I decided recently to look into the possibility of having a tree planted for me.
I figured I could celebrate my daughter's first birthday, offset some of my family's carbon footprint and make the world a little greener. And besides, trees are nice. Planting them seems like the kind of eco-friendly gesture that couldn't possibly have a down side.
And for the most part, there are no drawbacks—unless you want to plant a tree in a city park, which can cost (seriously) thousands of dollars.
There are numerous ways to plant trees. They might or might not help global warming, and cost anywhere from $1 to $2,500, depending on how big a tree you have in mind and whether you want it planted down the block or across the globe.
I hate to say it, but tree planting is an issue where you can trust die-hard environmentalists to pick the issue to pieces and take all the fun out of it. There is a vigorous discussion on Grist's message boards on the pros and cons of planting trees to combat global warming.
Here's what I've learned.
Planting new trees in equatorial climes, to either replace or add to rainforest environments does seem to help cool the Earth and moderate global warming. This is a good thing to do. And if you pay to have trees planted through the Nature Conservancy, a sensible environmental organization, this is where they'll be planted.
Because the Nature Conservancy plants seedlings in warm environments where they grow quickly, it can do it very cheaply, at $1 a tree. For a mere $50, you can generate a lot of important tree canopy.
Planting trees in urban and suburban environments is generally good. There has been a steady decline in recent decades in the number of trees that line the streets in American cities and we need to reverse this trend, according to the nonprofit group America Forests. Urban trees absorb pollution and keep air quality reasonably good and new research shows that if our air is cleaner, we live longer.
So it's important, when looking at tree-planting organizations or buying carbon credits, that the organization focuses on rebuilding existing forests the way American Forests and the Conservation Fund do.
The Carbon Fund provides a calculator on its Web site that lets visitors estimate their carbon footprint and then plant trees to offset it. Apparently, it would take eight trees to offset the carbon spew into the air every year. And the fund will plant them for me for $93.48 or $11.69 a tree.
For the best rates on CDs, mortgages, savings, credit cards and more, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.