Planting trees is currently needed more than ever. Trees are our most accessible, natural tools to offset CO2, favor biodiversity and save land from erosion and desertification. In essence, they ‘help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and provide habitat to over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity’ as states by One Tree Planted. And besides ‘planting’, we need to ‘grow’ trees, as WeForest claims about its mission and methodology.
If ‘why planting and caring for trees’ is clear, ‘how’ can we do it? There are many ways to help, and you don’t need to volunteer for a vast tree-planting project in a far-away country. In the first place, you could donate money to one of the many organizations that are struggling to finance reforestation initiatives in all the corners of the world. Every contribution, no matter the amount, counts. And, when you are done, feel proud of it and spread the word. We are mentioning some of the NGOs you can donate to below.
However, there are also totally inexpensive ways to plant and conserve trees, ways that make you do it without spending a cent, just, perhaps, a few minutes of your time every now and then. Here we want to introduce some of these options, just pick your favorite one(s) and start planting trees today!
Apps Planting Trees
Apps Planting Trees is a small non-profit project founded and developed by Aimira Baitieva, whose aim is to create Android apps and use profits from ads to plant trees. By showing ads on the apps, they are able to earn money, that is then re-invested in reforestation projects. As they explain on the website, they are not planting trees themselves, but they are rather making donations to Trees for the Future and Eden Reforestation Projects, that plant trees in different locations across Asia and Africa. Financial reports are published every month to make the initiative fully transparent. The tree-planting counter available on the project’s website and in each financial report is quite realistic, as it already accounts for the 80% survival rate of the trees that the project paid for and that were planted.
The apps offered by Apps Planting Trees range from basic ‘productivity’ ones, like a timer and a flashlight, to gaming, like the ‘2048 game’ and and ‘Blocks in space’ (Arkanoid-like game). The users’ privacy is highly valued so that personal information is neither collected nor sold to third parties and the permissions asked while installing the app are the minimum needed to make them work. What are you waiting for to download them on Google Play?
Treeapp allows you to ‘plant a tree for free, every day, in less than a minute’ by cooperating with businesses ‘that have a proven effort towards making the world a little greener’. The way Treeapp works is very simple: you open the app, you choose which project(s) you want to support, you check out three messages or questions that the assigned brand is putting forward and then you have your tree planted! You can then keep track of your impact and of your personal carbon footprint in the app itself. And be assured that information provided by users is anonymized before it reaches the sponsoring brands, as the company is taking users’ privacy very seriously.
How do trees get planted? Every time a user is engaging with their messages or questions, Treeapp’s partners are planting one tree by funding some NGOs that are in charge of the actual reforestation activities. The NGOs that had been carefully selected by Treeapp are Eden Reforestation Projects, One Tree Planted, Renascedd, Green Ethiopia and Friends of Usumbara. GodeFroy Harito, Leo Ng and Jules Buker founded Treeapp in 2019 with the aim of planting 1 million trees in three years, allowing everyone to have an environmental, social and economic impact. The business is currently employing 10x people from 8x different countries and it is based in London.
The annual spending of the advertising industry amounted to over 300 billion US dollars globally in 2019 (source: eMarketer estimate). What if a small fraction of this were used to plant trees? This is the idea behind BubblyTree, a project that is aimed to allow people to plant trees for free just by watching an ‘ethical ad’ on their website or app (beta version currently available on Google Play and App Store, to be officially launched in September 2020).
Watching ads contribute to generating funds to plant trees because BubblyTree is using the money paid by the sponsor to fund projects run by Trees for the Future. Moreover, brands that get promoted on the platform have a sustainability-oriented profile themselves. For example, Mosaiqe, whose ad can be watched on BubblyTree while we are writing, manufactures watches made of ethically sourced wood and 5 trees are planted for every watch they sell.
Bubblytree was registered in December 2016 and officially launched in June 2017 by Heylene Semper and Henry Tran, who had the ambitious dream ‘to plant 100 000 trees within 3 years and 1 million within 5 years’. They live in London and they have complementary skills and experience in Technology, Engineering, Finance, Quality/Sustainability and Business.
TreeClicks is a free browser extension that collects funds to plant trees while you are shopping. Once the plugin is installed, you can fund reforestation projects simply purchasing products as usual in one of TreeClicks’ 50,000+ partner shops, like Amazon, eBay or Walmart. And yes, the price of the items you are shopping will not change. The way the Dutch company generates revenues is by bringing you as a customer to the shops, which are paying TreeClicks a small fee.
The project was started by Jelle Bekirovic in August 2019. Holding skills in software development and marketing, as well as a master degree in Energy and Sustainability, he claims that ‘if all US online shoppers would use TreeClicks, we can plant trees on an area with the size of Ireland’. Currently the browser extension is using part of its revenues to fund reforestation projects in multiple countries financing organizations like One Tree Planted in the Amazon rainforest and in Australia, as well as WeForest in India.
The plugin is available for Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge and Safari. Your privacy is very important to TreeClicks, as they are explaining on this page. Basically, the business is not earning money from your personal data, but rather from commissions paid by partner shops, and its main goal is to plant trees, not to track your shopping. Check it out and install it in one minute!
Last but not least, Ecosia. We have already covered this amazing search engine in a previous article, but it is worth recalling it here, also because it served as inspiration for some of the projects we have mentioned so far, in particular Apps Planting Trees and BubblyTree.
Ecosia was founded by Christian Kroll, Ecosia’s CEO, in December 2009 and it is a social business (a B corporation) currently based in Berlin. At the time of writing, active users of the search engine are over 15 million and Ecosia has invested around 13 million euros to plant more than 104 million trees worldwide, especially in regions where they are needed more. The only thing you have to do to get involved is to install the Ecosia extension on your favorite browser. Form here on, your web searches will be done by Ecosia, which, as all search engines, will earn money from you clicks on sponsored links. Your data will not be sold to any third parties, your searches are encrypted and the Ecosia-internal tracking features can easily be disabled, as your privacy is pivotal for the search engine.
Every 45 web searches you could plant a tree. And every time you book a hotel on the internet you could plant 25. For free and with no further action required on your side. Moreover Ecosia is powered by its own solar plants, so that ‘by planting trees and offsetting its energy use with renewables, each search with Ecosia actually removes 1 kg of CO2 from the air’, which makes the search engine carbon-negative! Haven’t you installed it yet?