What comes to mind when you think of Los Angeles? It’s possible you think of Hollywood, movie stars, the beach, sunshine and Disneyland. But it’s almost equally likely that you think of pollution, traffic, highways and gangs. How can the City of Los Angeles bring more focus to its positive qualities? The answer is trees. Trees can help bring out the best in L.A., making it home to not only “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but also the healthiest.

Cleaning Our Air

lasmog2003smOne of L.A.’s most unappealing qualities is the thick layer of heavy smog that often hovers over its otherwise beautiful skyline. Pollution is a severe concern that can inflame the respiratory system, causing asthma attacks, hospitalizations and premature deaths. Rated as the smoggiest region in the nation, it’s no surprise that L.A. is home to an estimated 1 million adults and 300,000 children suffering from asthma.

Studies have shown that an increase in tree-lined streets could lower that number of children affected by pollution-related asthma by one-fourth. Trees and greenery have also been shown to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates, two key components of smog and soot by nearly two-thirds.

Clearing Our Minds

Recent studies have found that Angelenos’ stress has reached an ‘unhealthy’ level and is higher than Americans nationwide. And stress isn’t just bad for your mental health; it’s a major contributor to physical ailments and disease.

Once again, trees present a valuable solution. Research has shown that being around natural environments can help reduce stress and help people feel more relaxed. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” decrease faster in natural settings.

Easing Our Commutes

2010_1207_traffic_mIf you’ve ever experienced driving the 405 in L.A., you know what bad traffic truly is. Commuting, especially in Los Angeles, can be one of the most trying and aggravating experiences in life. The good news is that trees can help make the trip much less painful.

A study by Texas A&M researchers found that exposure to natural roadside settings decreased the magnitude of drivers’ stress responses. In fact, highway drivers with views of natural roadsides displayed higher frustration tolerance. Trees can literally put us on the road to a happier, healthier state.

Making Our Streets Safer

Victims of crime don’t just suffer the direct effects of a crime’s violence or theft—many also experience significant mental health issues that can often linger for years. Those same anxieties that afflict crime victims can also affect citizens who haven’t experienced crime, but fear it on a regular basis.

L.A. continues to try new ways to keep its streets safe, but many neighborhoods remain troubled by crime. Luckily, trees can even help this seemingly intractable social problem.

Research is proving that trees and greenery play an important role in improving safety and lessening both violent and lesser crimes, like graffiti. Some facts:

  • A 10% increase in tree canopy is associated with a roughly 12% decrease in crime.
  • Public housing residents with nearby trees and natural landscapes reported 25% fewer acts of domestic aggression and violence.
  • Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees.

09262012_shutterstock_27584473_jpg_600L.A. offers so much pizzazz and potential. This already amazing city can be even more wonderful with the help of a simple solution: investing from the ground up in its trees.

Currently, the City of Los Angeles is home to about 10 million trees. That may sound like a lot, but a recent tree canopy study showed that the level of coverage those 10 million trees provides is about 6% less than the national average. L.A. still has a ways to grow!

Join Invest From the Ground Up and our partners, including Million Trees LA and The Los Angeles Beautification Team, as we work to create a greener and healthier L.A.