Peoples. That’s why on top of being a 1% FTP member we ensure our Supernatural Paper® is FSC certified (FSC® C153080). Just another way to make sure our tree-based materials are being sourced responsibly. Both of these organizations are a great way to get involved with responsible forestry and tree planting initiatives near you, but there are countless of other ways to get involved. Did you know certain cities offer tree planting services FOR FREE? In the city of Philadelphia, you can request a “street tree” aka a tree on the sidewalk or a “yard tree” on your private property. Similar programs are run through local Parks and Recreation, and we highly encourage you to check them out! There is no right way to get involved, whether its planting trees, donating time or money, or educating those around you, the trees and Mother Earth appreciate all your efforts to combat the climate crisis and become, well, a tree hugger!
Check out some of our favorite, “tree-hugging” products below!