Money does grow on trees

Greener neighbourhoods make for healthier communities that feel younger, wealthier, new study says


That annoying bank ad is right – I’m richer than I think.

Not because I’ve got hidden cash stowed away someplace I didn’t know about, but because of the great canopy of giant oaks, maples, evergreens and fragrant black locusts outside my home office window in east-end Toronto. All that greenery helps me feel $10,000 richer and a good seven years younger, according to a new study by the University of Chicago.

Researchers looked at Toronto’s tree canopy and weighed it against general health perceptions surveyed in the Ontario Health Study. Turns out having 10 more trees on a city block, on average, improves health perception in a way that’s comparable to living in a tonier neighbourhood and being nearly a decade younger.

When they crunched the health data further, they found that those with 11 or more air-purifying, stress-busting trees on a city block had less heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, comparable to the health stats of people in neighbourhoods with $20,000 higher median income. 

Clearly, money does grow on trees. 

The problem is my tree bank account thins out at my front door. Out front, the city cut a troubled two-and-a-half-storey maple down to a stump. 

Suddenly our house seems barren, exposed to the harsh light of day and fumes from passing cars. We’ve since planted a new tree, and with every foot it grows it’s cleaning the air, sucking up carbon, offering more shade and shelter for wildlife – and filling my nature bank account. Now we just need the city to keep up its promise to plant 100,000 trees a year (and work harder on keeping them alive) to help spread the wealth. 

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com | @ecoholicnation

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