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Cool down and soak up with trees

Winter might seem a strange time to think about trees, but just think about how the trees on your street or in the neighborhood park look right now: Gray and bare. Chances are, without their spring and summer foliage, you can see a lot more of your neighborhood than you could before, and a lot more sunlight is hitting your home.

During the hottest parts of the year, well-placed trees are not only beautiful, but they can cut down on your energy bills by reducing the amount of light that falls directly on your house. The Arbor Day Foundation estimates that shading provided by appropriately planted trees can cut your cooling bill by 35%.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension has good information on using trees for summer shading and winter wind blocks at their website.

In addition to reducing your energy bill, trees and other landscaping can soak up CO2 and other pollutants, scrubbing the air clean to both improve local air quality as well as affect climate change. It's a win-win! So start planning now for spring planting, or look for opportunities to get involved with a local garden group, parks and rec program, or other tree-planting effort in your community.

Looking for a way to learn more about trees? The Roanoke Tree Stewards, volunteers for Roanoke Parks and Recreation, are looking for more volunteers to help care for Roanoke's trees and educate the public about trees. The training (free with a commitment to volunteer afterwards) starts January 26th and runs for 9 Monday evenings at 6:30 pm in Room 159 at the Roanoke Municipal Building, 215 W. Church Avenue. Three Saturday field demonstrations are then scheduled for April or May to complete the training.

To sign up, go to www.playroanoke.com, click on the big orange button in the top right corner, and register for the free course #5232 (Tree Steward Training). The deadline to register is January 20th. If you have questions, email Helen.smythers@roanokeva.gov or call 853-5225.

The links, ideas and resources on this site can help you save money. There's even an energy-saving calculator to keep track of your results.

But it's not just about putting more green in your pocket. By making simple changes in how you live and work, you'll help to maintain the high quality of life we enjoy in the Roanoke Valley.

So, go ahead, save a ton. Then share your successes and hints on our Facebook page.