Think about driving or walking down the road towards your house or your local coffee shop. Now imagine all the trees have suddenly disappeared. No shady spots, no variation in colors, just shades of asphalt and house paint…
What a different feel that would make, right? And yet on our everyday routes we rarely stop to think about how the trees and greenery around us create a sense of well-being and community. The truth is trees make neighborhoods more than livable; they make our house or apartment our home—and they make our communities thrive.
Trees Just Make Us Feel Good.
Trees provide a sense of comfort that make us just want to be around them. All parents love when their children choose to leave behind video games and television and play outdoors, and getting outdoors in green environments has been proven to improve childhood conditions such as attention deficient disorder and childhood obesity. The fact is: trees create healthy happy neighborhoods. They clean the air, offer shade, provide places for picnics and structures to climb and explore, and create an atmosphere we want to spend time in. As Martha would say, they’re a “good thing.”
Meet Your Neighbor
When we get outdoors, a magic connection occurs—soon we notice our neighbors who are also enjoying the outdoors, which leads to conversations, friendships, and a sense of neighborhood. In a study conducted at a Chicago public housing development, residents of buildings with more trees and grass reported that they knew their neighbors better, socialized with them more often, and had stronger feelings of community. They also felt safer and better adjusted than did residents of the more barren, but otherwise identical, buildings.
Research has also found that the greater the number of trees there are in a common space, the more people use it. The fact is that greenery makes places more attractive and more comfortable, and draws people to them. These types of settings promote opportunities for frequent and friendly social interaction among neighbors—helping to build a strong community.
When you know your neighbors better, you are probably more likely to want to help and protect each other. The social ties and additional surveillance from spending more time outdoors also discourages crime. In fact, a recent study showed that compared with buildings that had little or no vegetation, buildings with high levels of greenery had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes. In these types of environments, residents also feel more empowered to take action. For example, neighbors are more likely to form local organizations and mobilize for political action if needed.
An interesting linkage also exists between communities with more trees and community wealth. Fascinating satellite imagery shows this income inequality quite dramatically. The wealth disparity is partially attributable to the fact that trees have been shown to increase property value and retail sales, creating more prosperity. Trees really can help us create wealthier communities.
When We Invest From the Ground Up, We Build Strong Communities!
Tell us: What impact have trees and green spaces had on your community?