It is possible to filter out some of the air, noise and visual pollutants and odours around our homes and properties by growing trees and plants which help filter toxins in our air.The quality of the air we breath is important especially to young children, seniors, obviously the ill and those who work or spend a lot of time in the outdoors. Also planting ground covers around your home can prevent toxic water run off into our vegetable gardens and streams.
Planting trees (a wind row in my grandfather’s day) reduces pollution from prevailing winds (and from neighbouring properties). A wind row should reduce some chemical spray drifts but probably not entire chemical odours although trees will absorb some of the pollutants and odour.
Reasons to plant a wind row
- Home heat conservation (and reducing your home’s greenhouse gas emissions from heating)
- Obviously as a wind or snow break
- Reduce traffic noise
- To cover an unsightly building or view
- Birds love the cover of the trees – and will nest – keeping down bugs
- Good for the environment – plant trees to offset your carbon emissions
- To surround sensitive eco systems
- Livestock protection from sun
- Prevent erosion
- Aesthetically pleasing and increases property value
“Clearing & degradation through human activities
have removed about 80 % of the Earth’s forests”
– Climate Change (Holper & Torok)
Types of trees to grow
These trees are all conifers (evergreen) to grow in B.C. Canada
- Fast growing conifers such as spruce and pine if you have the space
- Columnar hedges like ‘Smaragd’ (Thuja occidentalis). We recently planted an extra 6 foot hedge of these (instead of a solid fence)
- Some cedars such as Western Red Cedar grow 15 feet in several years which may not be the tree for suburban lots due to size as they can grow quite massive (like 60 metres tall)
- Douglas fir and Western hemlocks would do well in a large city lot or farm as they grow 50 to 100 feet
- Native trees in your area – check out local gardens and nurseries
If you have space it is a good idea to plant different types of grass, shrubs and flowers along with the border of trees. Types of vegetation to grow are often natives best suited to the local growing area, weather conditions and soil.
Be careful of your choice of trees in a small property as extremely large trees (such as blue spruce) can create a problem if planted too close to a building. On a large property plant windrows 75 to 100 feet from buildings and plant several rows of trees depending on type of property and climate where you live i.e. farm property, for snow drift prevention, crop or garden protection from prevailing winds (i.e. oceanside property)
Where to plant trees
- Property boundaries
- Beside waterways – this provides migration corridors for plants and animals
- Around stock drinking areas
- Between paddocks
- Around your home
- Around your organic vegetable garden or fruit crops
- On the windward side (prevailing winds) of your property
Chemicals in our Rain – water pollution
What can you do about our rain which in itself is increasing in chemicals:
- If you are able to install a rain water barrel to be used on your vegetable garden it is preferable to using house water which is often treated with chlorine and ammonia (chloramine) and can be contaminated with small amounts of hydrocarbons and nitrates. This also recycles our rain and reduces our household water consumption
- For those living in suburbia here is information on building your own Rain Garden to reduce flooding and filter run off ground water going into our streams
As you can see there are many positive reasons to plant trees and shrubs as windrows as well as improving air quality on your property. Reducing water pollution by planting a rain garden is another great way to improve your health and protect our environment and our homes.
- Fast growing trees are preferable in a suburban lot
- Check out your local outdoor air before venturing outside Health Canada Air Quality Index
- If your vegetable garden is on a slope (or in the bottom of a hill) divert runoff water around the garden and give good drainage
- Depending on the size of your property there is a cost and maintenance required
- It is important to make sure that no livestock effluent run off into natural streams and edible crop areas
- Rain gardens – a new idea to keep and filter ground water from rain and prevent flooding from run off and to reduce water pollution
- If you have a large property grow a plantation of trees and sow perennial wild flowers (for the birds and bees)
- Acid rain (mainly from sulphur & nitrogen) has a more adverse affect on forests and plant life and can change the purity of our streams which can lead to the disappearance of some waterlife
- There are chemicals in natural spring water but also often in large water storage areas.
- Inside our homes – a water filter is a good idea
Links & References
- Primary and secondary wind rows, planting, etc.
- Vegetative buffers in B.C. (for farmers) – Ministry of Agriculture
- USDA Conservation Buffers
- Protection from GMO crops
- Claims that GMO chemical coated seeding is reason for massive bee deaths
- Rain gardens – a new idea to retain and filter ground water from rain and prevent flooding from run off
- The Tree Book – learning to identify trees of British Columbia Canada
- How to become carbon neutral
- POPs (persistent organic pollutants such as aldrin, chlordane, DDT) are polluting our environment and a study from the US Geological Survey states 90% of all wells tested were polluted from pesticides
- Some good tips to keep our waters (and environment) clean from Rockdale, N.S.W. Australia
- Walkerton tragedy – fatal consequences from water polluted by E coli bacteria from farm runoff
- Flood Management paper – World Meteorological Organization
- As a mother, why you should care about our “contaminated environment” if breastfeeding
- A deadly air pollutant in your home you cannot smell – Radon (causes lung cancer)
- Climate Change by P. Holper and S. Torok, CSIRO Publishing, 2008
- Blueprint for a Green Planet by John Seymour & Herbert Girardet, Dorling Kindersley, 1987
Please go to Health Canada Air Quality Index for information on this subject. Here is a quote from Health Canada on what exactly is air pollution and what it contains :
The AQHI is designed as a guide to the relative risk presented by common air pollutants which are known to harm human health. Three specific pollutants have been chosen as indicators of the overall mixture:
- Ground-level Ozone (O3), is formed by photo-chemical reactions in the atmosphere. It can be a major component of smog during the summer, especially during hot sunny weather, but is generally low in the wintertime. Ozone can be transported long distances within a polluted air mass and can be responsible for large regional air pollution episodes.
- Particulate Matter, is a mixture of tiny airborne particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs . These particles can either be emitted directly by vehicles, industrial facilities or natural sources like forest fires, or formed indirectly as a result of chemical reactions among other pollutants. Particulate matter can reflect both local air pollution sources or widespread air pollution episodes.
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), is released by motor vehicle emissions and power plants that rely on fossil fuels. It contributes to the formation of the other two pollutants. Nitrogen dioxide is often elevated in the vicinity of high traffic roadways and other local sources.
All three can have serious, combined effects on human health–from illness to hospitalization to premature death–even as a result of short-term exposure. Significantly, all of these pollutants appear to threaten human health, even at low levels of exposure, especially among those with pre-existing health problems.
… and three stunning side affects from air pollution (Health Canada)
Air pollution may also contribute to the development of new cases of heart and lung disease.
The World Health Organization recently estimated that 800,000 deaths per year worldwide (1.4% of all deaths) could be attributed to urban outdoor air pollution.
In Canada, scientific evidence based on data from eight Canadian cities shows that 5,900 deaths can be linked to air pollution every year.