The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, and EcoLayers developed a tool that helps property owners estimate the benefit of planting trees in terms of energy saving and carbon footprint reduction.
It is an online tool that uses Google Maps interface. The ‘ecoSmart Landscapes’ not only helps locating existing trees, but it can also guide owners in the process of selecting the most suitable place to plant new trees, calculate and control tree growth based on date of planting and current size, and calculate the amount of currently stored carbon and energy savings.
If you are familiar with using Google Maps, you will have no trouble with navigating ecoSmart Landscapes. Zoom to your property using your address, identify your parcel by using the tool’s point and start feeding the data you have for the trees in your property.
Energy effects and carbon storage are automatically calculated not only for the present but also for the future. This can be used to help choosing the location of your new trees.
The Climate Action Reserve’s Urban Forest Project Protocol that is responsible for quantifying carbon dioxide sequestration from planting tree projects, has approved only one methodology and hence this is the one the calculations within the tool are based on.
The program gives the opportunity to utility companies, municipalities, non-profit and non-governmental organizations to improve urban forestry programs by planting more trees in urban areas.
Currently, the released beta version includes all California climate zones, but the whole of the U.S should be covered in the next few months. Greg McPherson, a research forester at the Pacific Southwest Research Station who helped develop the tool, points out that planting trees in your garden is the best way to save not only energy but the environment too.
The developers plan to incorporate tools for water conservation, infiltration, rainwater interception, runoff reduction and risk from fire, but this will come in the future releases of ecoSmart Landscapes.