Day 16: Plant trees
Today's action: Re-greening the world one tree at a time
Today’s action is to plant trees! Because we’re all starting from different places, we’re going the choose-your-own-adventure route today. Pick one or more of these options:
If you have space to plant trees, research the best options for your area (see tips below), and make a plan to plant at the right time of year. Pencil it in your calendar now!
Make a donation to a tree planting organization (see tips below). Or plan to give the gift of trees the next time you celebrate a gift-giving holiday or milestone.
Switch to Ecosia for some or all of your Internet searches; it’s a free search engine that uses its profits to plant and protect trees. When we wrote this, they had already planted more than 141 MILLION trees. (They have a Chrome extension that allows you to search directly in the address bar, as well as a mobile app.)
Why this action? The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now. Planting trees should not be viewed as offsetting -- we still need to stop emissions through ending the use of fossil fuels and avoiding deforestation -- but tree planting is still useful, as mature trees help capture and sequester carbon.
Planting trees in some places is much more important than in other places, though, which is why supporting tropical forest restoration has a higher impact than planting a tree in your own yard. Having said that: if more Americans switched their lawns from grass to native trees and other plants, we’d sequester more carbon (and waste less water, use fewer chemicals, and support more wildlife).
Looking for more? Read on for tree tips, more info, and lots of further related actions, including ways to help avoid deforestation (and reduce that pesky junk mail).
If you want to plant trees on your land, start by checking out the Native Plant Finder to learn which trees (and other plants) are native to your area. Or search for a local nursery that sells and can advise on native plants. Native plants are the most sustainable option, and provide the best habitat for native wildlife.
If you want to plant trees through an organization, options include:
Plant for the Planet/Trillion Tree Campaign: started by a 9-year-old, this is a youth-led global group aiming to plant a trillion trees. They also train youth to be climate justice ambassadors.
Ecosia Tree Store: plants and protects native trees in more than 30 countries, working with local partners in high priority locations.
American Forests: plants trees in American wildland restoration projects; also works to increase tree equity.
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation: plants fruit, nut, and medicinal trees, helping to address food insecurity while also providing benefits of tree planting.
Learn and reflect:
After fossil fuel-based emissions, deforestation is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Preventing deforestation is even more important than planting trees, because it stops significant emissions, and because trees need to be mature to sequester the most carbon.
As an individual, some of the most high impact choices to help avoid deforestation relate to diet: don’t eat industrial beef and try to avoid palm oil. (Even though deforestation is also linked to soy production, keep eating your tofu -- most of the deforestation-linked soy is used to feed livestock.) Be careful with leather, too, which also has been linked to deforestation of the Amazon. Oh, and boycott tropical hardwoods, like mahogany, rosewood, and teak.
Other steps to help avoid deforestation include: reducing your use of timber and of paper products, using recycled options when you do need paper products (see our resources page for a recycled toilet paper option!), buying FSC-certified paper products if you absolutely have to buy new, and recycling paper products whenever possible. (Having said this, there's a case to be made that using more timber as a substitute for concrete and steel is the more sustainable building option.)
Oh, and stop that junk mail! (As much as you can. From our experience, it’s basically impossible to stop it completely in the US, and it makes Kaitlin's head want to explode.) Every year, 100 million trees’ worth of JUNK MAIL is sent to Americans. That’s like deforesting Rocky Mountain National Park every 4 months, and using the energy of 3 million cars, to produce paper most of us toss straight into the recycling bin (or worse). Three services that can help: DMAChoice ($2 fee), Catalog Choice (free), and Paper Karma (fee-based). You can also opt out of credit card and insurance offers using Opt Out Prescreen. More guidance, including for Canada and the UK, here.
Support tree equity, including by checking to see if there are local organizations pushing for greater tree equity, or local policy efforts in your city to improve tree equity. (For example, Chicago recently announced new investments in tree equity.)
Besides using native plants in your own gardening, you can also support or volunteer with local organizations and forest preserves that focus on restoring native plants. Among other things, this can help improve local ecosystem resiliency.
Speaking of plants: if you're wondering about the climate impact of houseplants, we were recently given the following tip: transplant a native plant into a pot and bring it inside. Less exotic, but avoids the emissions associated with greenhouses and transportation. Oh, and aim to avoid peat moss / peat compost.