activism conservation environment

Where are your ten trees?

I was writing up some details about Wangari Maathai’s life this week, for a talk that I’m preparing. If you’re not familiar with Maathai, she was a formidable Kenyan woman who set up the Green Belt Movement of community tree planters. The organisation has planted 50 million trees since its founding in the late 7os, and along the way encouraged countless communities to take pride in their land and work towards restoring it. Her holistic vision of conservation, empowerment and development earned Maathai the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

I was reading some of her interviews, and I came across this great statement about our personal responsibility for our own carbon:

“We need at least 10 trees to take care of our own carbon dioxide, and so if you don’t have 10 trees somewhere where you can say ‘these are my trees,’ you are using somebody else’s tree, and you ought to get up and plant your own.”

That’s a wonderfully direct challenge, and it immediately made me wonder if I have ten trees to my name. On reflection, I definitely do. I have some in the back garden, some in the local park, some in other parts of the world, and many that I have paid for but not planted myself. I’m working on a funding application at the moment that might scoop me a few more around the town. But I don’t have ten trees in one place, and I would like to be able to say ‘these are my trees’. I should plant some more.

So where are your trees? And if you haven’t got at least ten, where are you going to plant some? If you haven’t got the land for it yourself, I suggest making a donation to TreeAid.  Of if you want to support a forest in Kenya that I know and love, some friends of mine look after it through the Kijabe Forest Trust.

By the way, that ten trees is for your personal needs – not for your entire carbon footprint. That’s what we need to produce oxygen and re-use the CO2 we breathe out. If you’re planning to drive or fly or meat beef or do any other kind of living, you need more trees!


  1. Great post! I’ll be planting mine from the Arbor Day Foundation this year but will have to check out the other organizations you mentioned as well.

  2. A great tool for planting tree while doing your internet searches is Ecosia – they use 80% of their profits from advertising for planting trees in most needed areas – I’ve planted over 800 trees in less than a year as they have a counter that tells you 🙂
    And not sure if you have seen this great little YouTube clip from Wangari Maathai’ on the hummingbird: I use it a lot for Teaspoons of Change and will add 10 trees as a Teaspoon of Change!

    1. I’ve heard her tell that story before, but hadn’t seen the video – thanks for the link!

      I tried Ecosia before and found it wasn’t as efficient as I wanted it to be. But that was a few years ago and I expect it’s better today. I’ll give it another go.

  3. Another good alternative is to contribute to the charity Woodland Trust ( My wife and I are members and also occasionally respond to additional special appeals. They plant a lot of trees and prevent “developments” from destroying many more by buying up threatened ancient woodland.

    It shouldn’t be forgotten that it’s not only trees that help. So do shrubs and herbaceous perennials. I only have two trees in my garden, and one of them is a tiny apple tree planted about 18 months ago (the other is a 15 feet high Chusan palm), but I have a lot of shrubs. Bananas are herbaceous, but the leaves on mine (several stems each producing an 8 feet long, over 2 feet wide leaf per week) must help, as does the 14 feet high clump of bamboo and the huge leaves of the gunnera.

  4. Ten trees will only sequester ten tons of co2 by the time they’re forty years old. We need eight trees a year just to negate our lifestyle in the uk.

    1. Potentially so, but there are a whole pile of reasons why this is a general principle and not a scientific assessment of how to deal with climate change. Take responsibility and plant more trees, is the message. I also take it to be our personal needs, as human beings, not the entirety of our lifestyle.

      But I’ll add a note to say that, in case anyone thinks they can plant ten trees and live any way they like.

  5. Great post Jeremy thank you. I will look at the tree charities and do what I can. Trees are amazing and we must do everything to save them, I often spend time in my local woods (very small) but there. Surrounded by trees I feel empowered and at peace; they have a majestic knowledge I think humanity has lost along the way.

      1. Very true some of the best meditation I have has been at the base of a tree. Not to mention they provide our air (well Oxygen).

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