With National Arbour Week on every doorstep, another opportunity of lowering one’s carbon lifestyle is there for the taking. To plant a tree where space allows could be in a garden, on a pavement or a golf course, in a courtyard or patio, or on a rooftop of apartment blocks and penthouses.
The planting of trees was first celebrated in South Africa in 1983 when Arbour Day was placed on the national calendar. By raising environmental awareness, this resulted in a collective enthusiasm that lead to national government in 1999 extending the annual one day celebration to National Arbor Week, from 1 to 7 September.
In an effort to encourage communities to participate in greening events, SA’s National Biodiversity Institute lists two indigenous trees each year, one common and one uncommon, with the long term view of preservation. This year’s list includes the common tree Pappea capensis Jacket-plum, or Doppruim, and the lesser common trees - the Genus Pavetta Bride's Bushes, Bruidsbome Nuxia congesta and Common Wild Elder, Gewone wildevlier.
Opportunities are abound to decrease residential levels of carbon emissions in everyday living spaces, and not only will the greening of gardens, homes, suburbs and communal buildings enhance the aesthetic qualities of these environments, it will also create huge environmental benefits. Furthermore, industry professionals say leafy suburbs attract higher prices than those without greenery.
Environmental experts say city living is where a carbon footprint reduction will be most noticeable, since it is estimated that 80 percent of South Africans live in urban areas, and that 10 percent of green space could reduce urban surface temperatures by as much as 4 percent. The recent Academy of Science of SA’s report focusing on Durban becoming a low carbon city, states that cities account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and government plans to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.
Apart from trees providing a vital source for building material, food, and medicine, as well as scenic beauty, trees contribute to the controlling of the greenhouse effect by acting as a natural coolant when heat rises from tar. It also absorbs the carbon dioxide emitted from cars and converts it to oxygen, it reduces noise levels in built up areas, and can prevent soil erosion in areas with extreme climate patterns.
As an example of greening cities, the water scarce city of Cape Town offers residents the opportunity to apply to local municipalities to have trees planted on common open areas and public spaces including pavements, car parking facilities, etc. However, applicants are responsible for watering newly planted trees until it is established.
Global efforts were recently published in the IBTimes UK that reported the latest plans and global actions contained in the UK Carbon Disclosure Project Cities Report. The report includes Seoul’s planning to retrofit 10,000 buildings by 2030, the city of Austin planning a zero waste plan for 2040, London aiming to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the streets by 2020, Buenos Aires implementing a network of dedicated bus and taxi lanes to improve fuel efficiency, Tokyo introducing higher energy efficiency standards for large urban developments and São Paulo’s goal to reduce the use of fossil fuel on public transportation by 10% each year, aiming at 100% use of renewable energy by 2017.