New Tool for Calculating the Value of a Tree


We have all seen articles touting the benefits of trees – they  improve air quality by filtering out fine particles and taking in carbon dioxide, prevent flooding by trapping storm water, save energy by shading our houses, add aesthetic value to neighborhoods and business districts…the list goes on and on.  But when it comes down to justifying tree planting projects, these values can often be difficult to define, reducing individuals or municipalities  to using estimates based on studies done in other parts of the country that may or may not have a climate similar to their region.

Thanks to a new program called i-Tree Design from the USDA Forest Service, we can now get current and projected values, in real numbers, of all the wonderful benefits trees give us.


From the website:

i-Tree Design allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits individual trees provide. With inputs of location, species, tree size and condition, users will receive an understanding of tree benefits related to greenhouse gas mitigation, air quality improvements and storm water interception. With the additional step of drawing a building footprint – and virtually “planting” a tree – tree effects on building energy use can be evaluated.

 Annual benefits for trees are estimated for the current year as well as for a user-specified forecast year. Multiple trees can be added to compare benefits or to provide a full accounting of a property’s trees.

 This tool is intended as a simple and accessible starting point for understanding individual trees’ value to the community. For more detailed information on urban and community forest assessments, please explore more of the i-Tree website.


This program is not only useful for existing trees, but planned ones as well.  And if you outline your house or other structure the program will tell you the energy savings your tree will rack up, not to mention it will give you a color coded grid as to where the best places to plant around your house are.  Note – it asks for the width or diameter of your tree.  Make sure you put in a measurement in inches as there is no unit of measurement listed on the website (I discovered this myself through using the program).

So now if you need to defend a project you have some solid data to fall back on.  As for the rest of us not directly involved in forestry projects?  Well, it’s a nice tool to satisfy some good old curiosity.  You can see exactly what that beautiful tree in your yard is saving you as well as what it’s doing for the environment.



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