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Trees Help Beat Urban Heat

Date: 06-Apr-17
Author: Alicia Jooste

Glenwood residents add trees to their street as part of the Cool Street initiative. image source- Cool Streets © Cool Streets

Glenwood residents add trees to their street as part of the Cool Street initiative. image source- Cool Streets

By planting a small tree in your front lawn, you could reduce electricity bills by $28. Give it a few more decades and research shows the savings could be as much as $400 on an annual electricity bill.

This concept has been trialed in Blacktown, western Sydney, where residents are welcoming a transformation of residential streets to sustainable landscaping designs that can help reduce urban heat levels.

In partnership with the local council, the Cool Streets program aims to mitigate the effect of rising temperatures in Western Sydney suburbs by increasing the number of trees being planted.

Known as the urban heat island effect, it occurs when large amounts of vegetation are replaced with buildings that retain heat during the day, according to Dr Brent Jacobs, research director at the Institute of Sustainable Futures at UTS.

After a summer where the region experienced a record number of days hitting 40 degrees plus, such an initiative has been embraced by Blacktown residents.

The program was developed by landscape architect Dr Libby Gallagher, who during her PHD identified that changes to street designs could reduce CO2 emissions, cool neighbourhoods and reduce power bills for residents.

Dr Gallagher’s research shows that dense tree coverage could reduce the temperature in a shaded area by up to seven degrees.

Within 10 years the trees will be providing significant shade and cooling. Jump forward to 40 years and each household will be saving approximately $232 on their electricity bills.

The project was run in close consultation with community members, which was key to starting a dialogue about sustainable options, whilst also empowering residents to recognize the role they can play in the fight against climate change.

David Towns, Cool Streets Environmental Projects Officer said, “the trial was proof of the important role trees play in reducing the effects of rising heat levels in urban settings. The project also had a positive impact on moral and improved attitudes of trees,” he said.

Planet Ark recognizes that trees will continue to be key players in our battle against climate change, particularly in cities where urban forests help purify the air and ground water, regulate temperatures, provide shade, and encourage pride of place.

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Alicia                                            Jooste
Author: Alicia Jooste

Alicia worked at Planet Ark in 2016.

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