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Go Green with Trees

You’ve finished building your dream home and now you are planning your dream yard. Trees are no doubt part of your landscaping project, but you aren’t sure what is best for you. Moreover, you made several earth-friendly choices during the construction of your home and have a comfortable and energy efficient home you couldn’t be more proud of. Building green has made you more earth conscious and you want to do your part to make your yard environmentally friendly as well while enjoying the benefits. Large trees have numerous benefits. From reducing energy consumption to improving the neighborhood they are a renewable resource no yard should be without.

Whenever possible, choose large shade trees for your yard. Their benefits are quite astounding. Not only will you benefit directly from planting large shade trees, but your neighborhood, community and the environment will benefit as well. Hopefully, you were able to keep some of the large trees on your lot rather than clearing all of them for construction. These will offer immediate energy efficient results, while the new trees you plant will take some time to mature.

Currently, global warming is a hot topic, so first consider what a large tree can do for the environment. Big trees have large root systems, which prevent water runoff and soil erosion. They are also a major player in improving water and air quality. These big leafy plants, such as oak or hickory trees, can remove 60-70% more air pollution per tree than a smaller ornamental type tree. Large trees also help control temperature during the summer months by offering shade and cooler air. Conservationists have noted that neighborhoods with large trees can be up to 11 degrees cooler in summer time than neighborhoods and communities without the benefits of shade. Deciduous trees (those with leaves) are also known for protecting and extending the life of streets. Coniferous trees such as pines and firs work well for windbreaks. And no matter which type of large tree you are considering, all large trees provide good wildlife habitat, another added bonus. It is easy to see that large trees have plenty to offer the environment.

Now consider what large trees can do for you. Just one big tree in your yard can produce the cooling equivalent of five air conditioners running 20 hours a day cutting cooling costs by as much as 10 percent. That is a significant amount when it comes to paying the cooling bill. You can further maximize savings on cooling and heating costs by planting large tress on the east and west sides of your home where you will have maximum sun exposure. Deciduous trees will shade and cool your home in the summer, and when they lose their leaves in the fall, they will allow for the sun to warm you home all winter long. Also consider large trees as a noise buffer. For instance, if your new home is near a freeway or another highly traveled roadway, large trees will greatly reduce noise pollution by absorbing and blocking sounds. Finally, large trees increase property value up to $1000 per tree adding to the resale value of your home if you should ever move. Just as the environment benefits from large trees, you too will see direct benefits by reducing energy costs and increasing the value of your home.

On average, large trees live 120 years and offer an energy savings of about $55 per year per home as compared to smaller tress with a life expectancy of about 30 years saving about $23 annually on energy costs. It is easy to see why you should incorporate large trees into your landscaping, but before you choose trees to plant, consider these thoughts:

What is the tree’s mature size? Is your yard large enough to accommodate the tree at full size?
How much shade does it provide?
Is it a native species? Is it suited for your geographic location?
What kind of fruit does it produce? Will it make a big mess? Will the wildlife benefit?
What growing conditions are required? Is it hardy? What is the soil quality of your yard?

Choosing to go green by incorporating large trees into your landscape is a step in the right direction toward environmental soundness, and the perfect complement to your new green home.

For more information about landscaping and green building check out the following articles, Landscaping Dos and Don’ts and What is Building Green?

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