Conservation Corner


The benefits of trees

Pauline Lee

Why is Phoenix warmer than Sun Lakes? Its skyscrapers, dense buildings and many asphalt streets absorb sun rays to warm up the metropolis. More cars are there to emit CO2 which blanket the city and absorb heat from the sun. In 2017, Phoenix had its warmest year since records started in 1895. The Los Angeles Times has reported that by 2050, Los Angeles expects its summer temperature to increase by 5° F. The number of deaths caused by excessive heat has increased with the progressive increase of urban temperatures.

How can the heating effect from sun rays in the summer be reduced? In the summer of 2017, Los Angeles tested the effect of painting streets off-white to deflect sun rays on one street in each of 15 different districts. These streets showed about a 10-degree drop in temperature, but the effect of heat reflected from these streets on the nearby buildings has not been measured. Having mass transportation reduces the use of individual cars and lowers CO2 emissions and the resulting retention of heat.

An effective way to reduce heat generation is by planting more trees. It turns out neighborhoods with fewer trees have summer temperatures as much as 9 degrees higher than neighborhoods with many trees for shading. Phoenix has nearly 93,000 trees to give a tree canopy between 9-12%. The Phoenix City Council plans to increase the city canopy to 25% by 2050 to lower a typical neighborhood’s temperature by 4.3 degrees. This year, SRP and Phoenix partnered to plant 1,200 new trees between February and April to shade parks, schools, light rail stations and other public places. SRP donated a variety of drought-tolerant trees, and the city provided the labor and cost to plant and to maintain them.

As SRP customers, Sun Lakes residents are eligible to register for a free shade tree workshop and select one free tree to plant in our yards. The workshops are at different locations and in different months, but trees are only available for transplanting later in the year. You can find out the details at Seating and availability are limited. Your new tree will provide shade for your home environment, help reduce CO2 from cars and homes and reduce your need for electricity to run air conditioning.

You can also join SRP Trees for Change to help prevent wildfires and replant trees lost to forest fires ( SRP will donate up to $200,000 to match our donations for these forest revitalization projects, in partnership with the National Forest Foundation in tree-planting, forest thinning, prescribed burning and other projects that help sustain healthy forests and safeguard our watershed. You can donate as little as $3/month on your electric bill. SRP and their customers have planted 1,222,000 trees to revitalize more than 5,000 acres of forest land. Trees cool our environment, remove CO2 and pollutants, improve soil quality, retain moisture and stabilize soil during floods. Why not take advantage of their benefits?