I get a lot of press releases about tree planting. Many of them are for ‘revolutionary’ or ‘game changing’ platforms or apps that promise to plant trees when you do unrelated things online. Sometimes blockchain is mentioned as a way of getting extra attention. They have names likes Treedom, Treely or Treedle. I am sceptical of their claims.
Where are these trees? Since I don’t literally plant them with my mouse clicks, who does plant them? And was that person fairly paid? Who owns the land out of which ‘my’ tree will grow? Will anyone look after it? Isn’t it all a bit too easy?
Some groups have answers to these sorts of questions. Ecosia, the tree-planting search engine, has been going for long enough to have a track record. They’re admirably transparent as an organisation, and they have a straightforward model that doesn’t make big claims for itself. So it’s quite possible to do tree-planting business partnerships well, and I want to be able to support more of the good ones.
With that in mind, I’m open to the idea of a new company that launched this month, Trainhugger. They offer train tickets on a similar basis and the same price as other train travel sites, and 50p of each sale funds tree planting. This goes to the Royal Forestry Society, a group I hadn’t heard of before but that seems to have been around for 135 years.
Unusually, this will be for tree-planting in the UK. This is important, as we are a severely deforested nation. It’s easy to focus on tree planting in developing countries and forget how much work we have to do here. As George Monbiot has described with the theory of shifting base lines, you could grow up in Britain and think that this is what the landscape is supposed to look like. But Britain has a third of the tree cover of most European countries.
England, at 10%, has similar rates of forest area as Somalia or Sudan. (It used to be worse, having fallen to 5% a hundred years ago.) Government targets are to increase tree cover to 12% by 2050. Projects like Trainhugger may have an important role in funding this work, and I’ll be trying them out the next time I book a train journey.
If you’ve already used Trainhugger, let us know how it went in the comments.