Have you ever considered the value of a tree?
Before you write this post off as boring, hang with me for just a second. It will be worth your while.
I’m not just talking about the value of a tree in terms of what it cost to purchase or in terms of how much money it would bring if harvested.
I’m not even talking about the intrinsic value of a tree to a person or community’s social and emotional well-being.
I’m talking about the quantifiable value of a tree as it relates to property value, electricity saved, stormwater diverted, and air quality improved.
Do I have your attention yet?
The cool thing is there’s a calculator for that!
Actually, there are two calculators for that. One calculator works at the zip code level. The other one works from your specific address.
I found this tidbit out on my own when Handy Husband and I were front porch sitting one night. This was at the height of the pandemic and I think we’d run out of things to talk about, so the conversation went something like this:
“What kind of tree do you think that is?”
“I don’t know. A big one.”
“Maybe we should look it up.”
That led to one of us getting out a measuring tape to figure out the tree’s diameter. There may have been some tree hugging involved in that fiasco because have you ever tried to measure a gigantic tree trunk on your own while your spouse looks on laughing? It’s tricky!
Thank goodness there’s not photographic evidence…that I’ll share.
Both calculators are free to use and work on data from the USDA Forest Service’s i-Tree software. i-Tree was released in 2006 and is an on-going partnership with U.S. Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, The Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, International Society of Arboriculture, and Casey Trees.
I do not know if either tool works outside of the U.S.
Let’s go through this value of a tree exercise first using the MyTree calculator and a tree from our property, an American elm. The MyTree calculator uses a specific address in its calculations.
In the below graphic, you can see how much carbon that elm stores and how much air pollution by type it removes each year. I can also see the energy savings this tree provides because the MyTree calculator asks how far the tree is from the house and the direction it is located. Neat, right?
The other calculator is called the National Tree Benefit Calculator and it is also based on the i-Tree data. It works at the zip code level, so I found it to be much more generous in its environmental impact calculations. However, it does add in a property value amount associated with each tree you analyze.
I don’t know why, but my mulberry tree gave me zero added property value. The deer that are munching on its berries would beg to differ. Ha!
The American elm did add some money to my property value though.
While insightful, I do take all of this value of a tree data with a grain of salt because I can’t imagine that it’s a perfect representation of actual events or values. However, over time, if regular investments are made in this software, the data output should become increasingly more accurate.
The value of a tree is interesting to think about though and these calculators would be useful tools if you are planning a landscaping project, particularly at a municipal or county level. What type of trees are best, from an environmental perspective, in your area? Where should trees be planted for maximum energy savings benefits?
I can imagine this tool being a great resource for students to use in a science class to connect concepts with real-world applications.
Our family is increasingly aware of our carbon footprint, so I’m happy tools like this exist to help us understand the value of the trees on our property, not just for our bottom line, but for the health of the planet too.
Let me know if you use one of these tree calculators!
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