Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

April 20, 2017

Students Put Price On Trees to Raise Environmental Awareness

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On Tuesday, a group of students labeled approximately 80 trees on the Arts Quad with individual price tags — but the trees are not for sale.

The tags — as a part of the annual “The Value of Trees” exhibition — show the environmental value of each tree based on its ecological services like removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, cooling, reducing pollution and retaining storm water runoff.

The exhibit is a student-led event that has been taking place since 2013 as a part of the Creating the Urban Eden course led by Prof. Nina Bassuk, horticulture, and Prof. Peter Trowbridge, landscape architecture.

“We celebrate trees on Arbor Day. We celebrate the Earth on Earth Day,” Bassuk said. “This activity ties the two together to make people more aware of all the benefits trees provide to the environment.”

The students in the class calculated the value of each tree by using iTree Design, an online software developed by the USDA Forest Service, according to Bassuk. This software can estimate the benefits of an individual tree using its location, species, size and condition. It can even calculate the impacts trees have on the heating and cooling utility bill, for those located near buildings.

“All trees take up carbon dioxide and store it in their wood, helping to reduce climate change,” Bassuk explained. “A large Sweetgum tree near White Hall was calculated to store more than seven tons of carbon dioxide and capture more than 100,000 gallons of stormwater runoff for as long as 25 years”.

This exhibit has always been on the Ag Quad but due to construction, it has been moved to the Arts Quad this year.

“We’re reaching a new audience there who will hopefully learn that trees are more than just pretty faces in the landscape,” Bassuk said. “They are also real workhorses in the environment that return important, tangible benefits.”

The tags will be on the trees for two weeks until Tuesday, May 2.