Future of the Environment

Here's how you can use your phone to plant trees

An aerial view shows a cleared forest area under development as a palm oil plantation by palm oil companies in the Ketapang district of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province July 5, 2010. The photograph was taken as part of a media trip organised by conservationist group Greenpeace, which has campaigned against palm oil expansion in forested areas in Indonesia. Documents written between 2008 and January 2010 and sent between lobbyists, scientists and high-ranking European civil servants, released after Reuters invoked transparency laws, exposed a huge rift in Brussels over biofuels policy and also undermined Europe's ambition of using alternative fuels to wean the continent off oil by showing how vested interests have influenced the science behind a cornerstone of the continent's clean energy policy.      To match Special Report BIOFUELS/EUROPE      REUTERS/Crack Palinggi (INDONESIA - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT POLITICS) - GM1E6751NW501

Tech is tackling deforestation. Image: REUTERS/Crack Palinggi

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of the Environment

Planting trees to save the planet just got a whole lot easier – no gardening gloves required.

A new app from the young people behind the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation means anyone can now help with the world’s reforestation efforts, in just a few simple clicks.

The Plant-for-the-Planet app is part of the Trillion Tree Campaign, which grew out of the UN Environment Programme’s Billion Tree Campaign, launched in 2006.

Plant-for-the-Planet founder Felix Finkbeiner (centre) poses with the planting team. Image: Plant-for-the-Planet
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The destruction of forests generates almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as global road travel – but, as the demand for food production grows, deforestation continues apace.

According to the UNEP, trees are the cheapest and most effective means of binding carbon dioxide, so the more trees there are growing on Earth, the better we can hope to mitigate the climate crisis.

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Tree-mendous effort

The app has 50 reforestation projects in developing countries to choose from. For just over $3, you can ‘plant’ a tree in Brazil, or for $108, you can plant 1,000 trees to restore the landscape of Indonesia – and the money goes straight to the tree planters on the ground.

And if you do want to get your hands dirty, the app also lets you register trees you’ve planted yourself, with photos and locations, as well as organise tree-planting competitions among schools or at work.

Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, says: “Widespread restoration requires us to reach out to large numbers of people, cost-effectively and quickly. Apps like this can go a long way to boost nature-based solutions for climate action, livelihoods and sustainability.”

Image: Trillion Tree Campaign

The late environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai inspired the UN’s original global tree planting efforts, with the words: “When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope.”

It launched in November 2006 and, such was its success, the billionth tree was in the ground by November 2007.

In January 2007, then nine-year-old German Felix Finkbeiner gave a presentation to his classmates on global warming and suggested children should plant a million trees in every country. This became Plant-for-the-Planet.

In 2011, the UNEP handed over the Billion Tree campaign with its official tree counter to the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, which plants a tree on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula every 15 seconds.

App-ily ever after?

Felix Finkbeiner poses with the Plant-for-the-Planet app. Image: Plant-for-the-planet.org

The foundation realized 10,000 similar projects could restore a trillion trees, so they focused on scaling up reforestation efforts by sharing their tools with others, including an app to collate projects together.

The app’s lead developer, 24-year-old Sagar Aryal, has been planting trees with Plant-for-the-Planet for more than 10 years, as one of 81,000 young people from 73 countries involved in the foundation.

Aryal says: “With the late Wangari Maathai in mind, I’ve poured all my heart and soul into this app for the past two years. I hope she would be happy and proud of us.”

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Related topics:
Future of the EnvironmentEmerging TechnologiesForests
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