The Case for Shade

By Gwen Kozlowski, Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program

On a hot summer day, it’s hard to resist the shade of a large tree. Planting trees to create shaded spaces has been integral into planning parks, schools and university campuses, businesses, as well as around our streets and homes. When planted properly a mature tree can save a homeowner up to 20% on energy costs (Arbor Day Foundation). For homes without air conditioning, shade trees can make the home feel cooler during summer heat.
One aspect that is often overlooked is that shade provided by trees can help reduce your risk of skin cancer. There is a complex relationship between skin cancer and sun exposure. But it is well established that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the likely causes of skin cancer.

According to research conducted at Purdue University, “urban trees reduce ultraviolet radiation, especially UV-B radiation, which is known to cause skin cancer. A person standing in direct sunlight takes 20 minutes to burn. Under a tree providing 50% coverage, it takes 50 minutes to burn. Under full shade it takes 100 minutes for one to get a sunburn.”

Trees provide this service to us for free, but it is important to remember that trees are a resource to our communities.  And like any other resource, we must invest and maintain it to ensure that trees grow tall, are healthy, and provide a full canopy of shade. So, how do you make the case for shade in your community? Plant a tree in your yard, take a class on tree stewardship, or advocate for the importance of investing in trees in your communities! #HealthyTreesHealthyLives

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The Urban and Community Forestry Committee is comprised of urban forestry coordinators from each of the 20 member states and the District of Columbia. Urban forestry coordinators are responsible for leading state-level urban forestry programs in their respective states. Urban forestry is about the trees where people live, work and play - and so, includes trees and forests in our towns, along our streets, in our parks and in our backyards. State coordinators work with a wide range of constituents and partners including: local and tribal governments, school districts, nonprofits and community-based organizations all focused on improving the stewardship of trees and the ecosystem services they provide.

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