Climate Change | Plan, Plant + Protect | Trees

I am not a scientist. I am a landscape designer.  I thought I wasn’t an active environmentalist until I started to think about participating in this year’s Blog Action Day on Climate Change.  Sure I talk about it, but if  intent + action = activism then, I am an activist.

How do I as a landscape designer address climate change?   I plan, plant and protect trees on a regular basis.  I even write about trees here to hopefully spur readers to appreciate them, plant them, grow more of them and protect them.

Tree shading, cooling
Tree shading, cooling

How do trees affect climate change?  Don’t take my word for it, according to American Forests:

Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary gas causing global climate change. Trees retain the carbon (C) from the CO2 molecule and release oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere. The carbon makes up half the dry weight of a tree.

Forests are the world’s second largest carbon reservoirs (oceans are the largest). Unlike oceans, however, we can grow new forests. Planting new trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. One acre of forestland will sequester between 150 – 200 tons of CO2 in its first 40 years.


You don’t need a group, or a demonstration or anything other than yourself taking action.   Plan to include trees in your garden.  Even a small ornamental tree is great.  Shade isn’t an impediment to gardening–it’s an opportunity, over 40% of garden plants prefer shade.   Just plan on including some trees when you’re dreaming about what plants to add to your landscape.  Trees are a good investment also, they add to your home’s value–smaller plants, no matter how rare, don’t do that.


Plant a tree in your garden–even better yet, plant a forest of them and help cool things down.  Give trees the things they need–room to grow, plenty of water and lots of organic matter. When considering where to plant a tree make sure you know how tall and wide the tree will get before you decide where to plant it. Trees are plants for the long haul.  How big will that little tree be in 5 years? 10?  Will it grow fast or slow?   Too many trees are cut down because they are too close to structures or their root systems make it difficult to plant anything else.  Choose trees for the type of space you have and you will be rewarded for years to come.

600+ Year old White Oak
600+ Year old White Oak


Protect our old large trees from heavy construction–60% of damage to a trees root system comes from the first pass of heavy equipment over them.  In my region, there is a battle going on right now.  A local university wants to cut down the only unprotected swath of  old growth forest in the metropolitan area that is now on its campus for ball fields, parking lots and ‘public benefit’.  It seems to me that the public already benefits more from trees that have shaded and cooled them for more than 200 years, you can join the public outrage and protest here.

Look around you and see the large trees that are slated to be removed–question the cost to us when they are no longer cooling the earth.  Many towns now protect heritage trees and have strict guidelines for tree removal. Fight to protect our trees because they are helping to protect us.

14 thoughts on “Climate Change | Plan, Plant + Protect | Trees

  1. Bravo, my friend. Another thoughtful post. I am happy you participated in Blog Action Day, and your advice to plant a “single tree or a forest of them” brought tears to my eyes. You are, indeed, an activist, and our planet is better for it. Lynn

    Thanks for the props, my garden design friend. If we can make the world a better place through what we do…how great is that!

  2. Susan, this is GREAT! PLANT A TREE is fantastic. If everyone planted a tree. . .

    Thanks Katie! Sometimes we can accomplish a lot with something really simple. Especially if we do it together.

  3. Good post – being half-druid, I can only agree with you about trees and the need to plant them. And moving from my farm (on Oak Leaf Rd) to my island – the thing I miss are those big old oak trees (but I got acorns!)

    Never knew you were half-druid. We’ll have to find some standing stones on the next solstice and plant some of those acorns!

  4. Rock on, my sista! I have thing for trees and cemeteries … LOVE that photo of the 600+ year old specimen.

    peace & love

    Peace and love back at you Patty. Loved your piece on what kids can do BTW. Blog Action Day rocked out!

  5. Excellent post with important insight regarding protecting trees during construction and the importance of “just planting them!”

    I believe in action not words, so if someone is concerned about mitigating climate warming, they should plant more trees.

    Shirley–Thanks so much. Trees in the garden would be a great subject for GW Report…

  6. Wow – I’ve never thought of myself as an ‘activist’ either, but I’m starting to like it!! One more reason I love what I do!!!

    Thanks for such a great post – I hope all who read it think twice before cutting down a tree before construction (a major past time out here in Silicon Valley…)

    Funny how it crept up on us. There are more kinds of activism than marches, signs and slogans. We are the quiet ones affecting change one plant at a time.

  7. Susan,
    Great…trees are the most important friend of people…they are always
    with us under the hot son,in the storm,flood,beauty,making medicine,
    paper,furniture,food and many more…plants are miracle….
    great…we need to plant more and more trees….

    Tarek–thank you for visiting from so far away. I love your take on trees and their uses. We take so much from them and give them so little.

  8. Thought provoking and extremely well written as usual Susan. I’m glad you’re a designer working hard to make some peace with the changes.~~Dee

    Thank you Dee. I really wanted to write about something that was personal and an individual could accomplish without preaching or admonishing. We have enough of that I think!

  9. I’m grateful for organizations like the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance, which has worked to preserve land all around my area. Thanks to them, my garden now backs onto over 500 acres of preserved land.

    James–I agree that we are lucky in NJ with many of the organizations we have that support Open Space and Farmland Preservation. We also have a flawed system that lets local government decide what to do ‘Green Acres’ in typical NJ fashion and described here A better system needs to be found…we’re running out of space and time I think.

  10. Yours is by far the most sensible Blog Action Day post I’ve read. ‘What I can do’ is much more effective than ‘What others should do.’

    Thanks Nell Jean. I am a believer in personal action–but that’s probably obvious!

  11. Great post. I have had a lot of fun picking out trees for a neighborhood planting we are doing on 11/7. I just hope most stay alive to fulfill the promise.

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