The real-life impact of tree-planting projects from tech companies

Published May 9, 2022, 5:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin Agriculture

Photo by Felix Mittermeier from Pexels.

Tech companies are coming up with ways to incentivize people to use their products with the promise that their time spent on an app or program will be paid for with a planted tree.

An example is Ecosia, a search engine that uses its ad revenues for tree-planting projects. Environmentally-conscious netizens have been advocating the use of Ecosia instead of the more commonly used Google. 

Another example is Amazon, which as part of their celebration of Earth Day 2022, programmed their AI assistant Alexa to plant a tree with a simple voice command.

There’s even an app called Flora which rewards users with real-life trees just for not using their phones. 

Scientists however warn that tree-planting projects can cause harm if they are not executed properly. Poorly planned tree-planting projects result in dead trees, decreased biodiversity, and even social conflicts. 

Tech companies looking to conduct tree-planting initiatives should team up with organizations that promote science-based methods of reforestation. Companies need to evaluate what trees are needed in their chosen location. They should also consider if tree-planting is even the best way to restore a forest as there are other options like natural regeneration. It is when forests are allowed to regrow with limited human intervention.

There must also be a shift from planting trees to growing them. A 2021 study conducted by North Carolina State University showed that out of 174 tree-planting organizations, just 18% had plans for monitoring the trees they planted and just 5% measured how much of their plants survived.

There have been notable exceptions that other organizations could look up to. An international 2021 study shows that Ecosia was only one of two initiatives to support three types of forest restoration. They plant trees as a way to restore ecosystems and establish agroforests. They also assist in natural regeneration projects, which ecologists say is more effective than traditional tree-planting in certain environments.

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