Means&Matters
Stories of Money and sustainability

5 Ways to Plant a Tree Without Getting Off the Couch

BY Nathan Beers Writer Bank of the West

Mar 25th 2021

We rely on them to clean the air we breathe, filter our water, and provide homes for plants and animals.

But how important are trees in our fight against climate change?

A single mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a year and about a ton’s worth by the time it reaches age 40. And there’s strength in numbers. An acre of forest can absorb the amount of C02 produced by two average cars in a year.

That’s one reason some experts estimate that an extra 2.4 billion acres of trees could slow global warming enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Growing more trees can also translate into job growth. Experts have estimated that every $1 million invested in reforestation and sustainable forest management supports nearly 40 jobs. While the same investment in the CO2-intensive oil and gas industry supports only five jobs.

SO, HOW CAN I HELP WITH TREE PLANTING?

If you want to contribute to tree planting, first decide, do you want to get your hands dirty or not? Do you prefer donating to a reforestation project? How about investing as a way to plant trees?

Here are five options for putting the power of trees to work. Check ’em out.

1. DO A SEARCH, PLANT A TREE

What could be easier than planting trees with the power of online search? Enter Ecosia and the www.ecosia.org search engine. Search ads shown to you generate money for Ecosia, a non-profit organization. Ecosia then uses the cash to plant trees all over the world.

In West Africa’s Burkina Faso, tree planting supported by Ecosia helps re-green the desert and improve crop fertility while providing jobs for locals where there’s little opportunity due to ongoing conflict. With 15 million active users, Ecosia has already planted 120 million trees toward its goal of one billion. So next time you think search, replace the “G” word with the “e” word.

2. PLANT A TREE IN THE SEA

Mangrove forests store about five times as much C02 as tropical forests. They’re critical to keeping coastal ecosystems healthy. Shorebirds and marine wildlife rely on their habitat. The forests also protect against storm surges, sea level rise and extreme weather events like hurricanes – which, fueled by climate change, are only getting more destructive.

Mangroves on Biak Island, Indonesia

Through non-profit Sustainable Surf’s program, SeaTrees, people can help restore coastal ecosystems like the mangrove forests of the Biak Island Region of Indonesia. Local community members are hired to plant trees close to their own villages. With 100% of profits going to the mission, SeaTrees is on track to plant 1 million mangroves in the next year through partnerships with communities in Indonesia and Kenya. Aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, that translates into hundreds of jobs, restored habitat for all sorts of animals, birds and marine life, and the potential to sequester more than 300,000 metric tons of CO2. Closer to home, SeaTrees, which is supported by Bank of the West, is also working to restore California’s giant kelp forests which provide habitat and food for over 700 species of algae, invertebrates, and fish.

3. PLANT A TREE IN THE CITY

Tree planting isn’t just for the wilds. The urban environment and urban dwellers alike benefit from tree cover. More shade cuts down on air-conditioning’s energy use in the summer. In the winter, trees act as wind breaks, so homes need less heating. Homeowners can save up to 25% on energy bills by planting the right trees in the right place. Trees also improve water quality and reduce storm water runoff in cities.

Studies have shown more tree cover in neighborhoods correlates with lower crime and higher property values. Find out if your city is one of thousands in The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. If so, reach out to your local parks and recreation, environment or public works department to find out how to do some volunteer planting.

The Arbor Day Foundation also partners with cities to give homeowners free trees to plant. Some cities have programs like San Jose, California’s Our City Forest, which offer a one-stop-shop to help you choose a tree, get city permits and teach you how to plant and nurture.

If your community lacks an urban forestry program, the Urban Forestry Toolkit has a grab bag of resources to get started.

4. PLANT A TREE IN THE FOREST

Our national forests face a wide range of environmental challenges. Trees are a common denominator for positive impact. As an official partner of the U.S. Forest Service, One-Tree-Planted plants trees on public lands across the country. With a donation as small as $1, a tree will be planted in one of 150 national forests across 43 states. Donations can be gifted, come with certificates, and the tree planting project you support can be tracked online.

Trees planted in California help restore the Tahoe National Forest after wildfires. In Colorado, tree planting helps the Gunnison National Forest recover from beetle infestation. Reforestation in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee will help repair watersheds and bring back lost wildlife habitat.

One-Tree-Planted also has interactive global forest maps. See the threats facing forests around the world and learn about the biodiversity we’re at risk of losing if we don’t protect them.

5. INVEST IN A NOTE, PLANT A TREE

Green bonds,  for projects with a positive environmental or climate impact, were issued in record numbers in 2020. There is growing interest in a subset of green bonds to finance sustainable forestry and agriculture. Financing from green bonds for sustainable agriculture and forestry has mushroomed from a meager $208 million in 2013 to more than $7 billion in 2018.

Recently, an Arkansas water utility issued a first-of-its-kind green bond to acquire and protect forests specifically to support clean drinking water.

Another connection between green bonds and trees, is the BNP Paribas Reforest Bond. These structured notes (debt instruments linked to an underlying market measure) give investors a unique way to support reforestation. For every $1,000 invested, a tree is planted in Oregon’s Rogue River watershed through a partnership with Reforest’Action.

Wildfires burned more than 1 million acres in Oregon in 2020, destroying fragile ecosystems and carbon sequestering forests. Reforest’Action will be planting fire resistant pine and cedar trees to help restore habitat for songbirds, raptors, blacktail deer, Roosevelt elk, and black bears.

Investors in the BNPP Reforest Bond can monitor the tree planting project’s progress online and dig further into the environmental impacts. So far, investors in the bond have helped plant 1.5 million trees.

The BNP Paribas Reforest Bond itself was launched to give investors the opportunity to support reforestation initiatives and gain exposure to unique investment products. For more information on the Reforest Bond talk with a Bank of the West financial advisor near you.

Just like you practice recycling and conscious consumption, planting trees is a simple way to take personal action for the common good of the planet.­­

What we stand to gain if we invest in these carbon-storage superheroes on top of reducing our CO2 emissions is priceless. Quite simply: A world with clean air, healthy ecosystems, and a stable climate.

Author image

Nathan Beers Writer Bank of the West

Nathan joined Bank of the West in 2018 as a writer for technology, finance, and green businesses. On weekends he’s often out with his family exploring the California coastline.

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