Tree Planting

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Posted on 2022-11-17

Why Partner with a Tree Planting Business

The corporate and charitable sectors have long practiced tree planting, as it has become a safe and unobtrusive strategy for the philanthropic arm of many large businesses. What started as PR fodder has now become an essential component of many companies’ sustainability plans. 

At the scale at which many companies operate, it can be tempting for them to organize tree-planting drives on their own. Tree planting seems like one of those low-effort, high-return initiatives, and this leads some groups to strike out on their own, planting trees where they see empty land. However, this isn’t the best approach for many reasons, including the ones we’ve listed below.

You can’t plant any kind of tree anywhere

While the process of tree planting seems easy on the surface, it is a highly scientific process that takes into account many environmental factors, such as soil conditions, native species, another biodiversity, and rainfall. Not every tree will survive everywhere in the world — in the wrong place; non-natives might die, develop a disease, or become invasive and destroy other vegetation in the area. Some tree varieties also need extensive pruning and care, which, if you can’t provide them, may just burden the community and negate all the effort you put into planting the tree.

Tree planting can be an opaque process if done wrong

Despite the growing number of organizations that offer this element of climate action to anyone and everyone under the sun, we often find that transparency is left in the dust. The process doesn’t end once the tree is planted — you will want to know whether it’s making a difference, like restoring biodiversity or sequestering a good amount of carbon. Anything less than that is greenwashing. Unfortunately, good-hearted consumers are often misled by strategies and end up supporting tree-planting drives that aren’t as clean as they make themselves out to be. Therefore we always recommend partnering with a tree-planting business that is open and transparent about how they conduct tree planting. 

One-off tree-planting projects may not have as significant an impact as we’d like

According to American Forests, if we carried out sporadic projects everywhere, as is still the custom for most tree planting organizations, we wouldn’t really make a significant impact. To make a measurable difference, we would have to focus on specific areas of the world or issues for years on end. That level of dedication may be impossible for a company, but it is very much the core value of a tree-planting organization.

Why you should partner with a tree planting business

If your goal is to do tree planting right, then you’ll want to find a partner that aligns with your business values and culture. Here is why we recommend partnering with a tree-planting business like EcoMatcher.

You can decide on your level of involvement

There are collaborations where the company just contributes financial resources, and expert farmers plant the trees. Other businesses could choose to include their own staff members in planting or engage with children to educate them. Partnering with a tree-planting organization allows you to choose your level of involvement while also having expert help on hand. 

You can identify impact at scale

A good tree-planting organization typically has scientists and experts who can clearly show the impact of your business’ support at scale. This is usually backed by years of data that they’ve collected from their many efforts around the world. Ideally, they would have set up trackers to measure key metrics, such as how much carbon has been sequestered or how much flooding or erosion has reduced. EcoMatcher allows you to see much of this data for yourself on your smartphone, which is a higher level of transparency and involvement. The EcoMatcher system, for example, can help you virtually travel to every tree, learn more about each tree and farmer, view your ESG report, and even calculate your annual carbon footprint. 

You can make a difference where it actually counts

As we said earlier, there are places where it doesn’t make sense to plant a tree, especially if it’s an invasive or non-native species. Partnering with a tree-planting organization ensures you don’t do more harm than good and make a difference in the parts of the world where it counts. Mongabay, for example, has an extremely helpful resource that helps anyone filter among over 350 tree-planting initiatives in 80 different countries. If you’d rather go through a trusted intermediary, then EcoMatcher can help — we have partnered with carefully selected organizations in parts of the world, including Indonesia, India, and Madagascar, where the effects of climate change are rife.

You can free your mind of the logistics

Imagine finding the appropriate sapling, finding the right land, digging a hole, watering the sapling, spraying fertilizer and pesticide, and doing this every day. Now multiply that by a thousand, and you can see that tree planting can be labor-intensive and much more difficult for those without experience in doing this at scale. Partnering with a tree-planting business ensures that you can free your mind of the logistics of tree planting while still making a difference and staying involved. 

You can have a global impact

Carrying out tree planting on our own means that we would be severely limited by where we are, how far we can travel, and what we can locally source. However, when you partner with a tree-planting organization, you can make an impact on any part of the world that truly needs your help without having to travel or physically plant the trees yourself. EcoMatcher, for example, leverages the power of technology to enable a global impact while helping organizations be close to the tree through pictures, details of the farmers, and other constant updates. You no longer have to limit your impact to the local area but can be known for your generosity in other parts of the world, too.

You can think long-term

There is a massive difference between “planting trees” and “sustaining a forest.” The former can be done in an afternoon; the latter takes years and is much more environmentally complex. Tree-planting organizations help companies focus on the entire process, from sourcing and planting seedlings to seeing the tree grow over many years. We must remember that tree planting is a means to an end: conserving and restoring ecosystems.

The final word

As we said, a tree is a proxy for a much more complex goal, one that is measured in biodiversity, livelihood security, and the protection of the planet. Partnering with a tree-planting organization can help companies think more large-scale and long-term in order to maximize their impact and make the best use of their resources and time. 

If you don’t know where to start, why not start with EcoMatcher? We partner with vetted tree-planting NGOs and businesses that plant the right trees at the right time in the right place. We leverage blockchain and technology to make this tree planting accessible and inclusive. At the same time, we support local livelihood, see the forest and not just the trees, and make positive climate change possible at a global level. We’d love for you to join us.  

Posted on 2022-08-17

How Tree Planting Engages and Empowers Women

There is a growing understanding that the issue of climate change cannot be handled in a vacuum while the world strives to solve it. For long, there wasn’t much noise about the socio-political dimensions of climate change, because its interpretation focused only on biophysical aspects. Issues like gender norms, gender pay gaps, and power imbalances were overlooked, which only served to accentuate them and exclude groups of the population even more. 

Vulnerable communities, in particular, are disproportionately affected by climate change. Women happen to be one of those vulnerable groups. Even if they contribute extraordinarily to restoration initiatives, existing social norms and secondary treatment ensure they don’t get the benefits of their labor.

Today’s discourse on restoration needs a reorientation of perspective. How might we put social equity, especially that of women, squarely in the center of discourse instead of on the fringes like in the past few decades? If 17 studies from around the world that dove into this subject are anything to go by, then we’d see massive improvements in conservation and natural resource governance at local, national, and global scales. 

Tree planting can empower women

Tree planting has long been hailed as one of the tried-and-tested fail-safes for averting climate change. When planted with care, they can contribute to bettering women’s rights and gender equality in both overt and covert ways.

1.    Tree planting brings women’s voices into the discussion

According to statistics, males are more likely to be interested in tree species that generate cash than women, who veer towards food- and medicine-producing species. They usually have ingrained expert knowledge about these trees, but are often silenced where it matters most. By attempting to strike a balance between the two, we’ll naturally be able to bring women to the table, and involve them in deciding which trees to plant, where, and at what frequency. 

2.    Tree planting gives women ownership over land 

Women do not inherit or own land in several nations across the world. Traditionally, males receive land inheritances. Planting trees gives women the ability to break the domination of male landowners and take an active role in caring for their families’ and communities’ property. For instance, women leaders in Papua New Guinea form organizations in their communities and receive practical training from forestry officials as well as instruction in conservation from the Papua New Guinea Research and Conservation Foundation. After that, the women construct their own nurseries, distribute trees, and/or plant them. Additionally, they present community education sessions on tree planting and native plant and animal protection.

3.    Tree planting provides jobs, income, and education opportunities

Reforestation can increase women’s income both directly and indirectly. Through collaboration with organizations like EcoMatcher, they have direct access to the revenue they generate and need to survive. Reforestation of their immediate region indirectly promotes higher biodiversity, which has long-term advantages for survival and subsistence (especially for foraging communities).

To be able to participate in reforestation activities, women often have to undergo training and environmental education, covering long-term tree care, sustainable farming and foraging practices, and the basics of running a business of their own. It’s also an excellent opportunity for youth because they can start early and become experts much sooner than their previous generations. This way, they increase their skillset and can contribute much more to the family income, and this happy cycle continues. 

4.    Tree planting can reduce forced migration into urban areas

The lack of jobs in rural areas can lead men to go searching for better opportunities in urban areas. Sometimes, they may go with families in tow, but in many communities around the world, the women stay back to look after the household and take over agricultural labor. This widens the gender gap and leaves women still vulnerable. It has been demonstrated that reforestation, especially sustainable agroforestry, lessens the need for rural residents to leave their homes in pursuit of opportunities in metropolitan areas. Women’s lives are immediately enhanced by reducing the amount of work they are forced to do. 

5.    Tree planting raises the collective sensibilities of the community

Wangari Maathai, a well-known social, environmental, and political activist and the first African to earn the Nobel Peace Prize, believed education was crucial to empower women and society. Raising internal hurdles to take part in tree planting and defending one’s rights requires education. Information is vital for women to understand their rights to take action since it gives them the capacity to demand what is rightfully theirs and avoid being exploited. 

When just a handful of women receive this education, they can pass it on to others in the community. This raises the resilience and independence of the community as a whole, which makes them less vulnerable to climate change and more hands-on in asking for what they need from the world. As Wangari Maathai said to British officers in the Kenyan forestry service, “We need millions of trees, and you foresters are too few; you’ll never produce them. So you need to make everyone foresters.” She added, “I call the women of the Green Belt Movement foresters without diplomas.”

Bonus: What women can bring to the tree planting initiative

When women are involved in conservation techniques and are given the knowledge and training to guide their efforts, they tend to make better judgments about managing natural resources. Men only reinvest 30–40% of their money back into their families and communities; women put a whopping 90% of it back. Additionally, research demonstrates that women are more likely to make judgments that advance the welfare of others and the public good since communal needs rather than individual wants typically drive their activities. Numerous on-the-ground restoration projects have demonstrated that including women in conservation efforts not only tackles gender inequity but also strengthens, sustains, and improves the projects’ quality. All this makes women empowerment a powerful socio-political initiative to support — one that saves people and the planet. It’s a sure win-win.

Reducing barriers to entry

The route to using tree planting to empower women is not an easy one. A report from the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR) provides insights into gender-responsive actions that forest projects, programs, and policies can consider. These include:

  • Developing performance-based agreements for the planting and upkeep of trees on farms with shared spouse signatures.
  • Enabling registration for initiatives relating to the forest in conveniently accessible locations where women already go, like schools, health centers, community centers
  • Giving direct payments to women (for instance, by cellphone) for initiatives like agroforestry and forest restoration

The final word

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, but there is strong evidence that educating girls and empowering women is essential to influence climate action significantly. You can support a future that is fairer to vulnerable communities and rural parts of the world by becoming an EcoMatcher partner. When you plant a tree or adopt a forest with us, you support the livelihood of women farmers in Indonesia, Uganda, Guatemala, Thailand, Nepal, India, Ecuador, Kenya, Madagascar, Haiti, and more. You can help reverse climate change and, at the same time, combat gender imbalances so we may all advance towards a greener future, together!

Posted on 2022-07-17

6 Ways to Plant More Trees This Year

In maintaining the environment’s critical balance, trees perform a unique function. As the longest-living plant species in the world, they are not only crucial for survival but also act as a bridge between the past, present, and future. 

Tree planting was once upon a time something that only farmers, gardeners, and people with green thumbs would do. We relied heavily on these people (and nature) to keep our planet green. Today, however, tree planting is something everyone can partake in, regardless of age, geography, or gender. It’s a good thing, too, considering that deforestation and land abuse have made us need green cover more than ever before.

That said, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Can one plant a tree right in our garden? How do we choose the right tree for the right climate? How many trees can one person plant on their own? There are plenty of questions once you dive into the process of tree planting. We want to help you add the most value!

Ways to plant more trees this year

To help you get started, we’re recommending some excellent ways to embark on your tree planting journey! 

1.    Join an urban tree planting session

If you look outside your window and all you see is a concrete jungle, chances are you would love some trees to invite nature back into the city and make the air a little less polluted. It’s a fact that the city of the future (and the future of the city) is one that co-exists with forests. That involves trees planted in predominantly urban areas and thick forest cover surrounding them.

However, you can’t just go outside and plant any old tree, so we recommend joining an urban tree planting session. The NGOs and groups that organize these sessions usually evaluate when and where to plant the trees—and what trees to plant—so all you have to do to make a difference is show up. 

2.    Support businesses that plant and conserve trees

It’s common knowledge now that today’s consumers are eco-conscious and can make or break a brand. Although it may seem like a small action, supporting brands that actively conserve forests and populate deforested areas with more trees is a great way to get involved in the activity yourself. Many drops make an ocean, and so many actions send a signal to other companies that prioritize profit over the environment. A word to the wise: we recommend doing your due diligence, so you aren’t greenwashed. If you’re looking at supporting a company purely because they plant trees, it is worth doing your research and asking them questions, including where do they plant trees? Are they native species? Is the company supporting local communities through this? After all, “more trees” isn’t always the correct answer — but when done correctly, tree planting can make a massive difference.

3.    Use your political rights to lobby for tree planting

No matter how many trees we plant on our own, people who have the power to change laws and policies also need to understand how urgent it is to increase the amount of forest cover. In addition to individual tree planting activities, systematic governmental power is essential for conserving the environment. You can start at the grassroots level by speaking to your local council and attending Town Hall meetings. You might find others of a like mind who are willing to add their voice to yours and make much louder noise. We’d also recommend looking at party manifestos and historical records to see which political parties have promised assistance for the environment and acted on it. Many NGOs put out petitions that you can sign to express your support. In a world where climate change is highly politicized, your voice, vote, and money count!

4.    Adopt trees from a tree-planting organization

One way to bypass the confusion of where to plant and what trees to plant is to partner up with an existing tree-planting organization. These global organizations have spent years researching what areas of the world are in desperate need of forest cover and how their support can uplift local communities. You can start by reading their documentation which should ideally answer all the questions we addressed in point #2. Start small by adopting one or two trees.

EcoMatcher allows you to do so for a minimal price and gives you complete access to information about the tree, including species, where it’s planted, who the farmer is, and how well it’s growing year on year. You can even visit the tree at its location if you want to see it yourself!

This is a great way to do many good deeds at once: green the earth, reforest an area that needs it, uplift a local community, and signal to the world that you’re using your purchasing power on companies that benefit the planet. All without actually needing to plant the tree yourself!

5.    Plant trees with every internet search

8.5 billion — that’s the number of searches Google processes in a single day. And each of these searches emits about 7 grams of carbon dioxide into the environment. If you do the math, you’ll see an alarming amount of CO2 being sent into the atmosphere from something we do almost without thinking. But today, you can offset your carbon emissions with each search by simply switching your search engine from Google to one like Ecosia. According to the company, every 45 searches on Ecosia generates enough profit to plant one tree. They focus on tree planting initiatives in areas with high biodiversity to preserve the greatest number of plant and animal species. 

6.    Donate to a tree-planting charity

Many local communities already have decades of expertise in planting trees, but often don’t have the funds for upkeep and maintenance. As a result, their well-meaning interest is of little value — but you can help. Donating to a local community that plants trees, or a tree-planting charity if you’re in the city, is a great way to give funds to those who need them and indirectly plant trees. If you want to double your contributions, consider asking your employer to match your donation as a CSR initiative. If entire teams do this, you can generate a lot of money to give to vetted charities that increase forest cover on your behalf. 

Bonus: Give as much importance to conservation as to reforestation. We have thick forest cover in many parts of the world today, but they’re in immense danger already. Using your political and financial power to protect and preserve existing forests will make your tree planting work all the more potent!

The final word

While “go out and plant a tree in your backyard!” is straightforward advice, it’s not valuable because it doesn’t consider the nuances of tree planting, one’s financial abilities, and where we live. Instead, by following one (or a few) of these steps, you’ll be able to plant trees directly or indirectly and help green the planet much more! If done consciously and in the right places with the suitable species, tree planting can help us bring a little more balance back into the world.

Posted on 2022-05-24

Sometimes, “More Trees” Isn’t the Answer

Tree planting is one of the most widely proposed solutions to climate change, and for a good reason. Just one mature tree can absorb 25 kilograms of CO2 in a year. Another study found that forests act as a “carbon sink” capable of absorbing 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 per year, more than they release when degraded or cleared.

Given those staggering statistics, world leaders have pledged to restore 350 million hectares of forests by 2030. On paper, it might be tempting to plant trees everywhere there’s empty space. Indeed, savannahs and grasslands have hectares of land covered mostly by a grassy layer and sporadically growing trees. They total 20% of the Earth’s land surface and are home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and a billion humans. Yet in places like this, climate change and habitat loss aren’t the only threat — tree planting is, too!

Where we shouldn’t plant more trees (and why)

Unlike forests, grass-dominated ecosystems in the tropics can be degraded not just by losing trees, but also by increasing them. Studies conducted in South Africa, Brazil, and Australia show that tree planting can actually increase biodiversity loss in grasslands and savannahs. Why is that the case?

More trees can upset the food chain

Trees can reduce the chances of wildfires, given that the grass in these regions is often dry and arid. However, those fires actually serve a purpose: they remove vegetation covering the ground-layer plants that zebra and antelope feed on. More trees also provide extra cover to predators, which means herbivores are more likely to be eaten. That, again, can upset the food chain and the larger ecosystem.

Trees can reduce water supply

In grassy ecosystems, streams and rivers are critical for both animals and humans (who might also depend on these for their livelihood and transport). Increasing tree cover can actually reduce the amount of water in these watering holes, as seen in Brazil, where humans suppressing wildfires led to a decrease in rainwater reaching the ground. According to another study, creating forests in grasslands and shrublands can cause 13% of streams to dry up completely.

Grasslands are often naturally unforested, not degraded

Grasslands and savannas have trees, but they’re either sporadically present or clumped together. The WRI Atlas considered all areas with over 10% tree cover as a form of forest. This means that clumped trees in grasslands are often misclassified as forests, which categorizes the surrounding areas as degraded by default. The plants and shrubs that grow in these regions need both sunlight and fire, which trees can reduce access to. Therefore, empty land isn’t always meant to be forested — it’s important to look into the existing ecosystem before making changes.

Not all trees grow everywhere

Once again, on paper, it’s easy to imagine planting a single species of trees all over the world to increase forest cover. However, this is considered bad science and can do more harm than good.

When we talk about reforestation, we tend to envision a particular kind of forest, often involving thick trunks and green leaves like we’d see in the Amazon. Planting non-native species, for example, can upset an ecosystem. Planting any tree with dense foliage can, as we’ve mentioned, prevent rain and sunlight from reaching ground-level plants that are essential to the ecosystem, however small and stick-like they may look. 

Even the location of the tree matters. A row of trees along the edge or middle of a prairie can damage the ecosystem considering flora and fauna in these regions are attuned to wide-open habitats and ancient routes. Just like a sudden building in the middle of a highway can cause massive damage, so too can one tree wrongly placed affect the ecosystem of a traditionally non-forested area.

The road to planting trees wisely

All of these points indicate that there’s something fundamentally wrong with how we’re approaching reforestation and tree planting. What can we do to more deeply understand how, where, and when to plant trees?

Redefine forests and ecosystems

There’s a prevailing assumption that forests are more important than grasslands, shrublands, and prairies, simply because they have more trees and look more “lush.” As we mentioned before, any area with more than 10% trees is considered a forest, which pushes all other land types into the “empty land” area — but they aren’t empty land. We need to redefine “ecosystems” to include not just forests, but also grasslands and savannas, which are essential in their own right. 

We also need to understand what “degradation” means. It is defined as occurring “when ecosystems lose their capacity to provide important goods and services to people and nature.” In the case of savannas and grasslands, a lack of trees doesn’t equal degradation — the ecosystem is probably thriving because of a lack of trees. Instead, it is often caused by encroachment, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of invasive plant species (like trees, in this case).

Demand transparency from tree-planting organizations

You’ve probably come across quite a few mass tree-planting projects before. While these look impactful and send a message to an audience, more often than not, they’re poorly executed and not well-thought-out. Plant for the Planet, for example, got into hot soup for their Trillion Tree Campaign: it was revealed that their website was littered with untruths and exaggerations, the most notable one being that one Valf F. from France reportedly planted 682 million trees single-handedly. In other cases, organizations may not reveal what species they plant, may be planting invasive species, or may plant monocultures that are more vulnerable than regular trees. These are plantations, and plantations are not forests. 

This is troublesome because tree planting organizations actually have the farthest reach and the highest potential to make a difference. There are some parts of the world—mostly those affected by land abuse and predatory logging—that can benefit from their large-scale involvement. This can be done by investing in research not just about tree species, but ecosystems and off-limits areas. Partnering with on-the-ground organizations (like EcoMatcher does) can help prioritize native species, provide a livelihood for the locals, and tap into their inherent knowledge about the ecosystem they live in. 

Do your research

When you come across any seemingly climate-friendly initiative, we’d urge you to dig deeper. What seems like a good idea may actually do more harm than good. Take, for example, the biodegradable, reusable coffee mugs that were recently the craze. If planted in one’s balcony pots, they may not make much of a difference. However, if thrown and littered, they could encourage the wrong species to grow in the wrong area. If you’re planning to invest in a tree-planting initiative, ask for every single detail — from what tree is being planted, to where it will be located, to if that region was naturally deforested or previously forested then degraded. 

The final word

Any call for fighting against climate change—especially with trees—needs to look carefully into how they will affect all of Earth’s ecosystems. We might be far removed from most, but there’s no denying that all ecosystems are linked. Domino effects go both ways, so let’s do things wisely!

Posted on 2022-05-17

The Art of Forest Bathing

Imagine walking into a lush green forest, silent except for the sounds of nature. You can see birds flitting from one branch to another, feel a cool breeze on your face, and hear leaves crunching underneath your feet. As you spend more and more time here, you start to feel relaxed and at peace and feel like you can think more clearly. As you return home, you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever challenge comes next. 

What you just imagined is called shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing — and it has incredible effects on your physical and mental health!

What is shinrin-yoku?

Shinrin means “forest” in Japanese, while yoku means “bath.” Shinrin-yoku literally means “to bathe in the forest environment” or “to take in the forest via our senses.” Forest bathing is an age-old practice in many cultures around the world. However, 1980s Japan used the official term as we know it for a physiological and psychological activity recommended to many. It was intended to provide a nature-centric antidote to fatigue caused by the tech boom. It was also meant to encourage inhabitants to reconnect with and maintain the country’s woods. In 1982, this form of mobile meditation in living forests became an official part of Japan’s national health program.

The premise of forest bathing is more relevant today than ever before. Cities are expected to house 66 percent of the world’s population by 2050. The average American spends 93 percent of his or her time indoors, according to research funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

How does forest bathing help?

Even a short period of time spent in nature can improve our health. But why is that? It’s because humans are, according to American biologist E.O. Wilson, “hardwired” to connect with nature. On that note, here’s how forest bathing can help.

Physical health benefits

Forest bathing has been shown to decrease blood pressure and heart rate. It also reduces dangerous hormone levels such as cortisol which your body creates when you’re stressed. Therefore, forest bathing can directly lead to you feeling calmer and more relaxed. Other studies have found that spending just 10 to 20 minutes a day outside can improve your well-being and happiness while also lowering your stress levels. The air we breathe in while walking through a forest also has incredible benefits. Researchers have found that an essential oil that trees emit called phytoncide increases the level of natural killer (NK) cells present in our blood. NK cells combat infections and cancers as well as boost creativity and increase attention and better mood.

Mental health benefits

According to Dr. Qing Li, the president of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan, spending time in the forest can help you feel better by reducing stress, anger, anxiety, and depression. In his book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Dr. Li also adds, “You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do.” Walking through a forest, as compared to walking in the woods or in an urban environment, has much more of a positive impact on vigor and reduces fatigue. 

Other benefits

Stepping away from the urban sprawl to spend time in forests can help us reconnect with nature. We often forget that we live as part of a massive ecosystem, one that is constantly in danger from human activities. Reconnecting with our forests can help us truly understand how vital they are to the planet and flora and fauna other than humans. That leads us to realize better how critical the regeneration and conservation of forests is. 

How to perform forest bathing

The first thing to note here is that despite being named “forest” bathing, shinrin-yoku can be performed in any green space in the city or a nature reserve near you. However, we’d still recommend doing this in a real forest at least once. Here’s how Dr. Li himself describes the process of forest bathing in his book: 

“Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind… The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses.”

Find a spot

Once you’ve reached your local park or nature reserve, find a good spot under a tree away from crowds and comfortable to sit at for a while. Take a few deep breaths and tune in to what is happening around you. It helps to focus on one thing at a time at first, like the sounds of birds chirping, or the sound of wind rustling the leaves. You can also look around where you are, again paying careful attention to details like the sunlight filtering through the canopy or the bark of the tree. Here are some prompts to help you along:

  • What do you see?
  • What sounds can you hear all around you?
  • Can you inhale and exhale deeply?
  • When you reach your hand out, what can you touch, and how does it feel?

Walk around

At this point, you can decide to start walking, but do so aimlessly and without a destination in mind. Wander around the forest or the park, stopping here and there to pay attention to something that has caught your eye. Reduce your pace consciously so that you’re able to engage all your senses. 

Try different activities

Once you’ve gotten used to forest bathing, consider trying out related mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation. Consider working with a trained forest therapist if you would like a more structured program. You can easily find something else to do in a green space, like creating art, reading a book, hosting a picnic, foraging where it’s legal, and making scrapbooks. Keep in mind that phones and cameras traditionally aren’t carried along when you’re forest bathing!

Spend at least 20 minutes but stay safe

Ideally, you should have spent at least 20 minutes on forest bathing because that’s when the benefits start to kick in. 10 hours in a month is the ideal amount of time, according to some scientists.  While forest bathing, it’s important to look after your safety as well, and avoid trespassing into areas that are protected or too wild. Stay on marked trails, wear appropriate clothing, and carry water, sunscreen, and bug repellant if you’re going into a forest or nature reserve. 

The final word

Forest bathing is ideal for people of all ages who are looking for a break from city life and stress or merely want some time to themselves. It requires a different mindset and can take a while to get used to, especially if you have a busy life lived entirely on calendars. But it is worth the effort, because the process of returning to nature is calming and fulfilling and has long-standing positive effects. If you start forest bathing and see the benefits in store for you, consider supporting reforestation, conservation, and tree planting efforts in in-need areas across the world. We have one of the most incredible natural healing methods on the planet, and we need to take extensive steps to make sure we get to enjoy it for a longer time!

Posted on 2021-09-17

The Value of Trees

Trees are living, breathing historical records. They first took root a whopping 385 million years ago. For context, trees were around during the Ice Age and when the Pyramids of Giza were brand-new. They’re some of the oldest living organisms in the world and have so much impact on the environment and human civilization.

However, it’s too easy for the worth of trees to slip to the back of our minds. In the face of climate change and the need for collective action to save the Earth, it’s important that we revisit the true values of trees time and again to remember just how interlinked our environment is. 

The value of trees in our environment

Trees play a unique role in helping maintain much-needed homeostasis in our environment. It’s important to understand this multi-faceted role in the broader context of climate action — because that will make the significance of tree planting and reforestation even more visible. 

Let’s begin!

1. Trees improve water quality 

Trees effectively slow down rain and allow it to soak into the soil. This is especially so in urban areas: by decreasing stormwater runoff, trees act as natural sponges and collect and filter rainfall, releasing it slowly (and cleanly!) into streams and rivers. Moreover, trees prevent soil erosion which is also known to affect water quality as silt particles are blown away by wind action into nearby water reserves. 

2. Trees minimize the disastrous effects of carbon dioxide emissions

Trees play an important role when it comes to acting as a carbon sink. A carbon sink refers to anything that stores carbon-containing chemical compounds — and this lowers the concentration of carbon dioxide present in the environment. With the rapid and fast-paced industrial activities releasing unhealthy amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the need for a carbon sink has never been greater.

Without trees, it would be challenging, if not impossible, to regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And that would greatly harm the fragile balance that is essential for the wellbeing of our planet. 

Statistics show that a single mature tree can absorb around 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. Globally, forests absorb at least 40% of carbon dioxide emissions caused due to human activities. Without these trees, these emissions would reach our outer atmosphere, damaging the ozone layer exposing our planet to even more harmful radiation. Our ozone layer has already been significantly damaged, and the most significant way to control this growing problem is through tree planting and reforestation. 

3. Trees improve air quality

We often refer to trees as the “lungs” of the earth, but it’s worth noting that trees also play the function of a liver.

Apart from minimizing carbon dioxide levels, trees also help absorb numerous other toxins and pollutants emitted due to industrial activities. These pollutants include nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter like acids, metals, and dust from factories and vehicles. This absorption ensures that we get clean, safe air to breathe in and protects us from several respiratory diseases. The more trees you have in an urban space, the cleaner the air is likely to be. And did you know that some trees are better air filters than others?

4. Trees greatly enhance soil health

Trees improve soil health because their roots hold the soil together. This flood control feature plays a major role in preventing soil erosion which keeps the land fertile, supporting vegetation and other farming practices.

Trees also protect and aid in the generation of topsoil, which forms so slowly it can be called a limited resource. The shade created by tree canopies helps to regulate soil temperature. Finally, dense forest cover becomes a haven for birds and animals, which leads to more organic matter than enriches the soil. 

5. Trees create a cool environment

Have you ever walked past a patch of trees and felt the temperature drop a degree or two? That’s the trees’ magic! Trees not only act as a barrier against floods by absorbing water, but they also release it into the environment in the form of water vapor. This happens due to the process of evapotranspiration through leaves, which produces a cooling effect. 

Moreover, trees act as a natural shade for the ground and buildings, making the environment pleasant, especially during the summers. The cooling effect of a single, mature tree is compatible with ten air conditioning units!

6. Forests are a source of timber, fibre, fuel, and food products

Forests are a source of livelihood for many families, who depend on them for finding food, shelter, and timber. Moreover, trees provide the timber used in construction and industries to produce a variety of finished goods. This, in turn, helps to create jobs and research opportunities at every step of the supply chain, such that entire lives depend on trees’ existence.

7. Trees help biodiversity flourish  

The more biodiverse an area, the healthier the area’s ecology is regarded to be. Planting outside woodlands and allowing portions of land to recover naturally is vital to restoring natural habitats and animal corridors.

When we continue to have these thriving, we reduce the chances of wild animals wandering into cities and endangering both themselves and humans. It’s not just trees — a variety in plant species will create a diverse ecosystem with balanced food chains.

8. Trees serve the medical sector 

Tree planting is also very valuable when it comes to serving the medical industry. Experts have claimed that every four square miles of rainforest contains around 1,500 different types of plants and 750 different trees.

This biodiversity causes many organisms to develop chemicals, which can then be collected and researched by pharmaceutical companies for medical purposes. Around 25 percent of western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest-based ingredients, and at least 121 prescription drugs are sourced from plant derivatives. 

9. Trees give us a breath of fresh air from city life 

Being a hotspot of biodiversity, trees in urban areas and forests outside cities have immense recreational value. They’re perfect spots for hiking, birdwatching, forest bathing, and learning about nature. This is beneficial in quite the cyclic manner: the more time we spend in the company of trees, the more we understand them, and the more we’re determined to preserve them! 

The final word 

The points do not just signify the value of trees but also incentivize tree planting and reforestation. Trees are the bottom line for so much of our lives (no matter how far away from them we might be). They hold immense cultural and spiritual value

Keeping all this in mind, it is important that we start planting more trees. We must undertake personal initiatives and encourage our governments and organizations to create policies that incentivize tree planting.

EcoMatcher can help organizations and individuals achieve this, which transparent tree planting processes that green the earth, protect livelihoods, and decisively act towards saving the planet. Along with planting more trees, it is also crucial that we preserve and nurture our existing forests — after all, you can’t clap with one hand!

Trees are not only necessary for existence, but they also serve as a link between the past, present, and future as the longest-living plant species on the planet. Woodlands, rainforests, and trees in urban contexts, such as parks, must be protected and managed responsibly worldwide!

Posted on 2021-04-14

Want to hit 17 sustainable goals with 1 stone? Try tree planting

In 2015, the United Nations decided to establish the UN Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), 17 goals dedicated to building a more sustainable and equitable world. Every year since, governments, businesses, and enterprises have been encouraged to adopt one or more of these goals and use their power and privilege to help the world reach them. 

The goals any company chooses would differ, obviously, depending on what industry they’re in and what resources they have at their disposal. But there is one activity that can hit the mark on all 17 sustainable goals. It can be carried out by literally anyone: 10-member teams looking to make a difference, or large-scale corporations wanting to mobilize their workforce for all the right reasons. It’s also something we’re all very familiar with as individuals: land restoration through tree planting. 

How tree planting works towards all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Goal #1: No poverty 

Billions of the people living in abject poverty rely primarily on land for their livelihoods. This means reforestation and land restoration can create jobs, provide better shelter and more food in the long run, and reduce the chances of wildlife crossing paths with human settlements. Reforestation can increase the independence of those in abject poverty in certain parts of the world. 

Goal #2: Zero hunger

One of the essential points in the agenda for this goal is to double the agricultural productivity of small-scale producers, which is where tree planting can have the highest impact. Trees drastically reduce soil erosion and reduce winds and temperature, making agricultural land more pliable for farming. Given billions of people directly depend on agricultural land for sustenance, promoting sustainable agroforestry and restoring degraded forests can help bring agricultural areas back to life. 

Goal #3: Good health and well-being 

Healthy forests have long been the source of ingredients and herbs present in 25% of all western medicines and a lot more in traditional makes. On another tangent, reforestation ensures higher quality and supply of sustainable food and water, which reduces the risk of water-, land- or airborne diseases. More tree cover means the effects of pollution are drastically minimized, as well. 

Goal #4: Education

While trees don’t directly contribute to education as we know it, they support the upward mobility of groups by taking care of their basic needs, i.e., water, food, and shelter. We could also say that trees support a more holistic sort of education: one that prioritizes the harmony between humans and nature and leads to better decisions in the future than the ones we’ve been making all this while. 

Goal #5: Gender equality

Women have historically been frontrunners of climate change action, possibly because they’re also hit the hardest by degraded landscapes and the lack of access to resources and education. Better ecosystems and forest cover ensure women aren’t doubly pressured to source water and gather food to sustain their families. Increased sustainable resources mean more room for family planning and education, which puts more power in the hands of women.

Goal #6: Water and sanitation for all 

One in three people across the world do not have access to safe drinking water, and the sanitary conditions in many cities and rural areas are dismal. To draw the connection between water, sanitation and trees would mean going back to primary school syllabi. Deforestation and land degradation increase water stress manifold and increase the risk of diseases spread through a lack of sanitation. Better land management and reforestation mean cleaner water being attracted as rains and stored as groundwater and in natural reservoirs. 

Goal #7: Affordable and clean energy

Energy is already becoming widely available, and there’s been a promising turn towards affordable and clean energy. Planting trees can help make this process more sustainable because alternatives like bioenergy still have a large enough deforestation footprint that we can’t afford to ignore. In addition to that, planting more trees can help to make up for the damages that have already been caused due to the mining of coal and fossil fuels.  

Goal #8: Job opportunities and decent work 

The number of jobs that reforestation can create is a long, long list. It starts from sourcing and planting trees to taking care of forested land (as EcoMatcher’s partners do), from promoting sustainable agroforestry to spearheading government policies that support them. No job is big or small in the world of reforestation, and every one of them is decent and contributes to economic growth. 

Goal #9: Innovation and infrastructure

For those living in cities, it can be hard to fathom how forests hold their infrastructure together. The fact of the matter is that forests minimize flooding, prevent landslides, control sandstorms, and do much more to keep our cities safe. No building can remain as long as forests are being razed to the ground, because no matter how much we paint the two as opposites, our infrastructure owes a lot to the trees around it. Industry and innovation also thrive because of forests, leading to positive changes across borders and occupations. 

Goal #10: Reduced inequalities

Marginalized and poor populations pull the short end of the stick in every situation imaginable. Inequality puts undue pressure on the people and, through them, on the environment. Inequality leads to encroachment into natural habitats for firewood, food, and shelter. However, the solution is in the problem: increasing the number of trees helps marginalized groups get more out of the environment without taxing it and equalizes resources, so there’s enough for everyone. 

Goal #11: Sustainable cities and communities

It’s no secret that, for entire cities to be built, forests have been razed to the ground. The roar that this is unsustainable, and damaging has been getting louder, as has the clarion call for sustainable cities and better communities. The simple act of planting trees in urbanized areas can restore the balance of nature and man-made structures, and solve many of the problems cities face, including shortage of electricity, water, and other resources. Community makes the city, and trees help create spaces and atmospheres that are beneficial for communities to thrive in. 

Goal #12: Responsible consumption and production

This has largely been thrown up in the previous goals, as poverty and inequalities lead to irresponsible consumption and overproduction. Reforestation plays a critical role in enabling us to take resources sustainably, practice agriculture equitably, and produce energy cleanly. The overall benefit is a sense of balance and room for innovation such that we don’t tax our natural resources any more than we already have. 

Goal #13: Climate action

At EcoMatcher, we’ve said plenty about the immensely positive impact of tree planting on climate action. One of the most significant ways to combat climate change and reduce carbon footprint is to have more trees and conserve existing forests. They increase resilience, draw out pollutants from the air, reduce global temperatures, and minimize the effects of climate change. Individual tree planting or corporate tree planting is an excellent way of raising awareness about saving the environment while maintaining profits and increasing customer loyalty and shareholder value. 

Goal #14: Life below water

There isn’t a water body in the world that hasn’t been affected by runoff, pollutants, and piles of garbage being dumped. Forests and water bodies are intrinsically connected: planting trees attract rains that fill water bodies; their trunks and roots prevent run-offs and sediments from leaching into the water and destroying marine life. Land restoration reduces the pressure on marine ecosystems and gives coastal communities more ways to sustain themselves without having to tax any resource until the point of no return. 

Goal #15: Life on land 

This needs no explanation. Forests are the heart and lungs of the terrestrial ecosystem. They’re home and fodder for wildlife and support the livelihoods of millions directly or indirectly. By planting trees, we create a positive ripple effect on every section of society, every industry, and every occupation. 

Goal #16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Conflict, insecurity, and skewed views of justice plague a majority of our countries. Thousands flee war, strife, and poverty every day, and we’re far from ushering in a sustainable world if we continue to neglect those who’ve been historically oppressed. Planting trees can put the power back in many of these communities’ hands, allowing them to create better lives and livelihoods for themselves. By taking care of basic survival in the hierarchy of needs, trees pave the way towards harmony and peace and united communities all across the world. 

Goal #17: Partnerships

The world of climate action is many-pronged, and so many organizations and parties disagree on what the best way is to make progress. However, one uniting factor accessible to companies and organizations of any size or scope is tree planting. Rallying around planting trees and partnering with organizations that plant trees (such as EcoMatcher) can spark a worldwide change without much effort. 

The final word 

With all this being said, tree planting is one of the most accessible and affordable solutions to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and one of the most effective. True, reforestation can’t restore all that we’ve lost. But it can pave the way for a new future and minimize the damage we’ve caused while buying us time to right our wrongs. 

If you’re looking to partner with an organization to plant trees, EcoMatcher can help! Get in touch to know more. 

Posted on 2021-02-10

Championing Transparency in Tree Planting

From exception to norm: that’s the trajectory that environmentally conscious people like you and us want the concept of “giving back to the planet” to take. At EcoMatcher, we know we’re not alone when we say we’d like more and more organisations to normalise both giving back to the planet and maintaining it at its best state. 

Transparency is a core element of that duty to society. To set the context, tree planting is one of the most universal strategies to green the Earth — one that is accessible, cross-cultural, and fun to engage in. By extension, a project that is for the good of the planet should be public by default and open to all, right?

Unfortunately, the truth is far from that. Despite the growing number of organisations that offer this element of climate action to anyone and everyone under the sun, we often find that transparency is left in the dust. 

Why does transparency in tree planting matter?

There are many answers to that question, each more important than the last. That said, here are two key benefits in store for all stakeholders when transparency in tree planting is put up, front and center:

  • Transparency reveals and prevents greenwashing

We live in a world where perception holds more sway than reality — and even the environmental impact sector hasn’t been spared. Many organisations tend to pander to a ‘friends of the environment’ public image that functions as a smokescreen. It hides processes, products, and structures that aren’t in the least bit environmentally friendly. As a result, good-hearted consumers are often misled by strategies and end up supporting tree planting businesses that aren’t as clean as they make themselves out to be. Transparency in tree planting helps remove this smokescreen and reduces the work put in by consumers to see through the marketing jargon. With information on every product, process, and setup being out in the open, consumers are less likely to be waylaid on their otherwise well-meaning path. Even better, they learn enough to hold other similar organisations accountable. 

  • Encourages more authentic engagement 

Organisations that communicate and operate transparently and authentically are miles more credible. Consumers know that owning up to mistakes and openly sharing processes often signifies integrity. As a result, a transparent tree-planting organisation is better poised to build a loyal customer base built on authentic interactions. When each person knows how they’re making a difference and where their contributions are used, they’re more likely to subscribe to these processes of change than indulge in half-hearted contributions with other shadowy organisations. 

Who benefits from transparency in tree planting?

It’s not surprising that everyone has something to gain from embracing sustainability in tree planting. 

  • Businesses

Transparency helps businesses increase engagement. More importantly, it helps establish and maintain a loyal audience and an image in the industry that even the most targeted marketing efforts can’t match in authenticity. On the logistical side of things, transparency ensures that all elements in the process are held accountable, and issues can be tracked and fixed without being swept under the rug. 

  • Consumers

Consumer supporting transparent organisations will find that they have much more clarity about where their contributions are going. They’ll know what they’re supporting, which means that they’d be much more vocal about it to others with similar interests. 

  • Employees

Those working in transparent tree planting organisations will find that the honesty shown to outsiders also applies to them. Folks in such wonderful companies are more likely to feel loyal and be proud of repping their involvement. It also makes them better ambassadors — and who better to spread word of mouth about fantastic processes and honest firms than the employees themselves? 

  • Investors

Transparency in processes is a fantastic green flag for potential investors and a great sign for already committed investors. Since transparency has a push and pull effect on many other factors, including market reception and sustainable growth, it has a cascading positive effect on investments as well. 

How do partner organisations benefit from transparent tree planting organisations?

Partners play a critical role in the success and impact of tree planting organisations, and also stand to gain a lot from encouraging and ensuring the transparency of the process.

For one, the positive impact of transparency casts partner organisations in a positive light and conveys to their audience that they’re headed in the right direction.

Making information such as date of planting or purchase, species name, and the tree’s location helps calculate carbon offsetting contributions, which in turn makes the impact more transparent.

Partner organisations also, more tangibly, know exactly where their money is going and being used so that they have appropriate evidence to present during critical audits. 

How committed is EcoMatcher to ensuring transparency in tree planting?

In a phrase: very committed. But the longer answer involves several steps towards ensuring transparency across the board, from using top-tier technology, to putting partner organisations and individuals in the metaphorical driving seat. 

  • Blockchain for supply chain transparency

Blockchain is revolutionary for ensuring transparency in the supply chain, especially in a world where chunks of the chain are remote, digital, or in other countries. Such is the case with EcoMatcher.

Given the international nature of EcoMatcher’s process, the TreeChain blockchain becomes key to maintaining transparency. It provides better visibility and holds the right links in the chain accountable for mishaps or mistakes that may occur. The vice-versa also holds true: higher levels of accountability mean fewer mistakes are committed or get swept under the rug, and the tree planting experience is enhanced. 

  • Tree Tracker for visibility anytime, anywhere 

The Tree Tracker is simple in its purpose: helping those who buy trees see ‘their’ tree anywhere in the world. It shows key metrics such as CO2 sequestered, location, unique tree number, tree history, and even the tree’s height. But that simplicity belies just how important this feature is to ensure transparency and assure every customer that their tree is truly theirs. 

  • TreeCorder for in-depth records

The TreeCorder app makes it incredibly easy for organizations to make a record of each tree they’ve planted. Again, it includes all key information about individual trees, and regularly updates this data to the cloud for easy access. It has a built-in system that ensures each tree registered and photographed is unique. 

Transparency is forever, but the methods evolve

When systems and processes are public by default, we step closer to a more ethical and transparent world. But while this end goal remains the same, the process is ever evolving with new advancements in technology. EcoMatcher is committed to making the best decisions and investing in leading technologies that ensures transparency of our customers’ services and privacy. 

Posted on 2020-07-23

The State of Global Forests

With the United Nations’ Decade on Biodiversity drawing to a close this year, it seems timely to relook at the current state of global forests and what the future looks like for conservation. 

Forests are home to most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, making them a critical factor in the conservation and flourishing of biodiversity across the globe. Although forests cover 31% of global land, they’re concentrated in certain belts– in fact, more than half of the world’s forests are found in just five countries, including Brazil, China, and Canada. 

Unfortunately, forests and the abundance of biodiversity they house continue to be threatened by rapid-scale urbanisation, expanding agriculture, and unsustainable levels of use and exploitation. Most recently, the fires in Australia and the Amazon deforestation have served as both a wake-up call and a global call-to-arms about the speed at which permanent fixtures of the planet’s ecosystem are fast being razed to the ground. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report 1 looking into global progress (and setbacks) affecting goals and targets relating to forests and biodiversity. It examines how effective policies and approaches are and suggests resources for better sustainable development outcomes. Here are some illuminating findings from the report:

Trends In Forest Areas

Just over one-third of global forests are categorised as ‘primary’ in that they’re naturally regenerated with no visible indicators of human influence and activity. The remaining two-thirds, however, display alarming signs of disturbed ecological processes and human involvement. Deforestation continues to take place at alarming rates well into 2020. 

Although the silver lining is that the rate of deforestation has decreased from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020, the global primary forest cover has reduced by a whopping 80 million hectares since 1990. This alarming statistic is largely attributed to out-of-turn weather events, flash fires, pests, invasive plants, and diseases that have been on the rise. 

Threats To Forests, Both Human-made And Natural

The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests aimed to increase global forest cover by 3% by 2030 2. However, this report finds that the world is not on track towards achieving this goal, owing to a multitude of natural and human-made factors that threaten forests. 

  • Forest fires

Studies have found that, in some ecosystems, natural fires are essential to maintain productivity and ecosystem dynamics. That said, deliberately set fires have razed millions of hectares’ worth of forests to the ground because they weren’t contained or blew out of control. Historically, 90% of fires are easily contained– the problem is the other 10%, which accounts for 90% of lost area. These dramatic wildfires, much like what we’ve seen in Australia, have caused irreversible damage to human and animal lives and have upset natural ecosystems.

Climate change only helps to, literally and figuratively, fan the flames. The report suggests that climate change can be expected to cause more severe fires for longer periods of time around the world. This phenomenon will occur not only in areas naturally prone to forest fires but also in forested areas where fires weren’t a problem or a necessity. 

  • Agriculture

Agriculture is widely considered as one of the main drivers of deforestation and land degradation 3. Forest conversion is a highly irreversible process, given forests take hundreds of years to grow and become natural features capable of sustaining complex systems. Rising demand for food and biofuels, for one, is contributing to the expansion of agricultural land into forested areas around the world. Complex and incorrectly implemented environmental regulations provide incentives for landowners and farm-owners to encroach without fear. 

  • Climate change

Forests have long been touted as one of the best solutions to stop global warming and climate change; ironically, they’re also most susceptible to them. For forests to be the ideal carbon-removal investments, they need to be permanent to lock away the carbon for centuries together. However, climate change will exacerbate several of the risks that existing forests face including but not limited to droughts, forest fires, pests, and diseases. Tree planting might be one of the best solutions we have against global warming and climate change, but it’s not the only one. For tree planting to work, the world needs long-term natural and sustainable solutions that include, but aren’t restricted to, decarbonising the economy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and byproducts. 

  • Coronavirus and pandemics

The most recent blow to forest conservation and conversations came in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. The UN report found that, due to the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, forests are facing an increased risk of being degraded or cut down entirely. Lack of access to food and shelter force marginalised and vulnerable communities to move deeper into the forest for shelter and sustenance. 2.4 billion people still use wood for cooking, while 1 billion depend on food gathered from the wild 4. The spread of the coronavirus and pandemics in general only add to these alarming numbers. 

Indeed, the emergence of infectious diseases in general both fuel the loss of forests and are caused by the loss of forests. In being forced to move into forests, humans are facilitating the transmission of viruses from animals to urban societies. Deforestation and forest loss only make pandemics such as the coronavirus more likely, and the vicious cycle carries on. 

Shrinking Forests Need Bold Action

Actions targeted at combating deforestation have picked up steam over the past decade, largely due to increased awareness and global collaboration over key causes. Forest restoration is the need of the hour and can be approached through a variety of objectives including:

  • Reconstruction: the restoration of native plants on lands hitherto used differently
  • Reclamation: restoring land that is severely degraded (whether naturally or otherwise)
  • Replacement: the replacement of poorly adapting tree species with new vegetation

Balanced solutions are needed to transform the way we interact with nature, produce our food, and build our cities. Suggestions from the UNFAO include 5:

  • Sustainable management

This calls for an integrated approach that takes into consideration biodiversity, food security, and the general well-being of people. It aims at striking a balance between conservation and meeting demands– for this to succeed, effective governance, straightforward laws, and respect for rights are a necessity. 

  • Transformed food systems

In current scenarios, the rising demand for food is directly leading to unsustainable and exploitative agricultural practices that drive large-scale forest conversion. Agro-ecological production practices and agroforestry are the need of the hour, as is adopting healthier diets, ensuring food equity, and reducing food waste. All these changes require a complete overhaul of current food systems.

  • Forest restoration

 Properly implemented forest restoration doubles up as a nature-based solution that supports local communities and makes change where change is required. Ahead of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021 to 2030, efforts to restore degraded forest land will be stepped up across countries guided by a number of international collaborations, including the Bonn Challenge.

The Final Word

The state of global forests in 2020 is conflicted in that some areas have seen marked improvements, while others have seen alarming adversities. In the coming years, organisations, governments, and individuals must foster a new relationship with their ecosystems and rally for transformative change across fronts. 

Posted on 2020-04-11

The Value of Trees in World Religions

Trees are prominent features in the tales and triumphs of religions all over the world. They’ve been seen throughout the ages as powerful symbols of prosperity and birth, often represented in the form of ‘trees of life’ or ‘gifts that keep on giving’. 

The world today is far far away from simpler times– yet, despite the razing down of trees on a global scale, religions continue to hail them as sacred. In many countries, this is precisely what is keeping forests from being untouched by the reaches of industrialization. 

The Value of Trees in Christianity

A study found that the Bible, the collection of sacred text followed by Christians, mentions trees no lesser than 525 times. The only other living being mentioned more is humans (1).

Four trees hold the most significant importance in the Bible– the Tree of Life in the Genesis, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life mentioned in the Revelations, and, finally, the Tree that made the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Cedars, date palms, fig-trees, oak trees, and olive trees are most frequently mentioned in the Bible, although other species also make an appearance. 

According to Genesis 1 in the Old Testament of the Bible, God was said to have created all plant life on the third day. Humans were then created to enjoy the fruits of his labor. While some interpret this to be a pass to dominating nature, yet others look at it as instructions to protect the environment and take only what it gives, never more. Today, many devout Christians have taken it upon themselves to enhance, nurture and protect the natural world and trees feature predominantly in their plans. 

The Value of Trees in Islam 

Tree-planting is seen as a form of charity in Islam, as many others enjoy the products of the tree or its benefits across species. A saying of Prophet Mohammed that reportedly dates back to 14 centuries ago states that “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift for him” (2).

Yet another value propagated by Islam is that of respect towards trees and the gifts it bestows upon people. A paragraph in one of the holy scriptures narrates the tale of a young boy throwing stones at a date palm tree to gather fruits. The Prophet Mohammed was said to chastise the boy gently, telling him to ‘eat what falls’ without harming the tree. This same principle of trees has been extended many a time to nature in general. 

According to anecdotes passed down through generations, Prophet Mohammed’s advice about trees and nature explored the connections between ethical activities during life and its effects in the afterlife. Devotees state that this was a fruitful incentive to invite Muslims to slow down, consume only what they need, and care for the planet they live on. 

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which devout Muslims fast from sunrise till sunset, is also a time of charity. It is believed that the power of good deeds is multiplied when performed during Ramadan than during any other time of the year (3). Trees are often involved. The spirit of Ramadan is often shared by non-Muslims, who take part in charitable events such as tree-planting, donating and sponsoring meals in solidarity with Muslim devotees. 

The Value of Trees in Buddhism 

The relationship between ecology and culture is a significant part of Buddhism. According to Buddhist authorities, nature has been regarded as a life-sustaining force from the time of the ancient sages. Scriptures say the Lord Buddha was born, enlightened, and reclaimed under the Bodhi Fig Tree, which is also referred to as the Tree of Awakening (4). During the time of the Buddha, many forests were revered, planted or protected; universities built in this period continue to boast of lush environments filled with massive trees planted decades ago. 

Across various Buddhist texts, several species of trees, from the Asoka tree to the Banyan tree, are mentioned in different contexts. They feature primarily in descriptions of the Buddha’s surroundings or those of places where weary travelers chose to rest or meditate. The overarching positioning trees is being the giver of shade, respite, food, and enlightenment. 

The Value of Trees in Hinduism 

Just as in Buddhism, Hinduism has often positioned trees as the givers of knowledge and enlightenment. Trees are revered in Hinduism; the Rig Veda instructs not to cut down trees or uproot them as they provide protection to living beings. 

Scriptures have also named certain trees as ‘sacred’ in order to protect them from being the spoils of man. The Ashoka is one such tree, as is the Peepal tree, which has been depicted in seals dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. The Banyan tree is said to represent life, growth and fertility; for many others, it is also representative of the Trimurti (holy triad) formed by Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma (5). 

Yet other trees are respected and nurtured for the tangible value they bring to everyday life. The Banana tree, for example, is an integral part of Hindu rituals because it is said to promote the welfare of a family and most parts of the plant can be used. 

The Final Word

Trees continue to play a significant role in religion even today. Many scholars tout the bringing back of certain ecocentric beliefs as beneficial for the preservation and propagation of trees.

The focus is not on baseless rituals or false claims, but on restoring ecological equilibrium, using only as much as we need and giving back what we take from nature. Regardless of the religion and the tales they tell, scriptures position trees as givers of life and worthy of respect and care. Devotees of many religions practise this across the world, by planting trees as individuals or corporates and participating in eco-friendly charitable activities. 

As  2020 continues to unfurl and brings with it religious occasions, EcoMatcher would be delighted to help you plant trees and help further ecocentric values. 

Posted on 2020-04-02

Deforestation and Disease Dynamics

For the past few years, the conversation over disease has exponentially increased. Consider the Zika virus, preceded by the Ebola epidemic, succeeded by the new COVID19 super virus that has led to a global shut down. 

Scientists have, for the past few years, screened and found vaccines, medications, and treatments to help humanity advance their lifespan. However, the battle has become a constant back and forth as these diseases evolve as well to combat the treatments. This has led many to consider what a preventive solution could be.

After numerous rigorous investigations, a shocking but all too familiar foe seems to be one of the major causes of the exponential growth and spread of certain diseases – deforestation. The chopping of trees to create more vibrant urban landscapes might temporarily improve human life, but scientists have also pinned the activity down as a massive influence on disease dynamics. 

How deforestation impacts disease evolution

For society to thrive, it must first survive. We know deforestation has played an immense role in the change of global climate, the increase in natural disasters like landslides, and erratic weather patterns, and now, it is proven that trees protected and cultivated ecosystems to survive diseases. It is no understatement to consider that the protective layer of our ecosystem has slowly and meticulously been eroded over several lifetimes of unfettered development. 

Possibly in the most significant and most impactful way, forests and jungles have been crucial for our society’s respiratory functions. Not only does it regulate and cycle the emission and circulation of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but it also plays a part in keeping harmful gases in the atmosphere in check. 

The link between air quality and respiratory diseases are conclusive. Those in urban, polluted areas are at a more considerable risk than those who are surrounded by greenery. Another aspect to consider is the world climate – the more forests that are lost, the higher the likelihood that the environment in that area changes in an adverse manner. Humidity is lost, the temperature rises, and rains could carry harmful chemicals. The most alarming analysis of deforestation shows that it directly increases the microbial transfer of pathogens from tissues from both living and dead organisms.

One of the most lethal developments of a novel virus was one that began in just before the beginning of the new millennium. The Nipah virus has continued to ravage Southeast Asia with its death toll in the thousands. The novel virus developed when fruit bats from Indonesia relocated to Malaysia in a bid to escape the smoke generated from the burning away of their native forests. The region began to report pigs and humans falling sick from the new disease. With no vaccine or treatment, the Nipah virus continues to pose a threat in the region. [1]

The Nipah virus is just one of the examples of how diseases that were previously confined to animals are now spilling into human settlements as more and more forests are being cleared.

The undeniable link

One of the most well-documented links between the spread of infectious diseases and deforestation is the case of malaria. While the disease was being effectively curtailed in Brazil to its lowest figures in 1960, the disease has seen a resurgence in the new century. Extensive studies by epidemiologist Amy Vittor suggested that deforestation of the Amazon created habitats along the edge of the forest that were ideal for the Anopheles mosquito, which carries and transmits malaria. [2]

A data study by Andy MacDonald, a disease ecologist, and Erin Mordecai later confirmed this theory. Their study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is widely accepted by the broad scientific community.

According to the study, for every 10% increase in loss of forests results in a 3% increase in malaria cases. This type of link between the data types is also observed in Sabah, which is part of the Malaysian Borneo forest. 

Novel diseases

Diseases like Nipah, HIV, and Ebola have their origins in forest-dwelling species. Since the animals have also evolved along with the diseases, they remain largely unaffected. The diseases are transmitted from animals to other animals. However, due to large-scale environmental destruction like forest and wildfires, and encroachment of forestland, these diseases have jumped to humans with disastrous consequences.

Humans have not had the opportunity to evolve with these diseases, which makes us particularly susceptible to these infections. The multi-billion-dollar animal industry, which requires large tracts of land, also puts us in danger of consuming infected animals. According to a 2015 study by Ecohealth Alliance, a New York-based non-profit, one in three emerging diseases can be linked back to changing land-use patterns, which includes deforestation.

What can we do?

The simple answer would be to protect our existing forests and grow new ones. Of course, the ground reality of such proposals is much more complicated. The situation is multi-faceted with implications that cross several aspects of human society. 

To be able to protect and rebuild our forests, we will have to reevaluate and reenergize the way we conduct our businesses. World governments will need to work with scientists and industry experts to develop new industries that do not require extensive land tracts or resources from fragile forests. Societies around the world will need to adjust to a new world order that is not fueled by consumerism. Instead, we must put forth our efforts towards creating and fostering a new paradigm that focuses on a harmonious balance with nature.

Already we are seeing the rise of new entrepreneurs and businesses that hold these principles as their central ethos. EcoMatcher, too, helps industries develop initiatives around tree planting. Recognizing the need of the hour for our planet will be one of the most crucial steps necessary for a healthy and vibrant future.

Posted on 2020-01-21

What is Agroforestry?

The increasing impact of climate change is a serious problem that cannot be waved away with the swift flick of a magic wand. Melting ice caps, growing deforestation, scarcity of fresh drinking water, increasing temperatures at a global level, ozone layer depletion; the list is endless.  

The road to the final solution is multifold and can be often achieved in more than one way, which is where agroforestry comes in.

What is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is an economically and ecologically sound practice that incorporates cultivation, conservation and tree planting alongside crops or livestock farming. It is an efficient method of land utilisation by integrating unique relationships within a given ecosystem that embraces the benefits provided by trees into agriculturally productive landscapes, which can be adapted by both small as well as large-sized land-holders. The intentional combination of agriculture with forestry increases biodiversity and reduces erosion. Agroforestry also emphasises on the utilisation of various indigenous shrubs and trees to multiply output while protecting the resource base. 

Benefits of Agroforestry

Agroforestry is a highly advantageous land management model that goes in line with sustainable and developmental goals of every nation aiming for holistic development. Under this model, all community members generate income from crops while keeping forests alive and healthy, which is a win-win for both the farmers and the organisations implementing environmentally sustainable projects. 

Agroforestry, therefore, offers benefits to its stakeholders on various fronts such as- environmental, economic, and social. The aim of sustainable development is imbibed in the goals of agroforestry as it thrives to strike a balance among the socio-economic and environmental needs allowing the present and future generations to live in prosperity.

Environmental Benefits

  • Agroforestry works towards the protection and conservation of land through effective protection of stock, control of soil erosion, salinity, and higher quality control of water tables. 
  • Agroforestry also controls water and soil runoff, thereby holding on to organic matter and essential nutrients present in the soil due to the deep-rooted trees on the site.
  • As a solution to climate change, carbon sequestration is employed by combining livestock maintenance and overlying net fixing wooden layer, which significantly reduces the greenhouse effect. It also aids in reducing global warming. 
  • This method improves the soil structure by constantly adding organic matter through decomposed litter, increasing the nutrients present in the soil.
  • Solar energy is more efficiently used by this procedure when compared to monoculture systems leading to reduced insect pests and associated diseases. 
  • Another benefit of agroforestry is the improvement of microclimate as a step to mitigate environmental change, such as reducing the temperature at the soil surface and evaporation of moisture present in the soil, through a combination of shading and mulching.
  • Most importantly, agroforestry can reclaim degraded or eroded land and regain its lost soil fertility through conserving and replenishing the resources available. It also contributes to the restoration of natural capital.

Economic Benefits 

  • Farmers all around vouch for agroforestry as they are able to reap the benefits that tree planting yields. Farmers are benefited by the extra income generated by selling the tree products. 
  • Trees provide the farmers with fertilizers, timber, livestock fodder, and more, which the farmer would otherwise have to buy, consequently reducing the farmers’ overhead expenses.
  • Enterprise diversity is boosted by agroforestry, thereby reducing the risk farmers bare on the labour costs. 
  • Farmers are also entitled to earning income throughout the year, depending on the crop variety and rotation. 
  • Trees used in this procedure are of good value to the farmers, as they do not demand high maintenance, yet they can be a source of income when cash is required to the farmers. They also help overcome the hunger risk by producing fruits, nuts, and oils.
  • There are relatively fewer chances of failure of the entire crop as when compared to the traditional farming methods of single cropping. This, in a way, guarantees the farmers of some monetary returns for every crop cycle. 
  • Due to the sustainable environmental practices of productivity followed in agroforestry, the income generated on the farm increases on a regular basis. 

Social benefits

  • Due to the stability in employment and higher income generation, the standard of living of the farmers in rural areas is advanced.
  • Health conditions are refined as they consume crops that are not exposed to harmful pesticides. Their quality of life, in turn, is improved simultaneously with the improvement of crop quality. 
  • Agroforestry provides the farmers with regular income eliminating their need to migrate to urban areas in search of employment, thus ensuring stabilisation and improvement of communities. 
  • This procedure also enables the farmers who have nil or limited access to modern medicine to cultivate medicinal plants by providing space. 

Key Traits of Agroforestry Practices

What makes agroforestry stand apart from other farming practices are four key traits that it possesses, categorised as the “four I’s” of farming. Namely – intentional, intensive, interactive, and integrated, as explained below:

Intentional

The three components of agroforestry – trees, crops, and/or animals are intentionally chosen and collectively managed as a whole and never merely as individual components. However, the intention is to employ an effective and efficient method to retain nutrients, prevent soil erosion, and protect the crop against strong winds by incorporating all the member elements. 

Intensive

Agroforestry is an intensive mechanism of cultivation which aims at yielding its farmers regular and periodic benefits. The production is planned in accordance with the season, availability, and other determining factors that contribute to the monetary benefits of the farmers in the short, and long term.

Interactive

Agroforestry is a scientific technique that optimally utilises the interaction between the three components. Agroforestry targets to reap benefits from more than one component at any given point of time, while subtly practicing reforestation to combat climate change. 

Integrated

The integration of the three components could be of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence as long as they complement each other in using the available resources. The structural and functional integration of the components aims at the judicious utilisation of natural resources.

Conclusion

Agroforestry is economically, environmentally, socially, and culturally a viable option towards environmental sustainability. Reforestation, as agroforestry promotes is a major step in adapting towards climate change. Climate change is a grave threat, and it is high time to act now. In this regard, EcoMatcher comes as a sigh of relief in this distressful situation. EcoMatcher enables businesses to plant/gift/adopt trees or even complete forest in an initiative to give back to society and nature. By incorporating tree plantation as a business component through employee rewards or loyalty programs and customer engagement, we are not only promoting responsibility amongst people but also setting examples for others to follow.