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Trees are Nature's Technology

Using the power of trees to heal the Earth

Original Publication: CSR Wire

Trees and the health of the Earth are intricately bound.  There is no better time than the week between Earth Day and Arbor Day to highlight both the significance and potential of that connection.  Forests are the technology that can heal the Earth. They can reverse the current course and achieve the scale necessary. This is the mission of GreenTrees.

GreenTrees is the largest private carbon ``reforestation project in the United States. In 2003, the company laid its ambitious goal of reforesting one million acres in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) --- America’s Amazon.

The company was born from passion and commitment by the founding partners to achieving restoration on a scale and in a way that will create landscape change in sequestering carbon, purifying water and creating biodiversity habitat. According to the IPCC, one-third of all carbon emissions since 1750 have come from land use change, primarily deforestation in favor agriculture and urban development.  Reforestation unleashed in a programmatic and concentrated fashion is a technology that can scale and help to bend the climate curve.

Today, GreenTrees and its 450+ landowner partners have reforested 120,000 acres of marginal farmland in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. By reforesting land, verifying and selling high quality carbon credits, and cycling carbon revenue through its landowner equity model, GreenTrees is harnessing the power of the capital economy to fuel conservation on scale.

GreenTrees takes a river system approach to restoration and conservation.  Water, and rivers are at the center of natural and human civilization and health.  $100 billion in commerce moves along the Mississippi River each year.  It is the flyway for sixty percent of all birds in North America.  Forty-one percent of the US drains into the Mississippi River.  Planting forests along the Mississippi River amplifies the positive impact the trees have and supports  critical global infrastructure.

GreenTrees partners with landowners to reforest lands. The faster the trees grow, the faster landowners earn a Climate Dividend. Utilizing our cottonwood hardwood interplanting, the landowner can grow a bottomland hardwood forest much faster. You see, when we developed our planting approach, we looked to nature as our guide. What we did was mimic what nature would do on her own over many years by compressing time and space.

Our reforestation design has processing power. Think of our design as the Intel Chip for Reforestation of Bottomland Hardwoods. We can grow a hardwood forest 8 times faster than any other design. And the benefits are amazing. The cottonwoods act as a nurse tree that helps to shade the grown of weed competition and provide the dappled sunlight that hardwoods prefer. This in turn, helps to speed up the growth of the hardwoods. Over time, the cottonwoods are thinned out to release the hardwoods as the reach towards the new found sunlight. In this design, we are also architecting and optimizing multiple layers of income for the landowner  --- carbon, water, timber, wetland and wildlife. We are following Nature’s genius. 

In fact, the National Academy of Science studied all the technologies in labs or commercial development and deemed tree planting as the most scalable, lowest risk solution to combating climate change. Yes Trees are a technology!

You see there is a genius to nature. Nature is not something to be tamed or thwarted as in the past. Nature is a source of wonder, inspiration for the marketplace and solution to our pressing problems of today. The point is Nature can be our guide.

Two years ago, we commissioned SCS Global Services to do find out if reforestation and forestry was done on scale what impact would it deliver. The answer was stunning. Reforestation and forestry on scale can would sequester 5.5 gigatons per year and would lower the Global Mean Temperature by 0.2 degrees Celsius. What that means is reforestation is a scalable technology than can meet a scaled problem.

Jim Rogers, former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, an investor in GreenTrees, once told Chandler Van Voorhis, co-founder of GreenTrees, —- there are two forms of IP —- 1) technological IP and 2) how you bring it to scale. Most technologies fail because they do not know how to bring something to scale.

Reforestation is a technology that can be deployed on scale now and around the world. By planting forests we are building equity in tomorrow’s world.  Utilizing our landowner equity model, planting design and river system approach, GreenTrees aims to not only reforest 1 million acres in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley but also to take this approach to other river systems in both the US and around the world.   It is through partners like Natural Capital that we are working to “put a dent in the universe.”

As the old Chinese Proverb says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years, the second best time is now.”