The value of ‘green’ revisited

In several blogs, I have talked about the importance of ‘value’ and suggested there is a Nobel Prize waiting for someone, anyone who can work out how to add up economic value, social value and environmental value to get to a ‘total value’ concept.  Recently, I blogged about the value of green trees and how I find that green trees soften the structural bluntness of buildings, particularly new ones.  Now I find that someone is actually working on this value of ‘green’!  Perhaps the hunt for the Nobel Prize is on.In The Guardian Australia on April 25, David Ferguson wrote an article supporting my idea about the value of green (‘Trees make our lives better in unquantifiable ways’).  Thanks David for the support.

But more intriguing was a reference he made to a Texas company (trees in Texas? value of trees? really??), i-Tree, which is trying to develop an index of how much green you can see from any point in a city, how your body reacts to it (apparently less cortisol is given off when you see greenery), and what the economic value of this is.  i-Tree plans to measure the economic value from air-scrubbing (taking carbon dioxide out and returning oxygen), reducing noise pollution (it has to be a pretty dense tree to do this in my experience, but good idea), neighbourhood beautifiers (yes, I completely agree with this) and natural stress relievers (again I agree completely, as I always feel more relaxed around or in treed areas, or even shrubs and gardens generally).  Personally, I think some of these concepts of ‘value’ are social value or environment value rather than straight economic value, but value they are.

Ferguson claims that evidence exists to show that cities with more trees are cooler, have less air pollution, less respiratory illnesses, use less energy and have higher property values.  Win-win-win-win!

But to demonstrate that it will really take a huge effort worthy of a Nobel Prize to measure and prove these types of ‘value’,  Ferguson argues that, in addition, for him trees also offer many intangible, unmeasurable benefits.  As a child, he used to sit in the branches of trees, just thinking ‘long, slow thoughts’.

He concludes his article:

I challenge all the legions of bean-counting accountants in the world to put a dollar value on that.  I don’t think you can.

I disagree, but we’ll have to wait for someone – perhaps like i-Tree, to do that calculation. Using the psychological concept of visualisation, I feel better just thinking about those trees.  I wonder how you value that…




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