Steps to Sustainability Q&A with Eden Reforestation Projects

Aaron Clements | Dec. 14, 2020, 8:18 p.m.

Eden Reforestation Projects is quietly planting millions of trees and creating jobs for the poorest of the poor in the process.

We asked Eden Projects' Matthew Guerra to share more details on the work Eden is doing to help brands achieve steps to sustainability while at the same time helping those in need.

Tell me about Eden Reforestation projects, what you do and when and how it got started.

Matthew Guerra: I am the Systems Coordinator and an Account Coordinator.  

In 2004, Steve Fitch, our Founder and CEO, took over an unsuccessful reforestation project in Ethiopia. Steve began addressing the needs of the people first and introduced the “employ-to-plant” methodology to provide dignified employment and a stable income to local villagers. With all the infrastructure in place, Eden Reforestation Projects began planting trees in Ethiopia in 2005. That was how Eden Reforestation Projects had initially started. 

What countries does Eden work in currently?

Matthew Guerra: Eden is currently working in 8 Nations:

  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua

What makes Eden’s approach to combining sustainability and people unique?

Matthew Guerra: Eden’s work begins and ends with employing the poorest of the poor. Most forest restoration advocates fail to recognize the fact that extreme poverty is one of the primary causes behind global deforestation. Therefore, Eden’s mission begins with providing fair wage employment to local villagers who live adjacent to the project sites. In this way, the local villagers are provided with an alternative income source and no longer need to prey upon forest resources to survive. Eden has seen great success through our Employ to Plant methodology.

It’s great that Eden focuses on the environment and creating work for the seriously poor through its efforts. Was it always balanced that way or did it evolve to that?

Matthew Guerra: It was always balanced. It is part of the solution. We have seen other projects not address this and fail.

 

What are some the best ways you’ve seen brands and companies engage with the work you’re doing?

Matthew Guerra: The most popular way that brands engage with our work is through connecting tree planting with their sales.

Green Estate Goods: #greenestategoods https://greenestategoods.com/ has a “Buy one. Plant One.” model that they use. Every product purchased, they plant a tree. Green Estate Goods is a small, U.S.-based family business who started [their] business in 2018. [They] wanted to start a company with a mission to help make the world a better place, through reusable products. 

Most examples are an iteration of that model e.g. plant one tree per specific unit sold, per transaction, percentage of sales, percentage of profits, or a set amount per month.

Another great example of this is Gobe. They sell lens filters and mount adapters for cameras. Gobe plants 5 trees with every item sold and has planted well over 2 million trees already and counting.

Gobe has designated sites where we plant for them and are able to share updates and pictures of the trees.

Sustainability in the fashion industry right now is primarily focused on the re-use of existing products through recycling or up-cycling e.g. the circular economy. How can an organization like Eden play a part in a brand’s sustainability initiatives? 

Matthew Guerra: Much like the previous examples of how brands are engaging with the work we are doing, an organization can connect tree planting to a specific part of your supply chain and/or value proposition. When you add tree planting to a specific part of your supply chain, you are creating that circular economy where your organization will be giving back to the community and environment. 

One example would be with an organization that sells books. As a part of the supply chain, the organization needs to use trees to create paper for the books. You decide to calculate your paper creation per book and find that it takes 2 trees to make a book. Then you decide that for every book that is created and put in your inventory, you will plant 5 trees. This creates a positive circular economy where you are not only offsetting your use, but actually adding trees to the world.

 

An example of adding tree planting to your value proposition, organizations are doing that when it is connected to the sale of an item and the customer knows of it. The value added is the fact that if the customer has a choice between purchasing your item and the exact same item from another vendor, you have the added value of planting a tree when they purchase from you. If the customer is interested in sustainability, most likely they will choose to buy from you.

A great example of an organization in the fashion industry that is leading the charge is Eden Power Corps. I don’t know how we have part of the same name and are for the same cause, but the world works in mysterious ways. Edenpowercorp.com #Edenpowercorp

The t-shirts they sell are 100% recycled cotton, made in an ethical factory in Los Angeles, CA, and they plant 20 trees for each item purchased.

Here is what Co Creative Director, Isaac Larose had to say on the issue:

"No matter how hard you try to be sustainable, the most sustainable thing will always be not to produce more stuff. However if you try as hard as you can to minimize your impact and then also use the benefits to reinvest in social and ecological causes we believe you can make an overall positive impact. It's with the specific idea that we search for the best alternative to maximise our positive impact. Empowering communities, rebuilding the soils, bringing back nature and sequestering carbon all at the same time via eden reforestation projects"  Co Creative Director, Isaac Larose.

 

How can brands or companies get involved with Eden and how can they track their impact?

Matthew Guerra: Brands, companies, foundations, anyone can get involved and help. Please navigate to: Ways to Help for more information.

Anyone can donate and track their tree count by creating a profile. You can create a profile by clicking the grey register button here: Profile Login

What’s on the horizon for Eden in the next 5-10 years?

Matthew Guerra: Our current goal is 500 MILLION TREES per year! We know this is a massive undertaking, but with your support, we can accomplish this goal! As land is restored, Eden will also provide the dignity of employment to tens of thousands of people in countries where extreme poverty is rampant.

You can learn more about Eden Reforestation Projects and how to get involved here: https://edenprojects.org/

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