Plant Trees in Cleveland to Reduce Air Pollution and Improve Health

Target: Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Plant trees to improve physical and mental health, reduce energy costs, and promote urban biodiversity.

Cleveland is one of the top ten U.S. cities in terms of air pollution. Air pollution is associated with increased risk of heart and lung disease; it is estimated that air pollution causes three million premature deaths worldwide every year. Although solutions to the problem of air pollution are no doubt complex, one simple and cost-effective way to reduce air pollution is to plant trees.

Cleveland is definitely lacking in number of trees. It only has about 19% tree canopy cover, which is less than half of the tree cover of Pittsburgh. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cleveland also has high rates of asthma. In Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, 9-10% of adults report having asthma, which is higher than the national average. Urban tree coverage is strongly linked to asthma development and severity. A recent study of 26,000 neighborhoods found that in urban areas, having more trees greatly reduced the number of hospitalizations for asthma attacks. Another study in Toronto found that living in a neighborhood with trees reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. This may be due to the ability of trees to reduce air pollution, but it could also be secondary to the effects of trees on mental health: living somewhere with trees was correlated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, which are themselves risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Planting trees in urban areas has also been shown to reduce ambient temperature. This reduces energy costs from air conditioning and refrigeration, as well as reducing residents’ risk of heat stroke. Scientists estimate that increasing Cleveland’s tree cover to 30% will save residents and businesses as much as $5.5 million in energy costs. Perhaps most importantly, trees also promote biodiversity; they provide habitats for local mammals and insects as well as several species of migratory birds.

Sign this petition to urge the Ohio EPA to plant trees to reduce Cleveland’s dangerous levels of air pollution, improve health and biodiversity, and lower ambient temperature.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Butler,

Cleveland has the ninth-worst air pollution out of all U.S. cities. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to ameliorate air pollution in cities is to increase tree canopy cover. Trees in urban environments provide important physical and mental health benefits and reduce air conditioning energy costs. Moreover, urban trees provide habitats for migratory birds, small mammals, amphibians, and insects, fostering biodiversity in urban ecosystems.

We ask that you and your colleagues at the Ohio EPA do all that you can to improve tree canopy cover in Cleveland. This will provide millions of dollars of savings in healthcare and energy costs.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Erik Drost

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3 Comments

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    plant more trees not bildings.

  2. MORE TREES TO FIGHT THE POLLUTION.

  3. Plant fruit trees, so the fruit can be collected and eaten by those who will tend to the trees and the neighbors.

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