PLANT-IT 2020 FAQ's:

Why did you switch from the ‘dollar-per-tree’ approach to different pricing?

We created the ‘dollar-per-tree’ promotion more than twenty years ago and back then, the hard costs for properly planting an indigenous tree were much lower. Even back then, there were many locations where the cost for doing it right was over one dollar and we ignored those locations due to the promotion. Now, costs have risen to where there are places we have planted are more than one dollar. We decided that as a quality-based reforestation nonprofit, we needed to abandon the ‘dollar-per-tree’ promotion we created and create a fixed-cost per tree model that ensures excellent quality in ensuring that each tree-planting project is properly funded. This allows us to offer more locations worldwide while ensuring that each tree-planting project is sufficiently funded.

What are some of the costs that go into properly planting a tree?

If the tree seedlings are purchased, there is the purchase cost per seedling. This varies by tree species and size. Then, they usually have to grow in a greenhouse where they are watered and sometimes, a beneficial fungus called mycorrhiza is applied to the roots. Even without the mycorrhiza, there are costs involved. Then there is the cost of transplanting the tree into it’s final resting location. The labor may be volunteer or paid. In some cases, there are post-planting costs such as watering, deer and weed protection. This is what is common in Northern latitudes such as the US, Canada and parts of Europe as the agencies planting the trees tend to be government agencies.

In equatorial and near equatorial latitudes, it is common to grow the trees from seed in seedbeds. This may be in a greenhouse or outdoor seedbeds. So, a trained technician flies down there and back (or lives there) and grows the seedlings. They are eventually transplanted with help from local people who are trained to become stewards of the forest. Seeds are then collected from the transplanted trees so that the process is repeated and new trees can be grown.

In this situation, there may be extensive formal training accompanying the tree growing and planting. Costs may include the initial purchase of seed, food, housing, materials, travel and so forth spanning years. At least one tree-planting nonprofit even pays the tree-planters a salary for labor as a method to reduce poverty.

You recently changed from planting exclusively in no-logging locations to include planting in selected sustainable forest management locations for wildfire restoration, replacing trees killed by beetles and other natural disasters such as flood, landslide, etc. Also some agro-forestry projects are now part of your program. Why did you make the change?

Plant-It 2020 served as a model of excellence in reforestation and afforestation but this is only one of the three major approaches towards tree-planting. The other two approaches are agroforestry and sustainable forest management. In each of these three approaches, there are excellent and poor ways to go about it. After strong consideration, we decided to become comprehensive in replenishing the worlds forests by expanding our mission to include highly selective tree-planting projects in agroforestry (the planting of trees in and around cropland and pastures) and sustainable forest management (multi-use sustainable forestry that provides benefits for both the environment and people); but only if the quality of each project meets our standards of excellence. Regarding sustainable forest management, our focus is on those selected tree-planting projects that focus on wildfire, beetle, flood, campground and wildlife restoration.

This shift does the following:

  1. It makes Plant-It 2020 comprehensive in how it replenishes the world’s forests. Our effect is now multiplied!
  2. It allows clients to have more locations they can choose to plant trees in.
  3. It allows Plant-It 2020 to better improve poor soil while reducing human starvation and poverty.

The most important thing is that we maintain the highest level of quality in the agroforestry and sustainable forest management approaches as we already have manifested that highest level of quality in the reforestation / afforestation approach since 1992.

The tree planting nonprofit Sustainable Harvest International points out problems with tying a set cost to planting a tree. How do you respond? Are they right or wrong?

There are two approaches towards the funding of tree-planting; 1) having a set cost to plant a tree or 2) keeping it open-ended. Both approaches have pros and cons. Some of these pros and cons are location-dependent.

In Northern Latitudes such as the U.S., Canada, China and much of Europe, seedling tree-planting is almost always managed by government agencies. They buy the seedlings and transplant them. Sometimes, tree-planting groups assist with the funding and planting. So, the purchase and planting costs tend to be well known in advance. One can then cover the purchase cost of the seedling as well as some or all of the additional costs. Obviously, there are some tree-planting projects that cost a lot more – usually due to the size of the trees - and cannot be funded at a low pre-set amount. So, if enough is provided to cover the purchase cost of the tree seedling along with covering additional costs, this approach works in Northern latitudes.

The modern philanthropy book GIVING 2.0 is positive over the set cost tie-in. Contributors know exactly what they are getting for their generosity. The book does mention the need for follow-up (quantifiable measurements) on how well the project is doing over time.

When it comes to equatorial and near equatorial latitudes, the approach towards tree-planting is often different. One approach occurs when a trained representative of the tree-planting nonprofit is invited to an area, goes through a process of getting the right tree seeds, plants them in seed beds, transplants them and then collects the new seed for new generations of trees to be grown. This is done in a ‘hands-on’ teaching format. Sometimes, there may be one or more greenhouses in the country where the seedlings are grown for many nearby locations. There are other approaches as well. Either way, there is usually a training program where a technician works hands-on with local future stewards of the land. Sometimes, the nonprofit also helps the human community through other methods in addition to planting trees.

This is where it get’s tricky. In the past, there were certain tree-planting nonprofits that at times did not spend enough money, time, preparation and training to make sure that the tree-planting project would be successful. The technicians were not there long enough to properly train the locals, the training program may have been poor and there may not have been sufficient financial and organizational support. So, the SHI critique is dead-on for this particular set of poor circumstances. SHI by the way sets the bar for time and effort in working with communities long-term and ensuring proper funding. Plant-It 2020 lauds them publicly for being an excellent, quality-based, tree-planting nonprofit who does great good by bringing-up this issue.

So the question becomes: ‘Are all financial tie-ins to setting a price per tree planted in equatorial or near equatorial latitudes ineffective or can it be performed with excellence?’ Plant-It 2020 believes that by carefully identifying those factors that increase or reduce quality for the long-term quality of the tree-planting project and then doing it right, you can create excellent seedling tree-planting projects in these latitudes. The contributor knows what they get for their contribution and the cost is lower than it otherwise could be.

SHI takes the extreme approach of delivering maximum comprehensive quality without publicizing a set cost per tree. Contributors do not know the exact benefit of their contribution and the cost-per-tree planted ends up being higher but the level of quality in some aspects of helping a community sets the bar.

How is Plant-It 2020 different than other tree-planting nonprofits? Aren’t you all doing the same thing... planting trees?

Tree planting nonprofits differ tremendously from each other in what they do where and how. They may plant tree seedlings, large city trees or both. They may plant locally, regionally or nationally in the US, within non-US countries or both. They may engage in many other activities besides tree planting, few other activities or simply plant trees. They may be active in education or not. They may engage in one or more of reforestation, agroforestry or forestry. They may be quality or quantity based. They may get involved in political activism or not. They may be an independent nonprofit, extension of a city or government agency; or a front group.

Here is a brief chart describing Plant-It 2020 in 2019

Reforestation / Afforestation: Yes. Priority is for no-logging locations.
Agroforestry: Yes in many countries.
Sustainable Forest Management: Yes for wildfire, beetle, flood and campground restoration
Plant Seedlings: Yes, worldwide
Plant saplings and city trees: Yes, worldwide
Cookstoves: Yes, in four countries
Biochar: Biochar stoves in Costa Rica and biochar education
Biogas Systems: In Nepal
Education: We sometimes fund educational materials
Customization: Some projects are highly customizable
Straight Talk: We educate the public about scams and deceptions in the industry
Competitiveness: We partner with the best tree-planting nonprofits in the industry and openly praise those setting benchmarks.
Other: We have a 'Code Of Ethics' posted on the website.

It is crucial to understand that no single tree-planting nonprofit is optimal for all individual, corporate or organizational contributors. Anyone that tells you different is blowing smoke. Each tree-planting nonprofit has it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Why don’t you have more locations?

As a quality rather than a quantity based tree-planting nonprofit with the primary focus on no-logging locations and secondarily selected restoration projects in sustainable forest management areas along with selected agroforestry projects, we are careful when choosing locations. Only those tree-planting projects in locations outshining the others in excellence are selected.

Who plants the trees?

It varies by location and project. The non-US locations are usually planted in project partnership with other vetted, highest-quality, tree-planting nonprofits. Occasionally, it is a city abroad we partner with.

In the US, there is a variety of organizations we plant through. Remember, partnering with these groups to plant trees for a specific tree planting project does not constitute an endorsement by these groups of Plant-It 2020. They include but are not limited to: the US Forest Service, State Forests, BLM, and the Parks and Recreation departments of cities.

Sometimes, our own people organize the tree-planting event and personally plant the trees along with local volunteers. This occurs when we have a State or Volunteer Coordinator available.

Why can’t I be able to visit the exact location where the trees are planted or see photos of them? Do you put up a plaque for the contributor? Can I help plant the trees?

In our equatorial and near equatorial latitude locations, we can refer you to our tree-planting partners and usually, they allow people to visit the tree-planting project. Once there, pictures and video are usually allowed but you have to discuss those details with them. In Northern latitude locations such as the US and Canada, tree planting of tree seedlings is often managed by government agencies. They have legitimate legal liability concerns when someone is tagging along in dangerous far away locations. In addition, a photo or video taken out of context gone viral could make them look bad. Lastly, if you funded the planting of 1,000 trees and 50,000 are being planted over a twenty mile stretch, who is to say which 2% relates to your contribution? For our city tree-planting events, you are always welcome to watch and in most cases help. If the event is in a risky location such as within the divider of a city street, the city may for legal reasons not allow outside volunteer help. We do not put up any plaques as our goal is to enhance the forest rather than add plastic or treated wood to it’s natural beauty.

How long after I make a contribution is it before the trees get planted?

Always within one year but it varies significantly by location and who is doing the planting. For example, the planting window in Colorado is from three weeks after the last frost in April through early October. One tree-planting group only plants for three weeks long, starting three weeks after the last frost. Another may plant June through August. Another may plant only in July and another may plant in September. One or two extremely Southern areas of the US plant year round. In most non-US countries, there are planting windows each year when the trees are grown and then a period of the year when they are planted. It varies from country-to-country.

In general, in Northern latitudes, tree-planting occurs during different times from April through August although there are some exceptions. Sometimes, the trees go into the ground within three weeks of a contribution being received and other times, it may take several months. So, there is no specific answer – it simply depends upon the time of the funds being received related to the tree-planting window of the location the funds are directed towards.