Green thumbs, rejoice: You can now plant a tree and save some energy.
TreesGreenville has been awarded a $36,144 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation to provide 750 free trees to Greenville neighborhoods through the Energy Saving Tree program, which is an Arbor Day Foundation program that helps residents conserve energy and reduce energy bills through strategic tree planting.
The program is only available to Greenville County Duke Energy customers. Interested customers must pre-register and reserve their free trees at treesgreenville.org/giveaway. Participating customers can reserve up to two shade trees or understory trees, which range from White Oak to Tulip Poplar.
TreesGreenville is holding five special pick-up events in January and February. The first event is happening on Jan. 27, 2017, at Lake Conestee Nature Park. Each of the reserved trees will range from 4.5 feet to 6 feet tall and will be placed in seven-gallon containers for pick-up, according to a press release.
The trees could provide several environmental benefits.
“Trees are a last-minute thought for a lot of people. But this new program is going to help us educate residents about strategic tree planting,” said Joelle Teachey, executive director of TreesGreenville. “Strategically planting trees to create shade improves air quality, energy conservation and quality of life.”
That could greatly benefit Greenville County, which has made an effort to reduce its air pollution since falling out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act earlier this year.
Greenville’s ground-level ozone fell out of EPA compliance twice in April. The county’s ozone levels on April 18 and April 20 resulted in orange alerts, meaning the air quality on those days was unhealthy for sensitive people, like asthmatics. When ozone levels rise, which is a risk especially in summer months, people with breathing issues, such as asthma, should take precautions.
Air pollution is made of chemicals, ozone and particles. The most common types are ground-level ozone and particle pollutants. Ground-level ozone occurs when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react with nitrogen oxides and UV radiation under hot and sunny weather conditions. These compounds come from industry, cars, trucks, lawn equipment and other sources.
The region’s and state’s overall air quality has been improving over the past decade, thanks in part to a combination of industrial and residential changes, according to Andy Hollis, environmental health manager for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Those changes include reduced factory emissions, cars with reduced emissions and better fuel efficiency.
But one of the simplest ways people can improve air quality is by planting a tree.
TreesGreenville planted 369 trees last year, which, over the next 25 years, will reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by an estimated 934,203 pounds, Teachey said. The Greenville-based nonprofit has planted more than 4,000 trees in the last five years through partnerships with several Greenville County schools, Furman University, communities and more.
“Trees keep temperatures cooler and reduce the heat island effect,” Teachey said. They also reduce ground-level ozone by cleaning the air of dust, ash, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, she added.
“Energy saving trees” can also provide economic benefits.
Participating customers can use an online calculator to estimate the annual energy savings from their trees. Trees properly placed around a home can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save up to 50 percent in heating costs, according to the U.S. Forest Service. That could translate up to $250 in savings.
The Forest Service also says mature trees add an average of 10 percent to home values.
While understory trees typically die within 10 years, large shade trees could last between 80 and 100 years if planted correctly, according to Teachey. “Too many people plant trees too deeply and then mulch them improperly,” she said. “We’ll be holding demonstrations at the pick-up sites next year.”
Where to plant an “energy-saving tree” for winter warmth
Source: National Arbor Day Foundation
Planting the right trees in the right places can conserve energy and reduce energy bills, while also benefiting the environment. Here are some planting tips that could help you warm the house once winter rolls around.
- Plant tall, deciduous trees on the east, west and south sides of your house, as bare branches will allow sunshine through the windows.
- Plant evergreen trees on the north side, or backside, of your house to block winter winds.