Skip to content

Green is Good

A pink rabbit in holds an unfolded map and looks up with it’s mouth open. Above is a canopy of leafy green trees that part in a heart shape to reveal a blue sky.

Written by Jem Barrett
Illustrated by Jasmine Fu

I love trees. And I would guess that this is a fairly common sentiment. After all, how many would truly, wholeheartedly, disagree with such a statement? They’re majestic, giants of the natural world, and they are everywhere, even in a city as urban as Toronto. However, have you ever taken some time, even just 5 minutes, to truly admire a tree?

Trees are beautiful, inherently valuable, and a primary producer of the oxygen we breathe, and the benefits don’t end there. Trees provide shade, helping to cool us down in Toronto’s hot, humid summers, and allowing us to keep the air conditioning on low. They improve air quality, mitigating the effects of air pollution, and even help us manage the impact of storms and flooding.

Now these are all rather intuitive traits of the greenery around us and likely have already been discussed in everyone’s high school biology class. However, over the last 25 years a steady stream of research has emerged exploring the countless benefits of being in nature. The mere presence of trees promotes our well-being, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Humans find nature calming. Those who live more than 1 km away from green space have 1.42 times higher odds of experiencing stress than those living within 300 m of a park.1 Being able to immerse ourselves in nature at any given moment has an immense impact on stress and anxiety reduction.

As for physical well-being, patients in hospitals don’t even need to step outside into nature to experience these benefits. Those who recovered in rooms with a view of trees experienced smoother post-surgery recoveries and shorter hospital stays than those whose windows looked out over brick walls and parking lots.2 Increased tree canopy cover around nursing homes across the United States is linked with fewer residents suffering from depression3. This pattern of increased tree canopy cover leading to physical health benefits can be tracked throughout our lives, from the very beginning. Greater canopy cover near a mother’s home reduces the risk of her babies being born underweight, a correlation that has been documented across multiple continents.4,5 Already we can see the benefits that could arise if urban planning prioritized increasing the number of trees planted and overall canopy cover around hospitals and in neighbourhoods with schools, full of young families.

This association between natural surroundings and health benefits continues as we head towards adolescence. Kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are able to concentrate better after going for a 20 minute walk in a city park than after having taken a walk downtown or even around a residential neighbourhood.6 Maybe someday, health practitioners will prescribe a “dose of  nature” alongside more traditional medication.

For those in high school, exposure to nature during lunch times is linked to better performance on standardized tests, higher graduation rates, and an increased percentage of students planning to attend college post-graduation.7 It’s almost hard to believe that the difference between your high school cafeteria having a window with a picturesque forest view or yet another concrete parking lot can shape what the rest of your life looks like. But then again, as we now know this pattern pops up again and again throughout the course of our lives.

While there remain many avenues for future research to untangle the numerous variables at play, the take home message is that time in nature is time well-spent. On this note, I am signing off and going for a walk in the park. Check out the identification key below if you’d like to join me in spotting a few of Toronto’s most common street trees!

Three leaves and a branch lay on the ground in dappled sunlight. A yellow ginko tree leaf, a red Norway Maple leaf, a green Honey locust leaf and a branch of blue spruce. White text and arrows label each plant.

Last, but definitely not the least, spices! Not only do they add joy to your food, but they are also beneficial for our health! You may be familiar with curcumin, which comes from turmeric, is not only a mood regulator but also a tumor repressor having the ability to shut down molecules produced under mental stress conditions causing cancer tumors5. Especially when its ability to cross the blood brain barrier is considered, it’s an amazing source to stop the growth of tumors of the nervous system5. It was suggested that curcumin might be creating this effect by inhibiting a pathway that causes the growth of tumor cells, however more research is necessary to discover the exact mechanism5.

Now that you know all of these benefits, you can pick your plant babies in the best combination to help yourself! Maybe you’ll pick turmeric as your next plant and use its curcumin to cook, or maybe some beautiful lavender scent to help you relax after a long day…

(Needless to say, don’t exclude the cuteness factor! Any plant baby is precious regardless of how it helps you!)



  1. Stigsdotter UK, Ekholm O, Schipperijn J, Toftager M, Kamper-Jørgensen F, Randrup TB. 2010. Health promoting outdoor environments – Associations between green space, and health, health-related quality of life and stress based on a Danish national representative survey. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 38: 411-417.
  2. Ulrich RS. 1984. View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery. Science 224(4747): 420-421.
  3. Browning MHEM, Lee K, Wolf KL. 2019. Tree covers shows an inverse relationship with depressive symptoms in elderly residents living in U.S. nursing homes. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 41: 23-32.
  4. Donovan GH, Michael YL, Butry DT, Sullivan AD, Chase JM. 2011. Urban trees and the risk of poor birth outcomes. Health Place 17: 390-393.
  5. Dadvand P, Sunyer J, Basagaña X, Ballester F, Lertxundi A, Fernández-Somoano A, et al. 2012. Surrounding greenness and pregnancy outcomes in four Spanish birth cohorts. Environ Health Perspect. 120: 1481-1487.
  6. Faber Taylor A, Kuo F. 2009. Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. J Atten Disord 12: 402-409.
  7. Matsuoka RH. 2010. Student performance and high school landscapes: examining the links. Landsc Urban Planning 97: 273-282.
  8. KBM Resources Group, Lallemand Inc./BioForest and Dillon Consulting Limited. 2018. Tree Canopy Study – Technical Report. City of Toronto. Available from:
  9. Eckenwalder JE, Metsger DA, Dickinson TA, Hodges SH. 2023. A Field Guide to Trees of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario.