The idea is simple: you go to Treedom, browse the catalogue of available trees, you choose one or more types and pay the corresponding fee. Each type of tree is described in terms of its impact (food security, CO2 absorption, economic development, environmental protection), and users from any country may participate.
Feeling generous? You may even plant a whole forest, perhaps by joining forces with a group of friends or coworkers.
At that point, participating farmers plant your trees, which start growing as you receive constant updates (including photos) that show you how they are getting ready to offset carbon emissions and give food or economic development opportunities to the disadvantaged communities nearby.
Founded in 2010, this Italian company has planted a remarkable amount of trees in Africa, South America and Italy (more on that below). In 2014, it became part of Certified B Corporations, a network of companies that meet rigorous environmental and social standards.
Little by little, it has become popular — and besides ordinary users, several companies rely on it for their environmental initiatives today, including Samsung, H&M and Hyundai. We had a chance to talk with their CEO, Federico Garcea. Here’s what he shared with us.
When and how did you conceive Treedom?
Treedom was founded almost 10 years ago by Tommaso Speroni and me. At that time, Farmville — a browser game in which the purpose was to build a virtual farm — was a big hit. I used to play it in order to impress a girl I liked, who was a big Farmville fan.
Now, if you wanted to create a nicer farm than all the others, full of plants and trees, you had to pay real money; so Tommaso used to make fun of me, saying: “You mean you’re really spending real money to plant fake trees?”
This question that bordered on the absurd was the spark that triggered the idea to create something that would allow anyone to plant real trees. This is how Treedom came to life.
How long have you been operating, and which are the results you are proudest of?
We’re going to celebrate our first 10 years of existence next year. Right now, we’ve almost achieved the goal of 750.000 trees planted, which will be able to absorb over 250 million kg of CO2 in their lifetime.
But perhaps, the most telling data about Treedom regards the community that has developed in time around our work: 260.000 people, all the way from Japan to Chile, from Russia to the Vatican, who have placed their trust in us and have planted trees with us.
Why should eco-‘s users plant trees (or even whole forests) on Treedom?
Well… let me reveal something about our holiday campaign for this year: it’s going to talk about all sorts of reasons to plant a tree and give it to someone you care about. During its creation, we’ve clarified the numerous factors for which a Treedom tree is a unique “product”.
There are perfectly rational reasons to plant a tree: if you do it, you know you are contributing something useful to the environment and to local communities.
There are emotional reasons, since you can read the news about the development of the projects, which proved to you in time how much good you’ve done just through a simple click of your mouse. There’s the possibility of giving a tree to the people you care about, although they might be far away, and share this experience.
There are many reasons, so many that even we realize we can’t be aware of all of them!
Why have you opted for this form of carbon offsetting instead of other, more immediate ones, like payments for ecosystemic services, which prevents trees from being torn down in the first place?
This is another question that doesn’t have just one answer. On one hand, I might borrow the words written by Tom Crowther, one of the authors of the study titled “The Global Tree Restoration Potential”: “Our study clearly shows that planting new trees is the best solution available today to ward off climate change.”
On the other hand, planting a tree isn’t just a way to offset carbon emissions, but also to create new opportunities, which for us is an equally essential aspect of what we do.
Is it true that Treedom users may also give trees to someone as a gift? Do many of them take advantage of this opportunity?
Yes, giving a tree as a gift is at the same time a concrete act and a deeply symbolic one. In many cultures, trees are planted to celebrate new births or marriages. After all, a tree is a gift that may represent the connection between people, even across generations.
And with Treedom, it’s also a gift that crosses borders, because with a simple click of my mouse, from my home in the UK I can give a friend who lives in Italy the gift of a tree that will be planted in Haiti. I think it’s one of the reasons why many of our trees are gifts.
Are there a lot of people who form groups in order to plant forest on Treedom?
There are several of them, and they are incredibly diverse, because green attitudes is widespread in all sorts of environments by now and it pushes the most varied people to group together and take action. It can be a group of people who love using organic cosmetics, of travelers, of fans of some sports or heavy metal music. There are no fences and no predefined fields.
How is your relationship with farmers? Do you really find that a tree planted with Treedom is “much more than a tree”, as one of your taglines says?
We do. And we believe so deeply that this is the added value of what we do, that we’re firmly focusing not only on being transparent regarding the increasingly more engaging news we provide from the field, but on offering users the chance to visit our projects. It’s the best way to experience what is being done through our work firsthand.
Beyond planting trees on Treedom, could you advise our users three concrete things they could do in their daily lives in order to help the planet?
Using their bikes anytime they can to go where they need to, avoid using plastic bottles of any size and… planting a tree every time they have a chance.
(Interview conducted by Matteo Vegetti)