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.