Forests are fantastic. They not only absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, but they also create cooling cloud cover that reflects sunlight back into space as well as provide the habitat that supports diverse ecosystems.
Reforestation is therefore one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. As carbon offsetting falls out of favour, tree-planting is fast becoming one of the most popular and accessible routes for people to help the planet. As a result, there are thousands of sustainability providers looking to help channel your money towards a good cause.
However, not all schemes produce the same results. Before you jump into any reforestation project, be sure to check the credentials of your providers to make sure your donations are having the maximum impact.
Here are our top tips for checking if a reforestation scheme is legit:
What’s the additionality?
Is the tree going to be planted solely because of you? Or are you a last-minute addition?
Often trees are not planted with carbon capture as their primary goal, but use reforestation as a way to boost funding. Take the agro-forestry industry as an example. Although your money may contribute to the planting of a tree in an orchard, the primary goal of the business is to generate revenue from selling fruit and it’s likely that the trees would have been planted with or without your financial contribution.
Of course it’s great to see trees being planted and know that they will sequester carbon as an added bonus, however your contribution in not resulting in additional trees. You’re better off placing your money in a scheme that is focused purely on trees for environmental reasons.
What’s the conservation plan?
Thanks to the global emphasis on emissions reductions, whole industries have emerged dedicated to carbon offsetting. These organisations plant trees and sell the carbon credits to businesses.
Unfortunately, the entire lifecycle of the tree is often overlooked. Forestry companies will claim the carbon credits on planted trees, only to cut down the trees once they reach maturity and sell the timber. So although the tree does a good job of storing carbon dioxide for its lifecycle, its long-term benefits are literally cut short.
An even worse scenario is if the forest goes up in flames. All of that good work will go to waste, releasing sequestered CO2 back into the atmosphere. As forest fires become more of a regular threat around the world, the agro-forestry companies need to make sure they have resilient conservation plans to ensure the carbon stays locked away in trees.
What’s the ongoing impact?
Trees continue growing, so are the carbon-reduction gifts that keep on giving. The trees that your donations support will carry on sequestering carbon and helping the planet heal. You want to be able to watch this progress, right?
Some sustainability providers can be loose with the truth. You could be buying a stock photo of a tree and a pin on Google Maps. And in some cases, up to 80% of a donation is absorbed by third parties, limiting your potential impact.
However, new technology is making it much easier to track your donation and follow its growing impact. Look for providers that aim to keep you connected with your contribution through transparent reporting.
Reforestation is one of the most inspiring and impactful ways to help protect our planet. At Handprint, we’re connecting businesses with on-the-ground reforestation initiatives focused on regenerating the planet. Users can track how their donations are being used in real-time and watch how their positive impact grows over time. They can also share and embed this data via their own channels.
To find out how you or your company can help the planet through regenerating natural ecosystems, try out Handprint’s Regenerative Target Calculator.