On April 22, 2016, political leaders from around the world gathered in New York to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time, a global network of Earth Day organizations joined forces to kick off an ambitious campaign to plant 7.8 billion trees — one for every person on the planet — by 2020. To support this effort, Earth Day Canada launched its first ever crowdfunding campaign, #Rooting4Trees, which saw huge momentum from people across the country pledging to help grow the global forest.
At a time when there is so much focus on electric and hybrid cars, new solar technology and emissions trading, the notion of planting trees can seem quaint, almost too simple. But the reality is, restoring our forests remains the most affordable, health-promoting and regenerative solution to climate change.
More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, water, fuel, medicine, jobs, and cultural livelihood. The importance of urban forests, in particular, is finally being recognized with research highlighting how direct contact with trees helps people (and children especially) learn about nature in an otherwise built environment, not to mention the new phenomenon of “nature deficit disorder” in city dwellers spending more time indoors.
Forests support up to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and play a vital role in safeguarding the climate by naturally sequestering carbon and removing other pollutants from the air. Approximately 32 million acres of forest vanish each year. Over the past 1,200 years, we have lost 46% of our global tree cover and, at the current rate of deforestation; we’re on track to lose the remaining 54% within the next 200 years.
During Earth Month, from April 1 – 30, visitors to earthday.ca were encouraged to participate in the #Rooting4Trees crowdfunding ‘pledge and plant’ campaign to help Earth Day Canada grow the global forest.
There were multiple pledge levels, with an assortment of perks associated with each — these included T-shirts, shout-outs in our Thank You video, a limited-edition print of “Moose Proud” by artist Charles Pachter, and more.
To promote the campaign, Earth Day Canada hosted a pop-up Forest Bathing Pavilion at its headquarters in Toronto. A fun and engaging way to educate the general public about the importance of tree planting and the healing benefits of forest bathing (a Japanese tradition also known as Shinrin-yoku that involves being among trees), it allowed visitors to relax in a clawfoot tub surrounded by native tree species. Those who dropped by — including renowned author and economist Jeff Rubin, former Green Party leader Jim Harris, and other local celebrities — were asked to take selfies of their experience and share it on social media.
As well, thanks to generous support from CN, Earth Day Canada ran a contest for schools across Canada, allowing every pledge of $30 one entry into a draw to win a custom-designed forest, valued at $5,000. This includes a site visit from a Tree Canada expert, a variety of native and mature tree species selected for their ability to thrive in the school’s surrounding environment, and a planting event involving students, teachers and the local community. The winner was Rotherglen School, based in Oakville, Ont.; they will have their trees planted in the fall.
Some of our most significant pledges came from corporate sponsors, including KPMG, Aramark, Ardene, Morguard, Canada Bread and Moxie’s.
The campaign was a great success. In fact, we had so much traction on April 22nd that our website crashed — strong evidence of the hundreds of thousands of people looking to make a real difference.
Ultimately, #Rooting4Trees ensured that nearly 10,000 tonnes of CO2 will be sequestered in the coming decades, the equivalent of removing 1,500 cars from our roads.
All those who pledged one or more urban trees through the #Rooting4Trees campaign will be invited to get their hands dirty and put those trees in the ground on National Tree Day – September 21st. Events in cities across the country are being organized by our planting partner, Tree Canada, and Earth Day Canada will be helping to organize this effort.