Why should you consider planting a tree? Aside from the more pleasurable aspects of trees like flowers, leaf color, and shade there are some significant scientific reasons.
I found a very interesting site called the Colorado Tree Coalition that has listed some very important information about trees and what they really do. The Colorado Tree Coalition talks about carbon sequestration. Which is the "long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground, or the oceans so that the buildup of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas) concentration in the atmosphere will reduce or slow." (Department of Energy: Office of Science) We've all heard about carbon and reducing it in the news broadcasts but how much do trees actually help? As it turns out quite a bit.
Trees take the carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis then release oxygen back into the air. Trees transform the carbon into cellulose which they store in their branches, roots, and leaves. Through this process they keep that carbon locked away from us and the atmosphere.
By planting trees so that they shade your home you can reduce cooling costs and consequently you will use less carbon for electric production. If you want to do this technique find a nice deciduous tree to plant on the southern side of your home (if you are in the northern hemisphere). By planting deciduous trees that loose their leaves in the fall you allow the winter sun to reach your house which can have a warming effect on your home during those frosty winter days.
If you would like to provide enough oxygen to support two human beings and remove 48 pounds of carbon from the air look for a mature tree. That big oak or maple standing in your backyard does just that and if you are lucky enough to have an acre of trees you are removing enough carbon to drive your cars 26,000 miles.
What would happen if every American family planted one tree? The amount of CO2 would be reduced by about 1 billion pounds each year! That sounds like a huge number but that is only 5% of the carbon that people actually produce.
If you like thinking about the monetary values here's a fact to look at: "Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion."
Trees remove all sorts of harmful chemicals from our environment like sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and other small particulates. "One sugar maple (12" DBH) along a roadway removes in one growing season 60mg cadmium, 140 mg chromium, 820 mg nickel, and 5200 mg lead from the environment." It may take as much as 300 trees to balance the amount of pollution that one person makes in their lifetime. That's a lot of trees for us to plant.
Trees prevent erosion and filter our waters as well reduce rain water run-off. Their roots soak up nutrients that shouldn't go into our water supply and their canopies break up the rainfall which slows down water run-off.
You can see all these benefits and several others at the Colorado Tree Coalition's website. All the above facts are from that website except for the definition of carbon sequestration. Go and look for yourself, some of the facts are very interesting. They kind of make you want to go out and plant a tree!