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Green Is The New Black

How to know if a tree planting scheme is legit

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Reforestation is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. So it’s no surprise that tree planting schemes are now one of the most popular ways for businesses and individuals to play their role in helping the planet. With so many options to choose from, how do you pick the project that will have the maximum impact? You ask, we answer.


Carbon offsetting projects can be pretty uninspiring. This is why many companies have flipped to focus directly on tree planting efforts. Forests not only absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they also create a cooling cloud cover, that reflects sunlight back into space, as well as provide a habitat that supports diverse ecosystems.

Planting trees is also a tangible way of tracking positive impact. (And, of course, people want to see impact.) From schemes that enable brands to plant a tree with every purchase, to organisations that allow you to sponsor reforestation efforts, there are now hundreds of ways to get involved. However, even tree planting platforms have their pitfalls. With so many ways to reforest, it’s hard to understand exactly how your donation will make an impact. How do you cut through the greenwashing? And how do you know if the scheme you found is legit?

Here are some ways to check if your input will have a positive impact on the planet…


1. Look for additionality

Why you donate might not match up to why the tree gets planted. For example, imagine channeling your donation towards a company that grows fruit. Although your money will contribute to a tree, the primary goal of the business is to generate revenue from selling fruit. So it’s likely that the trees would have been planted… with or without your financial contribution.

Unfortunately, agroforestry companies sometimes point to trees like this as an example of carbon capture. Ignoring the fact that they would have been planted anyway. Of course, it’s great to see tree planting, and to know that they will sequester carbon as an added bonus. However, your contribution is not resulting in additional trees. You’re probably, then, better off contributing to a scheme that’s tree planting for the environment.


2. Focus on conservation

Thanks to the global emphasis on emissions reduction, entire industries, dedicated to carbon offsetting, have emerged. These organisations plant trees, and sell the associated carbon credits to businesses.

However, in this process, they tend to overlook the entire lifecycle of the trees. Forestry companies often claim the carbon credits from the initial tree planting, only to cut down the trees once they reach maturity, and then sell the timber. So although the tree does a good job of storing carbon dioxide for its lifecycle? Its possible, longer-term benefits are literally cut short.

In addition, all of reforestation’s good work can be destroyed in a matter of hours… if a forest goes up in flames, and releases all of that carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. As forest fires become more of a regular threat around the world, these agro-forestry companies need to make sure they have resilient conservation plans, to ensure the carbon stays locked away in trees. Which is to say: when you’ve found a tree planting scheme? Make sure those trees will be there to stay.


3. Ask to see impact

Although you may believe that your donation is going to plant a specific tree in a specific place, agro-forestry platforms can be loose with the truth. You could be buying a stock photo of a tree, or a pin on Google Maps. While that’s not describing all tree planting schemes, it has happened before. And in some cases, third parties take up to 80% of a donation. Which then limits your potential full impact.

However, new technology is making it much easier to track your donation, and follow its growing impact. Look for providers that aim to connect you with your contribution through transparent reporting. At Handprint, we’re connecting businesses with on-the-ground reforestation initiatives focused on regenerating the planet. Users can track how their donations are being used in real-time. And watch how their positive impact grows over time. They can also share and embed this data via their own channels.


Reforestation is one of the most inspiring and impactful ways to help protect our planet. To find out how you or your company can help the planet through regenerating natural ecosystems, try out Handprint’s Regenerative Target Calculator.

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When he was only 13, Mathias created the most visited website on computer hacking in France. A graduate from ESIEE Paris, MSc. In Systems, he’s rapidly turned to the startup ecosystem. Prior to Handprint Tech, he spent 7+ years working on R&D collaborations with 200+ Tech startups across Europe & Asia, as the owner and Managing Director of GAC Singapore. He also founded Greeen, an IoT urban gardening startup. Mathias is a “Star Contributor” for TechInAsia and e27.