James Pinsky: Hug a tree: It’s OK!

James Pinsky


The other day I got called a tree hugger.

I smiled, despite knowing the tone was meant to insult me.

After all, I’ve always believed insults were just compliments said from the wrong perspective.

I just don’t see the problem with hugging trees. Of all living things in this world, trees are probably some of the most huggable. Grizzly bears certainly aren’t.

Most trees I know are tall, strong and quite capable of dealing with whatever drama we might bring with our hugs. Get dumped by our sweetheart? No problem. That Loblolly Pine will hold us up a lot longer than our buddies and never say I told you so. That alone is a hug-worthy trait these days. I’m also pretty sure trees don’t care if we’re smelly, well-dressed, tall, short, skinny, or fat or even a New York Yankees fan. And, unlike most office coworkers and random strangers on the streets, trees are always ready to be hugged with no concerns for personal space which might land us in our human resources office. Yes, trees are great for hugging.

Now, here’s the best part: trees ought to be hugged. Not just today or even tomorrow, but every single day. I mean even more than our brownie-baking grandmas’ folks.

Sure, grandmas bring us hand-knitted sweaters or that extra $20 bill we need for the movies, but even the world’s greatest grandparents can’t give us what trees do – oxygen! This alone is also a hug-worthy trait.

Trees do much more for us than provide a silly little need-to-live thing like oxygen; trees give us food like apples, cherries, and pecans. They also give us lumber, shade, a place to hang our hammocks, and back rests for midday naps.

Trees totally deserve hugs.

To hug a tree in the first place, the first thing we have to do is make sure we have some. We here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District are all about making sure we have plenty of trees by helping to ensure there is plenty of nutrient-rich soil and clean water for trees to take root in the first place. After all, we want our bark-covered hugging buddies to be healthy so they’re around when we need them. I mean sure, sick trees are still huggable, (let’s not be rude) but like that poor sick friend with the bad cough and kitty litter breath, it’s awkward.

According to the United States Department of Forestry having healthy trees can do a lot more for us than attract squirrels. The United States Department of Forestry said when trees are properly cared for they are valuable assets worth three times our initial investment.
Our federal forest friends said healthy trees mean:
• Healthy people: 100 trees remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of other air pollutants per year.
• Healthy communities: Tree-filled neighborhoods lower levels of domestic violence and are safer and more sociable.
• Healthy environment: One hundred mature trees catch about 139,000 gallons of rainwater per year.
• Homeowner savings: Strategically placed trees save up to 56 percent on annual air-conditioning costs. Evergreens that block winter winds can save 3 percent on heating.
• Better business: Consumers shop more frequently and longer in tree-lined commercial areas and are willing to spend more.
• Higher property values: Each large front yard tree adds to a home’s sale price.

Trees do a lot more for us than simply serve as unconditional hugging posts. In fact, I bet pound for pound, or maybe, leaf-for-leaf, the trees in our backyards have probably done more to improve our lives then even our very best friends; and, trees are never going to ask us to help them move, babysit or post embarrassing photos of us on social media.

So yes, I’m a tree-hugger. The real insult might belong to those of us who aren’t.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.