Planting and conserving shade trees

by Irene Stillings, Executive Director, San Diego Regional Energy Office

At a time when energy issues are increasingly complex, the simple act of planting shade trees is fueling local efforts to reduce energy consumption and the environmental impact of energy use in San Diego County.

    The San Diego Regional Energy Office (SDREO) has joined forces with various organizations, including People for Trees, to create the Cool Communities Shade Tree Program, a tree-planting project with a goal of planting 8,333 trees throughout San Diego County by the end of 2003. By naturally cooling a home or school, shade trees reduce the need for air conditioning, which decreases energy consumption and energy costs.

    The Cool Communities Shade Tree Program is energized by the results of recent research conducted by the Center for Urban Forest Research in Davis, California, which found that 177 million shade trees have already been planted in California and are saving $1 billion annually in air conditioning costs and reducing peak load demand by 10 percent. The research also found that if Californians are able to plant 50 million more shade trees in strategic locations on the west and east side of residential buildings, in 15 years the annual energy savings will total enough power for 1.4 million homes and 3.5 million people – more than the entire population of San Diego County.

    The Cool Communities Shade Tree Program provides eligible participants, homeowners and schools, with free 4- to 7-foot trees, tree planting supplies and tips, and information materials on optimal planting locations, and continuing care training. Long-term benefits of the program include electricity bill reductions, increased property values, reduced storm-water runoff, and improved air quality.

    More information: San Diego Regional Energy Office,; People for Trees,; Center for Urban Forest Research,