Trees can help homeowners reduce their energy costs, according to Kristen Bousquet, program development manager at the Arbor Day Foundation, but landscapers and arborists have to explain to their clients that it’s not just planting a tree; it’s planting the right tree in the right place.
[Related: Arbor Day: The tree planter’s holiday]
Bousquet spoke on a webinar for the Utility Arborist Association about a program the Arbor Day Foundation created to provide homeowners with trees to increase environmental benefits to communities and energy savings for homeowners. The program aims to plant 100 million trees on private property by 2022.
“The program is designed to engage and educate homeowners on the benefits of trees and planting them strategically,” she said. “With these private property trees, we can reduce temperatures, clean the air, filter stormwater, sequester carbon emissions and conserve energy.”
The Arbor Day Foundation created this program under two brands, Bousquet said: Community Canopy and Energy-Saving Trees. The program is exactly the same, she said, but the brands help different partners target different audiences. The Community Canopy brand is geared toward nonutility partners like landscapers, city governments or nonprofits, Bousquet said.
The program provides up to two trees at little to no cost with suggestion for where they can be placed to gain the most benefits.
“We just developed a way for folks to do a cost-share model with their community,” Bousquet said. “Some of those partners that are nonutilities have come on-board asking, ‘Can we have that homeowner chip in $5 or $10 for that tree so they have a little bit of stake in the game?'”
Arbor Day Foundation created an interactive website to outline the environmental benefits that trees offer to a community and their potential to reduce energy costs by providing shade to homes when strategically planted.
“Our software shows them how trees can shade their home in the summer or block winter wind break in the winter, both resulting in money savings for them,” Bousquet said. The software also shows how obstacles like utility lines could lead to trees needing to be cut down later.
Strategic planting can result in a return of $8 or more per tree, Bousquet said, compared to an average of between 1.37 and $3.09 for the average tree planted on a homeowner’s property.
One obstacle, of course, is that trees are a long-term investment, and homeowners may be reluctant to invest time and especially money in planting trees if they won’t see the benefits for several years, if they’re even in the home long enough to see those benefits.
Bousquet encouraged partners to focus on the community aspect of these types of investments. While the energy savings have an individual benefit, planting trees in a neighborhood benefit the whole community.
“It’s definitely a different mindset,” she said of planting trees compared to more immediate sustainability measures. “While you’re not necessarily going to be there for the next 20 years, it still brings really great benefits to your communities.”