Why planting trees helps the world

Trees in forest

Photo by Petr Kovar

To offset your carbon footprint plant trees. US citizens release about 20 tons per year. After a few years of growth, each (tropical) tree will absorb about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, so about 1000 trees will cover your footprint indefinitely. With Trees for Change or Eden Reforestation, you can help plant 1000 trees for $100.

Some benefits

  1. Carbon sink – one tree can absorb about 1 ton of carbon over a lifetime. (Tree Planting Calculator) Every tree planted also encourages other trees to grow.
  2. Improve land in places like Haiti
  3. Provide income and natural resources for locals
  4. Increase local rainfall by affecting local air and moisture movement (Fewer trees, less rain: study uncovers deforestation equation – Environment – www.smh.com.au)


  1. One of the main cures for the dust bowl in the USA in the 30s/40s was the planting of 3 billion trees by the CCC. (Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)) Trees provide wind buffers around farmland that prevented the loss of topsoil, etc…
  2. China has planted over 56 billion trees since about 2002. The green wall. (China’s great green wall grows in climate fight | Environment | guardian.co.uk) Also they are attempting to prevent the growth of the Gobi Desert

Potential areas

  1. Haiti would benefit from sustainable agriculture/forestry. Obviously this takes more than planting trees but you still need to plant the trees. (Haiti’s Poverty is Directly Linked to Deforestation and Habitat Loss – Red, Green, and Blue including the comments)
  2. Sahara desert/Sahel – thousands of years ago most of North Africa had more rainfall and vegetation (Sahara Desert Weather – Ancient Changes in the Sahara Desert Weather and Climate-Driven Ecosystem Succession in the Sahara: The Past 6000 Years — Krpelin et al. 320 (5877): 765 — Science)
  3. Ethiopia (Deforestation in Ethiopia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Potential ways to help increase reforestation

  1. Non-profits – examples Trees for the Future and Eden ($1 plants 10 saplings – Trees for the Future > Restoring Degraded Lands to Sustainable Productivity and Eden Reforestation Projects | Poverty Reduction Through Environmental Stewardship)
  2. Business innovation – business ideas that turn a profit by planting large amounts of trees
  3. Corporate and government sponsorship – Donating money or establishing large-scale programs
  4. Religious organizations (Vatican announces plans to become first “carbon neutral state” in the world :: Catholic News Agency (CNA))

Carbon dioxide calculation

For example, to offset the amount carbon dioxide released by US (about 5.8 billion tons per year currently – List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), the US could plant between 2-3 billion trees. If you consider survival rates (say 80%) of saplings and also the encouragement of other trees (say 3 for 1), the US would need to plant about 2.3 billion trees a year.

Say you plant 500 trees per acres, then you would need (640 acres in square mile so 320000 trees per square mile) about 7000 square miles at the low end ( (((5.6 billion/.8)/3)/500)/640 – Google Search) ). This isn’t really that much considering the Sahara Desert is over 3 million square miles. Using the nonprofit model, this would cost the US about 230 million dollars a year, though I don’t know if the 10 trees for $1 model is scalable?

In fact, people suggest reforesting part of the Sahara to act as a huge carbon sink. It is a lot of open land that not many people currently use. Not sure what to think about this. It could affect the world environment in a positive way but there might be unintended consequences. One place suggests that the winds from the Sahara fertilize the Amazon rainforest and without the desert, the rainforest would perish (Scientists Concoct a $2-Trillion-Per-Year Plan To Geo-engineer The Sahara Desert | Popular Science). Another article states this: One of the Doomsday Sign, Sahara Desert Reforestation.

In any case, on an individual scale, plating trees seems like a recommendable way to help others! They add so much to our lives everyday.

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