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Tree Equity = Climate Justice

Tree Equity: The fairness and justice that occurs when every neighborhood has enough trees so that every person can reap the benefits that trees have to offer.

“Our cities are not like tropical rainforests that developed on their own … People designed cities. And, unfortunately, they did not factor in the needs of everybody when doing so. The design process was far from inclusive.”


American Forests Senior Manager of Tree Equity, Sarah Lillie Anderson

Reasons for Inequity


Redlining: An illegal, discriminatory practice in which a mortgage lender denies loans or an insurance provider restricts services to certain areas of a community, often because of the racial characteristics of the applicant's neighborhood. Although not in practice anymore, many communities still feel the effects of the policy.


Heat Islands: An urban area with a high concentration of buildings, concrete, roads or asphalt and little to no greenery to mitigate the heat absorption of these materials. These areas have higher temperatures than greener areas due to the greater absorption, retention, and generation of heat by the buildings and roads.


Areas historically redlined experience a disproportionate amount of heat island effect.


This is due to the nearly 30% less tree canopy in redlined areas, as well as increased amounts of impermeable surface such as concrete, asphalt and other built structure.


94% of formerly redlined areas had land surface temperatures as much as 7 °C higher than their non-redlined counterparts (some reports say > 20°F higher).


This affects human health with deadly consequences: no other category of hazardous weather event in the US has caused more fatalities over the last few decades than extreme heat. In addition, 37% of global heat deaths are attributed to climate change.

As climate change accelerates, so too will heat-related deaths.

“The health inequities that exist are not accidents.

They are created by people.”


— Linda Rae Murray, MD, MPH

Retired Chief Medical Officer of Cook County Department of Public Health,

Former President of the American Public Health Association


Trees affect temperature, pollution, flooding, utility costs, real estate values, crime and violence, mental health, learning, memory, and attention, and physical health.

flowers on tree

Trees have the power to:

Lower stress

Improve attention

Reduce aggression and violence

Improve community socialization

Lower blood pressure

Support respiratory health by improving air quality

Reduce temperatures by providing shelter, shade and insulation

Reduce temperatures by capturing carbon

Filter water making drinking supply more reliable and healthier

Support pollinators leading to food security


Curious about your community's tree equity score?

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