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Treedom of the Mind: Sustainable Growth through Tree-planting

From left to right: Francesco Ferrini, professor from the University of Florence, and Federico Garcea, Co-Founder and CEO of Treedom, answer questions on trees and sustainability. / Photo by Emma Comrie

The Earth is suffering. The planet we inhabit is being devastated by climate change and despite the heavily contested and politicized nature of this issue, it is a scientific fact. The ramifications of climate change have eerily revealed themselves, from rising sea levels to something as seemingly trivial as longer grass growing seasons. “The earth is changing. You can feel it in the water, you can feel it in the earth,” said Francesco Ferrini, an Environmental Studies professor from the University of Florence who spoke at an LPD last Tuesday.

Another product of environmental concerns such as global warming and pollution is an exponential increase in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels over the last thirty years. CO2 is released by buses, boats, cars and planes, according to Carbon Stock Study. There is nothing threatening about the gas itself. Humans produce it through natural processes, yet, because people have neglected regulating how much CO2 their vehicles and industries yield, the amount of it in the atmosphere is increasingly conducive to climate change. If the 4.5 billion year existence of the Earth were condensed into 24-hours, Ferrini continued, human life on the Earth would represent a mere three seconds. In approximately half of these three seconds, humans have set the Earth onto a course of self-destruction.

The effects of some of these changes, among an increase in droughts and wildfires, are also a slight decrease in life expectancy. Ferrini stated that in Europe, on average, pollution has led to a nine-month decrease in life expectancy and, in heavily polluted areas, up to three years. In the entire world, there have been approximately four-million climate change related deaths. The damage caused by pollution has also cost governments around the world around 3 million euro a year. It does not help that the planet is constantly undergoing strenuous population growth. A large percentage of this growth is occurring in urban areas, around 54% of the Earth’s population is contained to big cities. “Every single week, people are building a city the size of Vancouver [somewhere] in the world,” Ferrini said.

He went on to discuss overwhelming population growth in the context of a large debate in the Enviro-political sphere:

Can economic growth and sustainable progress coexist?

Ferrini’s answer:


The solution lies in what he calls “sustainable growth.”

“We need to grow but we need to grow in a sustainable way,” Ferrini said. “Sustainable growth can be classified as growth that meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations. It must be social, environmental, and economic.”

Professor Francesco Ferrini addresses the crowd at an LPD on Sustainability, Tuesday /Photo by Emma Comrie.

Ferrini said that this goal can partially be attained by planting more trees, particularly in urban areas. It was with this idea in mind that Federico Garcea, a former banker, founded the Florentine Benefit corporation: Treedom.

Treedom recently gained mass popularity after one of its Instagram videos circulated worldwide. The video begins with a satellite photo of the tip of the globe and the words, “this video produces oxygen” sprawled in large capital letters. It was an optimistic video focusing on Treedom’s central message: the importance of trees in our ecosystem.

Garcea found his way into the realm of environmental start-ups after a dissatisfying stint in a bank. Upon a request from his friend in Copenhagen, he had gone to work at a startup which focused mainly on biofluids. The company was sold three years later and in 2010, Garcea would go on to found Treedom.

The inspiration for the company came from his addiction to Farmville, the video game. He said his repeated buying of virtual trees to succeed in the game was what prompted the idea.“If we create a platform or a community where you can plant a tree online and have fun, [people] will maybe switch to Treedom,” Garcea said.

Ultimately, this was a successful notion and Treedom became the only online platform in the world where consumers could pay to have someone plant a tree for them and follow it online. Treedom works with around 35,000 farmers in Africa to alleviate issues such as deforestation and soil erosion. Each tree planted is registered and the buyer is given its GPS coordinate along with photo updates picturing the tree’s growth.

Garcea said that the company prides itself on its corporate-social responsibility. While Treedom works with around 800 companies and does generate a profit, it also works intimately with farmers to stimulate local economies in Africa.

Treedom is currently involved in twenty projects worldwide and has planted 610,000 trees thus far. In the future Garcea hopes to move the project out of Italy, with an upcoming headquarters being built in Munich and aspirations of expanding to the United States.

Climate change is a dire issue. If it is not stopped, it will slowly erode the Earth and wipe out the human race in the process. We can already see this starting to happen.

“Fiddling with climate change is quite like poking a stick in a beehive,” said Nicholas Dakin-Elliot, the horticultural associate at NYU Florence’s Villa La Pietra.

It is for this reason precisely that we must band together to make environmentally conscious decisions. Companies such as Treedom provide substantial aid in this area, but we must not stop there. Sustainable growth can only come from growth in human environmental consciousness.

To read more about Treedom and its vision visit: https://www.treedom.net/en/