Matt Grubisich, Texas Trees Foundation
Matt Grubisich: Hello, my name is Matt Grubisich, and we are here at the TXU Energy Urban Tree Farm and Education Center. Together with our partners, the Texas Trees Foundation has planted and moved over 200,000 trees through this tree farm. These trees have gone into communities across Texas, helping to clean air and water, help reduce the urban heat island effect and have brought communities together.
One of the biggest threats to our urban tree canopy cover is really our growing population because as our population continues to grow, the infrastructure to meet that demand continues to grow with it. The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon that happens when all of that impervious surface — our buildings, our roads, our parking lots, capture the energy from the sun and then release that energy back into the atmosphere and this can actually change the weather in a localized setting, especially our neighborhoods. So what trees can do for us is … they're pretty remarkable, they help in two different ways. When they release water from their leaves they can actually physically cool the air temperature around them. But more importantly, when planted correctly, they can shade our impervious surfaces, so they can shade our parking lots, they can shade our streets, not allowing it to heat up and capture that sun's energy.
Most of us can remember elementary school biology class and realize that trees take in carbon dioxide and give us back oxygen, so they literally help clean our air and give us oxygen to breathe, but what is lesser known is the fact that what spending times in a nice wooded setting does for our mental health. It's been shown that just by spending time outside in a natural setting can actually reduce the symptoms of fatigue, of depression, of a lot of those mental things that come with living in an urban area. The value of parks is understated to the value that they bring to communities and they're also underfunded. Parks and green space really are an economic draw. More and more companies are looking to relocate, based on the quality of life for their employees and parks are a big piece of that.
We've all had a time in our life where you had that connection with nature, maybe it was when you went camping as a child, maybe it was the tree swing in your backyard, but reconnecting to what that is, is imperative to not only your health, but to the health of … of all of our communities. A favorite quote of mine says, “The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago, the next best time is today.”