As a member of 1% of the Planet we have made a commitment to donate 1% of our yearly revenues to environmental causes.
While this year has been particularly difficult it is a commitment we take seriously and intend to fulfill this year, just as we have for the past few years.
Unlike in the past, we’ll be taking a different approach.
In the past, I have focused mostly on business-focused donations such as carbon offsets and direct donations to 1% for the Planet (such as sponsoring their Global Summit in 2018 and 2019) as well as using our memberships to 1% and the Conservation Alliance to fill the bulk of our commitment. And while these types of donations have value it doesn’t feel like we are fulfilling the spirit of our pledge.
In particular, one thing that has always bothered me is that we were not actually working with other organizations to have a positive environmental impact.
That’s why this month we will begin a new series, one-off direct donations to organizations working towards environmental impact.
Each month we will pick a new partner. Ranging from big organizations such as One Tree Planted down to local cleanups and we will talk about and highlight their efforts here. Both to raise awareness as well as to help others see how they can have an impact.
1% for the Planet – The Earth Tax
But why are we even doing this? Isn’t it hard enough to run a business without giving money away?
Yes, but as a member of 1% for the Planet we have taken it upon ourselves to go further and keep better account of our impact on the planet.
Rock climber, environmentalist and author of my favorite business book Yvon Chouinard is often quoted as calling it an Earth Tax, to help account for the true cost of taking resources from the earth. Here’s what he says:
“This is the cost of doing business. It’s an earth tax. It’s taxing ourselves for being polluters, for using non-renewable resources,” – Yvon Chouinard
This idea was formalized in the early 2000s when Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, founded 1% for the Planet.
1% for the Planet has since created a global community by uniting both businesses and nonprofits in helping combat climate change. There are members all over the world.
“The intent of 1% for the Planet is to help fund these diverse environmental organizations so that collectively they can be a more powerful source in solving the world’s problems.”
— Yvon Chouinard in his book “Let My People Go Surfing”
This organization does not just bring together people who want to feel good about doing good.
It creates real social pressure, changes the way people are thinking about doing business. It changes the math.
It’s because of this commitment and the creation of social pressure caused by being a member of this community that we spend time thinking about this.
We ask other members where they donate, who we can trust and what’s an effective way to have a real impact.
This is what brought us to One Tree Planted, which focuses on planting trees.
Planting Trees – A Simple Approach
I love trees but what good is planting some trees going to do for the impact?
The simple answer is a lot and, as you might expect, One Tree Planted does a good job explaining.
“Trees help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and provide habitat to over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. “
Forests provide jobs to over 1.6 billion people, absorb harmful carbon from the atmosphere, and are key ingredients in 25% of all medicines. Have you ever taken an Aspirin? It comes from the bark of a tree!”
Trees are important. Not only are they the foundation of our ecosystems but they also make our surrounding environment better, improving our everyday health and wellness.
Is it Cost Effective?
While it is a little obvious that trees are good for the environment, the harder thing to figure out is if it’s actually worth it.
This is a hotly debated topic within philanthropy and has sparked whole movements like effective altruism and organizations such as Givewell to solve this issue.
While I did not find One Tree Planted on the Givewell website I am confident in the power of planting trees.
A recent article by Nasa broke down a recent study suggesting that planting trees could capture half of historical emissions (assuming no future emissions) but that it would take a century to reach maturity.
So while it’s straightforwardly effective it’s is a long play and definitely not a silver bullet.
That being said, the effects are not just about the environment.
The DEC in New York tells us that trees pay us back within our communities too. They can reduce AC costs, increase economic activity and reduce domestic violence.
People simply enjoy the presence of trees. They make everything a much more enjoyable experience which has benefits given people’s desire to be around places with trees.
For an additional rundown on the numbers I try to always look at what Drawdown has estimated as well. You can find out what they say the potential is under numerous projects here.
Evaluating One Tree Planted – Are they legit
The first, and probably the most important, question when trying to decide on an organization to donate to is “are they legit?” Can this organization be trusted?
For this it helps to first seek out some 3rd party organizations to find out.
To start we can look at two organizations: Guidestar and Impact Matters.
Guidestar is a good way to tell if you can trust an organization. It will not measure their impact per dollar but it will tell us if they are legit.
You can read on their profile their mission, program, results, how they measure results and, with a paid account, financials and personnel.
The next is Impact Matters (recently acquired by Charity Navigator). This one is new to me but it helps us answer our other question. What is the impact of our donation?
Impact Matters helps to measure and rate their cost-effectiveness while giving you an idea of what the measurable impact of your donation will be.
On their profile you can see an impact report, notes on governance & methodology as well as a rating (with explanation).
Lastly we can check with 1% for the Planet, who has a database of approved nonprofits.
The profile here is pretty limited but being in the database matters as all nonprofits are approved by 1% for the Planet. Without this we would have to seek out a different partner or recommend them to be added.
Where we are planting trees
In light of recent events we chose not just to plant for impact but also awareness which is why we will be planting trees for forest fire restoration.
While most have probably heard of the wildfires in California, not much may be known about what can be done about it. Helping fund forest fire restoration is one of the options.
The trees will be planted in the west coast of North America, where fires in California, Oregon, and Washington state destroyed a lot of forest area.
After a professional assessment, trees will be planted in optimal locations. Only native species will be planted. These include pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, western red cedar, giant sequoia, oak, and sycamore.
These will likely be done in late 2021 or early 2022.
How you can plant trees too
While trees may not be as effective as cutting emissions, it is a part of the long-term solution due to the need for carbon sequestration.
You can also help combat climate change and restore natural ecosystems by planting trees.
Here’s all it takes:
- Choose a project you would like to donate to. If you’re not sure then try to find one near your local community.
- Pick a number of trees to plant
- Celebrate and share
Once you’ve donated you’ll get an email explaining how it works. You can see the one I got below.
There are so many ways to get started with your environmental impact. The hardest part is getting started which is one of the reasons I think One Tree Planted is a great option.
It offers a number of benefits including:
- It’s the easiest way to get started
- The donation process is straightforward
- One Tree Planted is a well-respected organization with a direct & effective impact
- Planting trees has benefits across both environmental and human sustainability
If you’ve got the time then One Tree Planted is making an excellent series on the wildfires in California.