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Ask HN: Plant a Trillion Trees Campaign?
111 points by mjfern on July 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments
It seems one of the few opportunities to meaningfully help the planet and avoid the worst of climate change is to plant trees (1).

After learning this, I googled "donate a tree" and "plant a tree" and was met with dozens of results for nonprofits, many of which I had never heard of.

Which of the nonprofits was the best run? Which was the most efficient at converting donations into trees? Where were the trees being planted to ensure the planting was protected and sustainable?

My idea is to create a simple campaign website, trilliontrees.org, that serves as a rallying call to plant trees and that compares and provides guidance on the myriad of nonprofits involved in planting trees.

Anyone interested to partner on this?

(1) https://www-m.cnn.com/2019/07/04/world/forests-capture-two-thirds-of-carbon-emissions-scn-intl/index.html

Here's an idea to help "viralize" tree planting, especially among younger folks.

How about a tree social network? A website/app that incentivices the person to plant a tree and adopt it as a pet. The person plants a tree, names it and takes a few photos. A profile is then created.

The person can find nearby trees to socialize. Some cute artwork may help engaging people. Snapchat-like filters could be used to "dress up" the tree, further increasing cuteness (and the engagement).

People keep score by how many trees they've planted, which gamifies the process.

This may sound crazy (and possibly it is) but hey, it may just work.

If you (or anyone else) like the idea, I'd be more than happy to help build it, with the condition that it should be open source. Email is on profile.

ETA: Open source condition

City of melbourne trees have email addresses. People write to them: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-12/people-are-emailing-t...

You can discover the email address of each tree using the map here: http://melbourneurbanforestvisual.com.au/

You can send a tree an email?

The Future is here!

You may wanna look at what Alipay is doing with their Ant Forest, which is a behavior gamification turning into planting trees. https://www.alizila.com/how-alipay-users-planted-100m-trees-...

Just keep in mind that users are not the ones who is planting the trees. Users generate revenue for Ant Financial, which in turn donates some of its profits to 2-3 NGOs that actually do plant something somewhere.

Hey, that might be cool! I could try working on it in spare time, would you like to write down ideas?

Just brainstorming here, hopefully someone can further develop those ideas.

- I think it should feel more like a game than a social network. More like Pokemon Go than Facebook. I'd gamify as much as possible.

- Some people want to plant trees and are able to do so. Others aren't. Maybe they don't have the time, or they live in a concrete jungle. I think the project should focus on both segments.

- Those who can't plant, whatever the reason, may want to donate to projects that would plant. And those who can plant, may need guidance (where to buy seeds? where to plant? what to plant? etc). This website should facilitate both cases, as much as possible.

- Let's say that for each dollar donated, one tree is planted. That number (trees "remotely" planted by the person) should be made public, as some sort of virtual currency.

- Ideally, trees planted as proxy (via donation) would be photographed and shown to the donor. Unfortunately that's not practical.

- I think each person should have their own profile (with their own name, picture) and they could create a "sub-profile" for each tree. Not sure about this. But having a separate profile (login) per tree would actually be a problem for those planting lots of trees.

- (Or, using a better analogy for "sub-profile", people = Github profile, trees = Github repositories)

- This "sub-profile" could be similar to a Facebook group. You can post "life events" of the tree, photos, comments, etc. You can browse other people's trees (and their own, actual profile as well).

- Each tree planted by the users may have a location at the world map (provided by the user). This way we can show nearby trees and fellow "tree planters".

- We can have mini-games like "visit/photograph/'collect' trees near you". Similar (to a certain point) to Pokemon Go. When completing such mini-games the person is rewarded with the virtual currency.

- People may use the virtual currency with their own trees or others' trees. Not sure actually what they could spend it on.

- I really like the idea on sister comment from @secfirstmd. I think integrating related concepts further improves the platform.


Also, something important to remember, is that this website alone likely wouldn't get anywhere near OP's objective of 1 trillion trees, but it certainly can make an impact on awareness, or at the very least increase people's contact with nature (even in large cities).

+1 on gamifying it, newly planted tree could be used as a in-app bonus/item/assets


talking about social networks - such things can easily be adopted by companies like Facebook, if they simply put a planted tree counter next to everyone's profile, (allowing those how can't plant to donate for others to plant) it can lead to competitions among friends/family/groups to be #1 planters and do lots of good.

I think too much focus on the trees. To get to a trillion we need 125 trees per person on the planet. Removing those who are not in an area where tree planting is possible and cannot viably get to one, those who don't care, and those who simply cannot (children, disabled, etc) we are probably looking at tens of thousands of trees per person. I think at that point a tiered leaderboard would be more effective. Naming and photographing 10,000 trees is going to get old fast but getting to Forest Ninja level before your friends has some appeal to it.

Also there needs to be some system of logging (lol) which areas are ok to plant (avoid messing with earth's albedo, fire prone areas, for example) and among those which have not yet been planted. This will require and a way for users to check off what they've already covered and a collaboration with some organization who can say which areas are ok to plant and what types of trees will grow well there)

Furthermore there's needs to be an instructional aspect as to how to properly plant trees (seeds are a bad idea because they require regular follow up until they have sprouted). Saplings are a better bet which will require a list of places to get sapplings.

Ideally saplings will be free for users which will require coordination with governing bodies in every country that participates in order to subsidize the cost either at an individual level or directly to the suppliers. Either that or some kind of ad-incentive program for suppliers who are willing to donate.

It would be ideal if the suppliers rented tools as well and provided top soil and Schultz (growth mix).

This stuff has to come from somewhere. Either private equity or big brother. Should ask MacKenzie Bezos. She'd be down. Bono would be all over it. Bill and Melinda too. Maybe a live8 style benefit concert or something. Orr.. here we go, let people who can't go out and plant pay for the supplies for other people to do so. So you can have points for paying for trees. Points for planting them and triple bonus for doing both yourself because that's just awesome.

Or a mix of all the above. Pool the funds and then allocate them to suppliers when users indicate that they want to go to that location and get started. Really well suited for management by an app.

The app should also facilitate group efforts like matching groups of people in the same area with a nearby planting zone so they can rent a bus for a saturday and make a trip to somewhere a little less local.

I'm trying to think of ways to make this as frictionless as possible. Like i have an afternoon to kill and maybe some friends who would be down so I open the app. I need a map with available planting areas nearby and also sources for saplings. Do I have a car? A car with lots of space? Just a bike? Can I afford to fund this myself right now? Based on this are there any opportunities nearby? Maybe a notification based on those criteria if my location changes? Like maybe I'm on vacation and I need something to do or I'm driving somewhere and could stop for half an hour if the stars align.

Cool idea. Can we incorporate other stuff into this social network? Like rare animal sightings or Bee monitoring?

You are talking about Ecosia

Ecosia seems to send your IP address with search terms to bing. Other than that, they seem great

I absolutely love the idea! Unfortunately, I have a young child and little free time so I can’t be of help, but best of luck!!

This seems really interesting, and it obviously is important to be done. Something to note is that you'll likely need to buy up land to make sure it is secure when trees are planted. If you plan to buy swathes of land out of country, how do you deal with tree poachers? Probably your best bet is to buy in-country land and plant trees there. Perhaps do some research on what trees are more effective for carbon fixing.

And, of course, if you can find a way to make an economy around buying trees without destroying them, you'll have the most success. I've been trying to think of a good way to make an economy around that, but haven't come up with anything good. Maybe eco-tourism is the best option?

Send me a message, I'd be glad to chat more about this.

>tree poachers

Is this actually a thing? I always imagined tree cutting to be noisy, heavy, difficult and fairly non-subtle... stealing a tree seems like a really difficult task to pull off

Although I guess if you have a large forest, you’d have a lot of ground to cover and lot of coverage..

>Is this actually a thing?

Oh man the world is far worse than something like stealing trees for lumber, people are stealing entire BEACHES!


Transcript: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?stor...

Thanks for this link!

You can hardly hear a chainsaw a half-mile away through a thick forest. Nobody is policing the off-road trails through the woods. Typically this would be for pricier woods like black walnut or mahogany, not your standard cheap framing timber

Can you optimize for tree species that are native, CO2 absorbing, but not desirable for harvesting?

Optimize what?

Pick trees that absorb CO2 but aren’t worth cutting down. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

All trees absorb CO2 for cell growth. The aforementioned exotic tree poachers are negligible in their effect on carbon uptake because only a few selected trees make a big payday. The majority of deforestation clear-cutting you hear about in the rainforest is to clear land for cattle pastures, not for harvesting timber. Most timber companies are required to replant saplings in the land they clear.

Growing industrial hemp and bamboo is the fastest way to recapture carbon into useful materials because you can harvest multiple times a year

How do you ensure native rainforest and the like aren’t clearcut to grow hemp or bamboo?

Timber (initially) and beef production are the main reason these rainforests are getting cleared. It wouldn't make financial sense whatsoever to clearcut a forest to plant hemp

Another thing to note: in order to survive, those tiny planted trees may also need some care during their first years of life (e.g. removal of weeds from around every seedling).

Today I discovered the 'Billion Tree Campaign' was started by the UN in 2006. Wiki says they'd planted 15B trees in 193 countries by 2018 (315M in the US).


Looks like the UN handed the program to 'Plant for the Planet' (Germany) in 2011.


It'd be fantastic to see this organized nationwide in the U.S. ... and promoted as part of the campaign.

P.S. This video, 'Planting Bare Root Trees With A Dibble', shows how very easy it can be to plant a seedling. Anyone can learn it in a short time.


Perhaps your website could provide coordination with land owners to show which areas are eligible for tree planting. People could even use an app to designate which areas they intend to plant on, and mark as complete. New areas would be opened up as more municipalities (or private land owners) jump on board. There is already a federal effort for tree planting, as my family owns some hunting land that they are paid to keep trees growing (likely for local soil/water retention efforts)

This wouldn't be the first time people have banded together for "Emergency Conservation Work" (FDR administration 5 billion trees):


I've had decent success planting things after amending the soil where the rootball is expected to be. This involves removing some of the clay-like soil and replacing with both seasoned and fresh compost. Planting a trillion trees within a rather urgent window of time may not be eligible for this sort of micromanagement (plus the root system of a tree will be quite large), but I still like the idea of spending free time doing this sort of thing.

Poland is paying up to 2000 euro per ha for converting agriculture land into forrest. There is also a lot of additional subsidies for forrests on private land which can add up to few thousand euro.

You can actually make small but stable profit from buying land and converting into forest.

> Priority will be given to those who intend to plant a forest in the so-called ecological corridors, in areas threatened by water erosion, in areas adjacent to inland waters and forests, in areas with a slope of more than 12 degrees. Also, those who have land for afforestation in voivodships with a forest cover of less than 30% will get points. Depending on the species composition of the crop and the previously mentioned criteria, the amount of support can range from PLN 4,984 to PLN 7,624 per hectare. In addition, payment is possible for fencing of crops.

Assigned budget 2014-2020 for this project is 300 milion euro.

I believe there are similar schemes in other EU countries.

Link in Polish: http://www.lasy.gov.pl/pl/informacje/aktualnosci/jak-zdobyc-...

Forrest area in Poland is growing since WWII from 20,8% in 1946 to 29,5% in 2016. The target for 2020 is 30% area of the country under forrest and for 2050 - 33%. 80% of forrests in Poland is under management of Lasy Panstwowe - state-owned company with political reach.



Additionaly areas of older forrests (over 80 years old) increased by 50% from 1946. There is also a policy of making forrests more ecologically diverse.

Helping a planet that already helps itself.

"Here we analyse 35 years’ worth of satellite data and provide a comprehensive record of global land-change dynamics during the period 1982–2016. We show that—contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally—tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km2 (+7.1% relative to the 1982 level). This overall net gain is the result of a net loss in the tropics being outweighed by a net gain in the extratropics."


Human, an fascinating animal yet with such a high opinion of itself.


"They further report that much of the new growth came about due to efforts by humans (such as reforestation efforts in China and parts of Africa) and because of global warming—warmer temperatures have raised timberlines in some mountainous regions, and allowed forests to creep into tundra areas. Other areas of new tree growth resulted from large farm abandonments in places like Russia and the U.S. The researchers report that their calculations showed that human activities have directly caused approximately 60 percent of new global tree growth. They suggest their technique for monitoring tree cover could be used to predict tree cover changes in the future due to global warming."

So reforestation efforts led by humans has contributed to this change. AND global warming caused by humans has caused the tundra to warm up enough that forests have moved up there.

Interesting, but one could easily read this as being "Nature will heal itself, we don't need to do anything".

That's not quite what's happening of course. Nature will adapt to whatever changes, and that may bring things back to the way they were. Or it may take off in a completely different direction - possibly one unsuitable for us.

Information, live maps updating us moment to moment where new trees are going in, a way to communicate with others about planting methods, suppliers of hardware, and nurseries or seed providers, a network that is solely dedication to the actualization of the idea as seamlessly as is possible. Make an action network of steps and allow people to volunteer to be assigned a role at some geographic radius they preselect. The entire process can be organized to have everyone as effectively as possible making it happen. Hopefully the possibility of actually resolving climate change in a tangible way would help it spread and everyone could get involved together and be proud that, regardless of everything else that’s wrong, we actually got together and did something good.

Trees plant themselves, they have been doing so for hundreds of thousands of years.

It would take a serious amount of carbon for humans to do this task for mother nature - we need trucks to transport the seeds and soil to where we want them planted, we need to grow food so the human can eat to get energy to plant the seeds.

The best thing we can do is let mother nature grow. Build up instead of out and stop deforesting for farm land.

Exactly how big do you think seeds are? Soil already exists on the ground. It is the ground. Take a walk, take some seeds, plant them.

The trend to argue against helpful ideas is contrary to the goals of improving the world. Maybe every idea isn't perfect. Maybe no idea will solve all of the problem. But if the top 100 ideas each is completed with 1% efficiency, maybe that will all add up. Maybe we'll improve things enough to let better ideas come to fruition. So maybe we should stop criticizing, and start acting.

As someone pointed out in another thread, a campaign already exists at https://www.trilliontreecampaign.org. That said, this isn't providing the information that I'm looking for.

>Which of the nonprofits was the best run?

One can try to search for corresponding nonprofits with https://CharityNavigator.org. For example, there are



and more...

I'm interested in partnering. I envision it as crowdfunding surrounded with some form of community. Buy up land, plant trees, webcams and video's to visit it, excursions to go there for a picknick. I love the idea tho give each tree an email/web/chat address.

But also plant solar panels. Conservation, buy or lease pieces of rainforest that need protecting. Attract the money from carbon tax, emission rights, companies and governments that want to greenwash their reputation. I have been inspired to work on this ever since seeing [1] when I was 10 years old. My grandfather bought a forest and walked me through it when I was a 4 year old boy. It instilled the idea of stewardship for our planet. And then there is the (mythical) 500 year old tree story about New College, Oxford to inspire [2]. A trillion trees is not enough, there are 3 trillion already, we need to double that [3]. When I go on walks I'll check up on all the trees my mom or dad and I talked about. I'll visit them, rather then their graves.



[3] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Thomas_Crowther/publica...

I’m playing with the idea of a trees4travel nonprofit. Eco-conscious individuals or business that requires employees to travel can quickly using some basic information make a donation to plant trees/take other climate change action in order to offset the impact of that flight - in an effort to become carbon neutral/negative.

LMK if this is interesting at all, anyone is free to partner or run with it - whatever to help the climate

China has announced plans to plant new forests in 2018 that will cover at least 6.6 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Ireland.


Just plant some trees, it's easy:

- Gather seeds from native species in your area.

- place 2-3 large seeds or 5-10 smaller seeds in a pot. I use old 1l milk containers.

- Put the pots outside, a terrace or balcony will do.

- As soon as the seeds sprout, find a spot to plant. Can be natural (prairie, forest, ..) or not (parks, roundabouts, parking lots, yards,medians,...). Just ask for permission if planting on private property.

- Go back during dry spells or heatwaves and water them.

- Profit?

It is legal to plant local indigenous trees and plants in national/state parks? Or is this classified as guerrilla gardening?

Personally, I use https://www.ecosia.org/(who would probably be a great company to try and partner with) as my web browser since they donate most of their profits to tree planting operations, and I give some money every month to Eden Project, who have been planting trees for a very long time and seem to have a good reputation.

If you're interested in helping out with their efforts it might be worth reaching out to trillion tree campaign. Their website really needs some work, but they've already done a lot of good work with some really big organizations. No need to re-do work when there is something already out there that you could potentially help expand on.

Most people are going to plant a tree in the middle of nowhere, take a few selfies, and then leave it to die or be eaten.

Or they 'll plant too many trees in their backyard, which they will have to cut as soon as they grow too much, because it's annoying/inconvenient

If we care about trees work on stopping the number one cause of deforestation - meat.


One for example: https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/09/when-tree-falls-it-deforest...

Land is cleared to make room for cattle grazing and for crops used to feed animals.

ie- meat

Can trees be uniquely identified? If yes, use tree-fingerprint and incentivize increasing age of unique trees. In return you get carbon offset credits that you can sell to make money. Like crypto, but greener.

EDIT: grammar

Better, build an API for planting trees. Plenty of hipster SaaSes would be happy to add a "We will plant one tree for every subscription" slogan to their landing page.

Forrest area in Poland is growing since WWII from 20,8% in 1946 to 29,5% in 2016. The target for 2020 is 30% area of the country under forrest and for 2050 - 33%.

80% of forrests in Poland is under management of Lasy Panstwowe - state-owned company with political reach.



I think the correct way to go about this is to just encourage people to plant trees suitable and native to their (people's) environment. And let it scale. Better, also tell them not to fell trees left right and center.

In the exuberance of ecological conservation and all that, we must not overlook and override what nature would have done. For instance, one shouldn't plant a water sucking tree where it wouldn't naturally occur, and damage the balance.

I wanted to donate to such a non-profit and I found three comparison websites, quite different from each other, that all recommended Trees for the Future: http://trees.org/ .

They've been working for twenty years, already planted 150 million trees, and most importantly, train people in Africa to create forest gardens while lifting themselves out of poverty.

Now they plant eight trees per day for me too. <3

Many US states have forestry services which will send you free or inexpensive native saplings.

A few examples:

http://www.gatrees.org/reforestation/ordering-information/ https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/seedlings.html

how can one find areas in the bay area to go plan trees with a bunch of friends and not be associated with any campaigns etc?

With varying local rules and regulations, plant species adaptability, invasive vs non-invasive species debate raging on, it would be great to have a website which gives you info. about the local areas in the range of 100 miles where one can go and plant trees with this information readily available;

I would go one step ahead and propose to also have the saplings shipped or sold either from this website or have distribution centers/farms closer to the region where these saplings can be collected; these centers would be similar to your regular Home Depots etc. where you would have all the information readily available; One can also pay a subscription fees of 5$/month to have the farm take care of these saplings until it becomes self sufficient.

Before someone asks about how we would raise the initial capital for these distribution centers is thru carbon tax/federal/state funds.

I once worked with a guy who'd coordinated planting on the ground with aerial seedling drops, saplings in cones from airplanes, as illustrated here:


I would recommend playing to peoples desires. People like beautiful yards and gardens, and you get people to plant more than just one tree if you educate them.

Tell them they can make their place beautiful and fight climate change.

I planted 6 evergreen bushes and 5 trees in just the past few months, and my yard is quite small.

A friend of mine created a subreddit* a while back to encourage people to plant one tree a year. Unfortunately, the subreddit did not get any traction.

* https://www.reddit.com/r/a_tree_a_year

How about governments (counties/states) setting up areas that are memorial forests where people come and plant a tree or multiple trees for loved ones.

Encourage people to plant trees for previous generations of family members. And have small in memory of markers for each tree.

You may find relevant people to partner with in this community: https://techimpactmakers.com/

Among other projects they've already released climatechoices.co

Cool idea. In my city, everyone is obsessed with cutting down trees because landlords don’t want to rake leaves and the utility company eviscerated many older trees.

I have a dozen in my back yard I planted 20 years ago.

Ahead of my time!

How about contacting XR regarding your idea? Regards

Who/what is XR?

XR is Extinction Rebellion, a group non-violently protesting the lack of action on climate change by governments and corporations. They've been growing pretty rapidly, though I'm not sure how far up their alley planting trees would be.

Ah, yes. Thank you!

I'm used to searching a lot on the Internet and thus have made Ecosia as my primary search engine.

It plants trees from its ad revenues.

I’d love to help partner on this. Coding, marketing, AWS hosting, whatever I can do. Email is in my profile.

this is being done in Israel for decades: http://www.kkl-jnf.org/forestry-and-ecology/

I'm working on something similar because a while back, I was in a similar situation as you, and was curious. The plans are to allow users to have a neat looking visualization where every single tree that has been planted can be rendered depending on where they're viewing. You may see a lot with a green border that means we can fill that entire lot up. "Here's how close we are to filling up lot X in Atlanta...", etc. There will be scoreboards. One for individuals, and one for organizations. You will of course be able to filter by region as well. I'd like to gamify it a bit but that's something I'm having trouble figuring out. Of course if someone with a lot of money wants to get a bunch of trees planted, that's great! Pay-to-win is pretty cool in this scenario. I want their contribution to be appreciated and noticed! However, there are ways to fund this sort of work besides money coming directly out of peoples pocket, too. And the people making that happen need to be appreciated and noticed, too. Revenue from ads could go towards the work, which would mean there needs to be a reason to stay on the site a bit, and whatever other factors are relevant there. That could be quality content, games, a community of sorts. A LOT can and will go into it, but I plan on getting a MVP out the door within the next month. Stay tuned! There's so much to this I'll make a post on HN when it's time. ;)

The important thing for me is to make this FOR profit and to give a QUALITY guide on how to basically "steal" this idea, assuming I am able to execute it effectively. Then, the competition can begin. As much as I hate capitalism, you can't deny it's ability to get people to work really hard. In my opinion, that's what needs to happen. To hell with the non-profit sector, for now.

If you have ideas or would just like to discuss this a bit, feel free to do so by replying, or getting in touch. My personal email is j.horne2796@gmail.com

how about contactong XR regarding your idea? Regards

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