Genia Mineeva - July 2020

WHY WE'VE STARTED PLANTING TREES

Earlier this month we started planting trees in Peru, and here's a quick explanation as to why...

It’s easy to lose touch with our place in the wider world. Between quick cups of coffee, hastily gobbled sandwiches and daily family dramas, our world can shrink. It can shrink to the four walls of our house, down the road or to the other side of town. And it takes a concerted effort to open the world up again–by reading, travelling, learning. All the good stuff.

Unless you live in or near one, the forest is just another place. Somewhere in another country or another part of the country. Our connection to it isn’t daily, so it loses vital importance to most of us.

But, as you know, trees do so much for us. And forests of all kinds are vital. To give you a little school geography refresher...

Why do forests matter?

• Trees don't just produce oxygen for us to breathe, they also absorb CO2 and other greenhouse gases which lead to climate change
• After oceans, forests are the globe’s biggest storers of carbon. Tropical forests store a quarter of a trillion tonnes of carbon alone
• Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and 300 million people, including 60 million indigenous peoples
• And the number of people relying on forests for livelihoods stands at 2 billion. From fruits, paper, wood, fuel and drinking water to the less obvious things like medicines, cosmetics and detergents

What's the problem?

Forests still cover about 30% of the world’s land surface, but are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the World Bank, an area larger than South Africa disappeared between 1990 and 2016. And with some world leaders positively encouraging deforestation, it looks like livestock grazing, urbanisation, drilling and farming will continue to erode the remaining forests. Which is disastrous: deforestation not only prevents forests from capturing carbon dioxide, but increases climate change by releasing the carbon stored in the trees.

So what are we doing?

If you’ve been following BEEN a while, you’ll know that we always aim to have the greatest positive impact possible, every step of the way. That means thinking about the environmental and social impact of our designs, our materials, our shipping, our manufacturing and our P&P processes.

Rather than play a part in Black Friday last year, we planted a tree for every product sold that day. And it felt good. But it also felt limited.

So when it came to promoting one of our bestselling leather colours—handily called Rainforest Green—we thought long and hard about how our Marketing could also be as impactful as possible. And we decided on a tree-planting initiative. A really simple one: for every Rainforest Green product we sell, we plant a tree.

Broadway Tote in Rainforest Green

Our partner

There are a number of organisations that select projects ‘on the ground’ and partner them up with individuals and companies that want to plant trees. After researching the different options, we decided to partner with Tree-Nation, a non-profit organisation registered in Belgium but mostly based in Spain.

There were lots of things we liked about Tree-Nation, and it boiled down to three things:

They’re broad: lots of projects across different continents, a vast selection of native species and different types of forests
They’re thorough: their reforestation engineers focus on high impact biodiversity, rejecting problematic monocropping. And where relevant, they strive to support indigenous forest-reliant communities
Their impact is measurable, which means our impact is measurable. We can track the number of trees/species/hectares planted in our ‘BEEN London forest’ and can see how much carbon has been captured

Our project

Our initial focus will be the Amazon Rainforest, which is fast approaching the deforestation tipping point of 25%. We have chosen to support a Peru-based NGO called Camino Verde, which focuses on several ‘buffer zones’ of the Peruvian Amazon basin–land degraded by agriculture, ranching but particularly by illegal gold mining in recent years. Camino Verde’s strength is in managing the careful balance between reforestation and local people’s livelihoods.

Camino Verde plant over 400 tree species, and we’ve started with Bobinsana (Calliandra angustifolia). Used as a ‘pioneer species’ on highly degraded sites, this quick growing tree fixes nitrogen, and forms dense, woody trunks extremely quickly.
It’s suitable as coppicing for firewood and charcoal production, and its bark is used for medicine. It has an open branch structure making it the perfect support plant for vanilla and passionfruit vines.

It’s not going to change the world on its own. But if we all continue to take positive steps with everything we touch, the future certainly looks brighter.