Office of Sustainability

Trees provide many environmental benefits, but what you might not know is that trees also provide a lot of benefits to people!

Benefits of trees
  • Shaded business districts experience an 11% increase in business, according to the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.
  • Hospital patients who have trees outside their windows require nearly one day less recovery time and fewer painkillers, according to a study from the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University.
  • A home's property value can be increased by about 9% by planting a tree within 50 feet, according to the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
  • According to the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, planting 20,000 new trees in the region will reduce utility bills by $800,000.

    Source: TreeVitalize PittsburghExternal site link - opens in a new window

The City of Pittsburgh is home to 29,641 publicly managed street trees, including over 130 distinct species. The most common types of trees include:

  • Norway maple (Acer platanoides, 15.7%);
  • red maple (Acer rubrum, 11.4%)
  • callery pear (Pyrus calleryana, 11.3%)
  • littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata, 10.9%)
  • London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia, 8.6%)
A recent study found the total value of Pittsburgh's street trees to be $2.4 million annually!!! For every dollar spent on caring for our street trees, the City receives $2.94 in benefits. To see the whole report, visit File.

This total value is the result of the many benefits street trees provide, including lower energy costs, increased property values, aesthetic appeal, carbon sequestration, air quality improvement, water conservation, wildlife habitat and erosion prevention. Studies have even shown that there is a correlation between human happiness and exposure to trees.

The Pittsburgh study quantified the following benefits:

  • Street trees reduce energy use through both shading and climate effects equal to 2,227 Mega-Watt hours of electricity and 811,917 therms of natural gas annually, for a total savings of approximately $1.2 million, or a citywide average of $40.66 per tree.
  • The estimated property value increase and aesthetic value is estimated to be $572,882 annually, or $19.33 per tree.
  • Pittsburgh's street trees capture 5,303 tons of atmospheric CO2, with an estimated value of $35,424 per year, equal to $1.20 per tree.
  • Trees remove pollutants from the air. This air quality improvement has an annual estimated value of $252,935, or $8.53 per tree.
  • Trees also can consume an amazing amount of water. In fact, on a hot day, mature trees can consume up to 15 gallons per hour, making them an important part of stormwater management. This study found that Pittsburgh's street trees capture 41.8 million gallons of stormwater annually. Each tree intercepts an average of 1,411 gallons. The total monetary benefit is valued to be $334,601 per year or $11.00 per tree.

Annually, the City of Pittsburgh spends $816,400 caring for its street trees, which means the net annual benefit (benefits minus costs) is $1.6 million per year! On average, each tree provides a yearly value of $53.00.

What is the City doing?

Since 2005, Pittsburgh has met the standards to achieve the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA status. Then in 2007, after a mandatory two year waiting period, the City was recognized for its partnership with Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest by qualifying for its first Growth Award.

The City is a partner in Treevitalize, a regional program aimed at planting 20,000 trees in the city by 2012. As part of this program, the City planted over 700 trees in 2008, and 1,000 in 2009. In fall of 2009, the City distributed approximately 1,500 flowering white dogwood trees to residents in downtown and at various farmers' markets around the City. During April 2010, over 2,000 free tree seedlings were given away to residents at two separate events.

In 2010, trees will be planted in and around five parking lots in the city to reduce stormwater runoff, through a Pennvest grant awarded to Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest (FPUF).

With hard work and support from over 2000 volunteers, Pittsburgh reached 100% of its 20,000 tree planting goal. On November 7, 2013, the Ceremonial planting took place during the 2013 National Forestry Conference here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Residents are encouraged to visit the ceremonial tree at its new home at the entrance of the recently revitalized, Point State Park.

Finally, the City of Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission, commissioned by the Mayor's Office, is tasked with restoring and maintaining the City's tree population. The Shade Tree Commission recognizes the value and believes that Pittsburgh's urban trees are one of our City's greatest assets. More information on the Shade Tree Commission can be found on the Shade Tree Commission website.

What can you do?
  • Redirect your downspouts to rain barrels and use these to water your garden.
  • Plant a rain garden.
  • Plant as many trees as you can.
  • If practical, install a green roof. It can be initially expensive, but could save you money in the long run.
  • Use permeable paving for sidewalks and driveways.
  • Install low-flow water fixtures to reduce the amount of wastewater you produce.
  • Landscape your yard with native plant species instead of large grass areas that need to be mowed and watered. This meadow-like yard can actually become a habitat for wildlife.
  • Volunteer to help rehab local parks and streams.
  • Become a Tree Tender as part of Pittsburgh's Treevitalize Program
  • Install low-flow water fixtures.
  • Install a green roof.
  • Install rain barrels or cisterns and use them for landscape watering.
  • Use permeable paving for parking lots and sidewalks.
  • Plant as many trees as you can. They can be used to shade your building and reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Avoid developing important and/or sensitive parts of an ecosystem (i.e. wetlands).
  • When developing, make sure to include "green corridors" between wooded or green areas to allow wildlife to move between areas.
  • Build bioswales instead of traditional storm drainage for storm-water management.
  • Provide incentives to employees for volunteering to help rehab parks and streams and/or plant trees.
Additional Resources

For thorough information about urban greening in Pittsburgh, please check out the Community Connection page.


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