May 25, 2014 3 min read

There are many ways you can shrink the size of your carbon footprint: bike to work, eat less meat, turn down your thermostat. All of which are great.

But there is one way to reduce your emissions and also make your property and community more beautiful, improves water quality, and provides numerous economic and social benefits... planting trees!

Wondering how? Here are just a couple ways in which trees are vital to reducing carbon emissions and so much more.

graphics of different carbon footprint statistics

Natural Carbon Eaters

Every living thing on Earth is made up of four basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Those four elements make up about 96% of your body, and most of a tree's roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. 

While we humans get most of our carbon from food, trees breathe it in (just like we breathe in oxygen). But when a tree breathes, it inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen — the exact opposite of humans. And as a tree matures, it can consume 48 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and releases enough oxygen for you to breathe for two years!

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen in its stead also helps limit global warming, providing for a cleaner, healthier climate.

So, by planting trees, you can help clean the air and fight climate change! 

Leaves changing color in a park with a bridge

Energy Savers

The significance of the shade provided by trees cannot be understated.

Trees in an urban setting make temperatures in cities bearable. According the to EPA, the shade from trees, in combination with the water vapor they release, can reduce peak temperatures by as much as 20–45°F (11–25°C) compared to unshaded areas. 

And when shade is cast onto an office building or home, internal temperatures can drop 8–10°F. Some estimates say the shade from a single tree can save the same amount of energy it takes to power 10 room-sized air conditioners for 20 hours a day!

And a tree's energy saving abilities don't stop during the winter. Trees provide important windbreaks around buildings to reduce heat loss by as much as 50%, lowering heating costs and energy consumption — and saving you money!

This reduction in energy goes a long way when it comes to shrinking your carbon footprint, because over 1/3 of U.S. carbon emissions are caused by the production of electricity.

Beyond Carbon Benefits

Helping to reduce carbon emissions is only one aspect of how trees help improve our lives.

Trees have an incredible ability to absorb and retain water. As rainwater falls, much of it gets picked up by trees, preventing it from overwhelming storm drains. On average, a mature tree in a city can absorb up to 1,000 gallons of rainfall every year that would otherwise need to be pumped and filtered, requiring additional energy. 

In New York City, urban trees help retain nearly 900 million gallons of rainwater annually, saving the city more than $35 million dollars in stormwater management costs.

Trees also provide social, economic and health benefits. They create jobs, shelter, medicine and so much more (check out the Six Pillars, which explain why trees are so vital). These less obvious benefits of trees help raise people out of poverty and achieve sustainable development, which ultimately improves our environment.

As more people gain access to cleaner sources of energy, improved water treatment facilities, and more, our environment will most certainly feel the benefits.

young child's hands planting a sapling amongst dry grass

Plant a Tree Today!

If you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint and give back to the planet, trees are one of the most effective and personally beneficial ways to do it. A nicer home, a better environment, and more money in your wallet. 

Those are some pretty good reasons to plant a tree.

Want more facts about your carbon footprint? Download the poster below and discover where your carbon emissions are coming from!

Carbon emission poster thumbnail


We plant trees on 4 continents around the world. Want to choose where yours are planted?

by Joseph Coppolino

Organic Content Creator & Enviro-fabulist