How we’re planting the world’s first travel-powered forest

written by The Intrepid Foundation December 16, 2019
Two women planting trees

This article was originally published by The Intrepid Foundation

Imagine a subscription service that helped the planet. It’s a potentially world-changing idea. Because part of what makes climate change such an insidious problem is the sheer scale. It’s a planet-wide catastrophe shaped by huge, shadowy, tectonic forces: government policy, international trade, corporate greed and global research institutes.

As individuals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Suddenly composting your vegetable scraps doesn’t feel so significant (don’t worry – it totally is).

But scale works both ways, and thousands of small efforts can add up to meaningful change. That’s why we’re partnering with Ecologi to create something different: we want to grow a travel-powered forest. And we want you to help us.

Who is Ecologi?

A woman holding two tree saplings

Photo by Eden Reforestation Projects.

Excellent question. Ecologi is an organisation that partners with climate projects all over the world to offset carbon emissions and – as an added bonus – plant trees. It works a bit like Netflix. Users can ‘subscribe’ to Ecologi (for less than $1.75 per week) and their money goes straight into various emission-reducing projects in places like Madagascar, Malawi, India and Kenya. Each project has been independently certified by Gold Standard, an environmental integrity body established by WWF and other NGOS back in 2003. Seven dollars a month offsets the average carbon footprint (a whopping 22 tonnes) and plants twelve real trees – you can watch them grow in your digital ‘forest’.

It only takes some rough, back-of-the-napkin calculations to see the potential for this kind of climate subscription. If just 1% of the world’s population subscribed to Ecologi, the company could plant 900 million trees every month, creating employment for local families, restoring wildlife habitats and sequestering billions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.


Where does Intrepid come in?

Intrepid (along with our not-for-profit arm, The Intrepid Foundation) have partnered with Ecologi to encourage travellers to offset their own carbon footprint. This is the first travel-powered reforestation project in the world. And some would say it’s long overdue: although Intrepid has been proudly carbon neutral since 2010, the travel industry still accounts for about eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, we’re on track for 6.5 gigatons of travel-related carbon dioxide by 2025. If we’re going to slow down the climate crisis, we need to speed up positive projects. We need to take some action.

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How does the subscription work?

It’s simple. You go online to the Ecologi x Intrepid Travel page and pick your subscription plan. Intrepid will then match you tree for tree. That means for every tree planted through Ecologi, Intrepid will plant one too (so you’re effectively doubling your own reforestation efforts). If you commit to plant 12 trees each month, we’ll chip in 12 of our own. It’s the beginning of a real life Intrepid forest – grown by travellers, but for everybody.

Where will the trees go?

A man in a yellow helmet holding trees roots

Photo by Eden Reforestation Projects.

It’s important to be transparent about this stuff, because carbon offsetting and even reforestation aren’t always what they seem. Poorly managed reforestation projects, usually grown in sweeping, monoculture plantations, can actually lead to all sorts of problems: bushfires, destruction of peat land, and a shrinking of biodiversity. You can read more about them here. Carbon offsetting is also tricky: it does lead to a net reduction in carbon emissions, but it’s really just one part of a broader social change. (That’s one reason Intrepid is now shooting for ‘climate positive’ rather than ‘carbon neutral’. We hope to get there by next year.)

Ecologi does everything possible to make sure their reforestation projects are up to snuff. They’ve partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects – a well-respected not-for-profit committed to the longevity of forests and the livelihoods of people around them. 

Intrepid’s trees will be planted in Kenya’s Kijabe Forest, a short drive from Nairobi, in partnership with the local Kijabe Forest Trust. We’re hoping to include visits on select 2020 Kenya itineraries. And it’s not just the trees themselves that matter: the project will also employ many local people (particularly single mothers) to help plant the trees and keep the forest safe. Kijabe was heavily logged in the past, but the Kenyan government, along with organisations like Eden Reforestation Projects and Ecologi, are working hard to reverse the damage. It’s easy to forget that forests don’t grow in isolation: they represent more than just carbon. Forests are environmental stability and employment. They can empower local communities.


How do I get involved?

A hand holding lots of red seeds

Photo by Eden Reforestation Projects.

The beauty of Ecologi is that it’s easy. You don’t need an environmental science degree. You can learn as much or as little about reforestation as you like. Just head over to the Intrepid x Ecologi page and sign up. It takes about three minutes.

Once you’re subscribed, you’ll be able to watch your digital forest grow, check in on the Kijabe project, and stay up-to-date through Ecologi’s regular newsletter.

What’s the catch?

While signing up and getting started is easy, it’s important to remember that carbon offsetting and reforestation are only band-aids if we don’t treat the real problem. We need to challenge ourselves, and our leaders, to reduce our emissions – and fast. Once you’ve signed up, you can set goals in your profile to reduce your annual carbon footprint. They’re small steps – catching public transport, eating more veggies and taking shorter showers – but they add up to something big.

Ready to get planting? You’re just a few clicks away – find out more here

All images C/O Eden Reforestation Projects. 

Editor’s note: Ecologi used to be called Offset Earth.

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