Giving Compass' Take:

• United States Forest Service scientists found that urban trees are on the decline, despite the high number of benefits trees have on reducing energy costs, improving human health, and creating carbon storage. 

• King County in Washington has an innovative plan for urban tree renewal: private companies buy credits for tree planting and preservation to reduce their carbon footprint. How sustainable is this approach? 

• Read about more ways that governments and schools could reduce their carbon footprint. 

The evidence is in: Urban trees improve air and water quality, reduce energy costs, and improve human health, even as they offer the benefit of storing carbon. And in cities across the country, they are disappearing.

A recent paper by two United States Forest Service scientists reported that metropolitan areas in the U.S. are losing about 36 million trees each year.

This arboreal decline is happening even in some areas that promote "million-tree" campaigns, Arbor Day plantings, and street-tree giveaways. Cash-strapped municipalities just can't find enough green to maintain the green. Additionally, many cities are adjusting to population booms, and to temperature increases and drought due to climate change—both conditions that can be hard on trees (while increasing their value as sources of cooling and cleaner air).

To find more funding for urban trees, some local governments, including Austin, Texas, and King County, Washington (where Seattle is located), are running pilot projects with a Seattle-based non-profit called City Forest Credits. The non-profit is developing a new approach: generating funding for city tree canopies from private companies (and individuals) that wish to offset their carbon emissions by buying credits for tree planting or preservation.

The vast majority of forest carbon credits worldwide have been issued for trees in tropical rainforests and other forests far from urban areas. A study released last year of the forest offsets in California’s cap-and-trade program found that they are effective at reducing emissions.

The new credits aim to quantify not only the carbon benefits of urban trees, but also rainfall interception, energy savings from cooling and heating effects, and air-quality benefits.

Read the full article about urban tree expansion by Maria Dolan at Pacific Standard