Trees Help Improve the Health and Well-Being of Louisville

See what happens when diverse partners come together to make a city healthier, happier and more livable.

In Louisville, neighbors and partners are coming together to plant trees, making their communities healthier, cooler and more livable. What’s happening in Louisville is a great example of what’s possible when The Nature Conservancy and our many local partners work together. By taking care of our natural resources, we can ensure that communities have urban forests for cities to thrive in a changing climate.

Louisville is a remarkable city, full of diverse, vibrant and welcoming neighborhoods. It is also one of the fastest warming cities in the country.

Satellite photo of Louisville from August, 2014, showing hot spots in red.
Recent research has shown that Louisville’s average temperature is increasing by about .5 degrees F per decade, putting some residents at risk of health issues – including the very young, very old and chronically ill – and driving energy bills and pollution levels higher. Because of its built environment and position near the Ohio River, Louisville’s temperatures create an “urban heat island” effect, where smog and heat result in increased asthma, allergies and heart disease.

Louisville’s heat island has been steadily worsening over the decades, especially in low-income neighborhoods, where temperatures can be 20 degrees higher than surrounding areas.

Increasing the area of a city’s tree canopy is a good way to help cool the streets and reduce the heat island effect. A healthy tree canopy not only provides shade, it can also improve air quality by removing pollutants, store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

The Nature Conservancy recently partnered with the city of Louisville, Brown-Forman, UPS and community and faith-based organizations to plant more than 155 trees in diverse and under-invested neighborhoods. The Nature Conservancy’s Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities Initiative prioritizes projects by engaging community leaders around nature-based solutions to improve the health and well-being for both people and nature.

“We’re trying to make a positive change in this community, one block at a time,” says Cheri Bryant Hamilton, who represents the Fifth District on the Louisville Metro Council (shown at right). “I’m getting to know more about The Nature Conservancy. I’m excited about their urban focus, and that’s going to be huge for our community.”

The Nature Conservancy is working with the city and other partners to take a scientific approach to understanding how trees can help improve Louisville residents’ health. We already know that restoring urban forests can improve a city’s quality of life by lowering energy costs, reducing noise pollution, improving outdoor recreation and increasing neighborhood property values.

Engaging youth and urban communities in environmental stewardship now will inspire a new generation of leaders to tackle the challenge of making cities and communities sustainable places to live.

The Nature Conservancy is working in 13 cities across the US to advance the role that nature plays in providing clean water, healthy trees, strong coastlines and the youth leadership cities need to naturally  thrive.

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