You will find an overview of our facts, figures and data since the start of the initiative in 2007 and the establishment of the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation in 2011, above. In chronological order you can see our program work as we have been supporting children in their commitment to a better climate since 2008, our actions in public relations, the seedlings and trees and also how we have used your donations in the last 13 years.
There are national Plant-for-the-Planet organisations in Mexico, Brazil, the USA, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The national organisations have honorary presidents who, just like Felix Finkbeiner and his parents, work for Plant-for-the-Planet on a voluntary basis, i.e. without pay. In addition to our pilot project on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, we also maintain planting projects in Toluca (State of Mexico), Spain (Ejulve, Sadiz, Doñana, Granada) and Ghana.
All contributions (donations) that are donated for trees are so-called “earmarked donations”. 1 Euro = 1 tree. 100 percent of these donations go to Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. in Mexico.
In addition to earmarked donations for trees, everyone can support the further work of Plant-for-the-Planet with non-earmarked donations. This makes our other programme work possible: the promotion of children and young people, mobilisation and public relations work or the further development of the Plant-for-the-Planet app. Administrative costs account for less than 9 percent of expenditures. All our expenses are publicly available on our homepage. Our financial/annual reports can be found at: a.plant-for-the-planet.org/annual-reports/.
2015, exactly 50 percent of all income generated by the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation went to the sister organisation in Mexico for tree planting. In the following years, the share of donations that went to Mexico was distributed as follows: 2016: 61 percent, 2017: 48 percent, 2018: 54 percent, 2019: 73 percent.
The purchase of land from regular private donations is prohibited. Those who want land to be acquired from their donations must declare this explicitly. For example, in 2019, a supporter donated money for the dedicated purchase of a 91-acre research site in Constitución. A few weeks later, thanks to this earmarked donation, Plant-for-the-Planet was able to start the first large-scale planting trial under the scientific supervision of Imperial College, London and ETH Zurich. The funds for land are donated earmarked for the acquisition of land.
These costs include, but are not limited to, the cost of food, equipment, housing and medical protection for employees, tools, maintenance, etc. As a voluntary social benefit, the foundation offers its employees a transport service between their place of work and their place of residence, because the reforestation areas are located in regions where there is no public transport.
The operations are divided seasonally into plant preparation, maintenance and planting according to the seasons. Care includes, for example, the removal of fast-growing grasses.
The existence of biomass, i.e. bushes, grasses and ferns, but also the existence of individual trees, means neither forest nor intact forest. Thus, although there is a lot of biomass on some areas, due to illegal clearing of valuable trees, these forests are not intact and need tree planting or assisted renaturation. No forest scientist would call this a forest.
No, the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation explicitly does not plant plantations, as plantations pursue the goal of timber extraction. Plantations are a market-oriented, corporate cultivation of tree and shrub crops in monoculture. We do exactly the opposite, planting many different species.
In 2016, our forestry engineer created 292 plots on Las Americas 1, with a total of 4,672 trees. Measurements after one year showed a survival rate of 94.33 %. However, since conditions across our various sites vary. Therefore, we are setting up dispersed, continuous monitoring plots across sites and have stopped communicating this value until the new data comes in.
When deciding which trees to plant, the decisive factor is whether the trees are indigenous and would naturally occur in the area in question. So we only plant trees that have always been present in the region. Among them are many valuable wood species. This is the reason why so much illegal felling has taken place in the region.
Whether we will ever harvest a tree, we don’t know yet. If trees were harvested, the wood would be sold. Any proceeds would then go to the non-profit organisations Plant-for-the-Planet A.C., Mexico, and Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, Germany, which are bound by their organisational purposes to spend any proceeds on further reforestation, education and science.
After a few decades, tropical forests reach the peak of their carbon storage capacity. After that, the forest absorbs little more additional carbon. Under certain conditions, it can also make conditional sense to selectively remove smaller, weaker trees so that other, larger trees have better growth opportunities and can absorb more CO2. However, these felling operations are not done because of the wood. A forest managed in this way remains close to its maximum carbon storage capacity while financing further afforestation. We do not plan to do so, but we want to keep the option open that in future individual trees could be selectively harvested if this is good for the forest. Of course, this will also be reported on transparently.
We record the grown seedlings delivered from the nursery to the reforestation areas and the trees planted during the planting period in daily protocols. At the end of each planting season, we submit the number of new trees planted to CONAFOR. In 2018, budgets were cut at CONAFOR. Since then, the previously regular visits to our planting areas no longer take place. However, we allow authorities, experts and journalists to inspect the planting areas at any time.
The Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation is registered as a so-called easement in Mexico, so that Planet-for-the-Planet A.C. is not allowed to transfer the land or parts of it to third parties without the consent of the German Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, nor to encumber the land or parts of it with mortgages or even to cut down a single tree.
The areas on which the trees are to grow also include areas that do not belong to Plant-for-the-Planet. A team of ecologists reviews eligible areas, both state and municipal, and in individual cases, areas owned by small farmers, under the premise that the trees will be cared for and protected, and then recommends individual planting plans. It is up to the owners of those areas to decide. Together with ecologists and also researchers from ETH Zurich, we are currently investigating another 1,000 hectares and making a proposal for optimal reforestation. The owners of those areas then have to decide. So we also plant on municipal land (“ejidal”), and in the future also on state-owned land, under the premise that the trees are cared for and protected.
Of course Plant-for-the-Planet does not carry out any clearing or slash-and-burn! In 2020, a neighbour who was clearing large areas on his property violated boundary lines and also illegally encroached on the Las Américas 2 Foundation property. Border violations are unfortunately more frequent in this region. The neighbour must pay compensation for this. In April 2018, a fire spread from a neighboring property to the northwest region of the Las Americas 1 reforestation area. 94 hectares of forest (about 103,000 trees) fell victim to this fire. The area was reforested in 2019.
No, the company is located in a different state than the reforestation area and is active in sustainable urban development and thus a completely different business field than the non-profit Plant-for-the-Planet A.C.
According to our current planting strategy, the focus of our reforestation efforts in Mexico is on capturing CO2 in an ecologically sound restored forest. After a few decades, tropical forests reach the peak of their carbon storage capacity. After that, the forest absorbs little more additional carbon. We want to keep the option open to selectively harvest individual trees in the future. However, whether we will ever harvest a tree, we do not know at this point in time, because timber production does not play a role at this point in any way. The selective harvesting of individual trees can enable other trees to grow further. A forest managed in this way remains close to its maximum carbon storage capacity while financing further reforestation. If in the future, trees were harvested and the timber sold in this way, all proceeds would go to the two non-profit organisations Plant-for-the-Planet A.C., Mexico, and Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, Germany, which are bound by their organisational purposes to spend any income on further reforestation, education and science. Of the nine species we plant (see Plant Report 2019), three, the species Cedrela odorada, Swietenia macrophylla and Tabebuia rosea, are among the most valuable tree species, which is the reason why so many trees have been illegally cleared. It is important to know that these tree species, planted for their wood, which is in demand on the world market, are first and foremost natural, indigenous tree species of this region. Their planting is, in any case, preferable to the alternative planting of neophytes, so the planting of trees from other regions. The focus of our reforestation is therefore not the question of “valuable” or “not valuable”, but rather “native” or “non-native”. As background information for those interested in why it can make ecological sense to use wood in solving the climate crisis, we recommend the report by David Roberts.
Our largest planting area (Rancho 3) is located in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. You need to know: A biosphere reserve in Mexico is not comparable with a biosphere reserve in Germany. This named biosphere reserve Calakmul is primarily available on paper. There is still illegal hunting and much clearing in some areas. The CONANP (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) regulates that the biosphere reserve Calakmul can be afforested after appropriate permissions. An assessment by ecologists as to whether it makes sense to afforest this area is still pending. Only after this first step has been taken will others follow, such as the filing of an application so that the local authorities can grant permission for us to afforest the area in question. This is currently not planned for 2021.
We have reforested in different areas with different planting densities. The initial planting of Americas 1 involved 1,100 trees/hectare. In other areas – specifically Americas 2 – we even planted 1,400 trees per hectare. The project’s ecologists decide this based on the local situation. If a former forest area was cleared 20 years ago and then hardly touched, then something naturally grows – grasses and some secondary plants. That was and still is there. But that is not the same as a “wooded area”. Sometimes appearances are deceptive when you look at satellite images or aerial photographs, for example. This is also important to consider when using satellite images. They show vegetation or/ biomass, but do not differentiate by the quality of the vegetation. In the case of Americas 2, the ecologists assume that 1,400 seedlings can be planted sensibly because most of the vegetation here consists of shrubs and grasses (pioneer vegetation). This is called succession – thin secondary vegetation. The plants of this vegetation type are therefore called pioneer species and are usually fast-growing species, including non-native species.
We have been planting on the Yucatán Peninsula since March 2015, and since 2018 we have been in close collaboration with the Crowther Lab established in 2017 at ETH, Zurich. The Crowther Lab evaluates the field data we collect during the planting process to monitor our recovery efforts and can thus scientifically monitor our activities. Since January 2020, we have also been working with ETH, Zurich and Imperial College, London to implement additional research projects in accordance with the research institutions’ study priorities. The scientists’ findings also benefit the reforestation strategy in Yucatán.
This depends on a number of factors, therefore we can only calculate with averages. This figure refers to the average uptake of trees in Latin America. According to a study (Poorter et al. Nature, 2016), a tree there captures approx. 200 kg CO2 during the first 20 years. This figure refers to the average intake of trees in Latin America. Of course, these studies do not deal with every single tree but calculate by hectare. Healthy trees, however, which are not cleared, exist longer than 20 years and thereby compensate far more CO2. So we are calculating very conservatively. Of course, a tree that dies earlier or is cut down to make room for other trees (thinning) absorbs less CO2. In return, the tree that is left standing and has more space absorbs even more. For example, a 35 meter high Manilkara zapota (trunk diameter of about 80 cm at 1,30m height) absorbs about 4,300 kg of CO2 within 50 years (Ramirez et al. 2017). 21 times the 200kg.
Reforestation as official CO2 compensation makes little sense. Our trees are still growing, and it is not the focus of the children and youth initiative to enter this market at the moment. The focus is simply to plant trees. With our reforestation on the Yucatán Peninsula, no certificates are issued for the voluntary or mandatory certificate market. Many companies recognise the value of planting trees and would like to offset their CO2 emissions with trees. They can offset their emissions through CO2 certificates and plant trees. This is what we recommend companies to do. If a company or person wants to compensate their CO2 emissions, this is done through the acquisition and closure of emission reduction certificates, usually Gold Standard VER certificates in the official register.
In Mexico, we are not only active in reforestation on the Yucatán Peninsula. We are very proud of our project that started in 2019, in which we support small landowners near Toluca, in the state of Mexico, in reforesting their own land. Of the 2,800,000 trees, 1,913,775 trees have been planted on their collectively managed land by a total of 92 small farmer associations (“ejidos”) organised in a cooperative. Another 619,925 trees were planted by small farmers on their own land. Together with small civil society organisations, another 290,300 trees were planted. All of these trees were financed by Plant-for-the-Planet. We want to continue this successfully launched cooperation in the future.
The trees for the reforestation are grown in our own nursery in Chuina, Campeche. We keep daily records of the seedlings delivered to the reforestation areas from the nursery, as well as the trees planted during the planting period. In fact, every year we grow about 20% more seedlings from seeds because not every seed grows into a seedling that can be planted. In this respect, about 9,650,000 seeds have been grown in the nursery to date, of which 8,623,560 seedlings we can or could use for our reforestation. By 31.12.2019 we planted a total of 5,123,560 seedlings.
100% of all contributions (donations) that are earmarked for trees, 1 Euro = 1 tree, go to Planet-for-the-Planet A.C. in Mexico. Of all revenues of the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, the following percentages went to the sister organisation Planet-for-the-Planet A.C. in Mexico: 50% in 2015, 61% in 2016, 48% in 2017, 54% in 2018 and 73% in 2019. In addition to earmarked donations for trees, everyone can support the further work of Plant-for-the-Planet and donate unrestrictedly, thus supporting our other programme work. This includes the promotion of children and young people, mobilisation and public relations work, or the further development of the Plant-for-the-Planet App. These revenues make up the difference to the above mentioned 50%, 61%, 48%, 54% and 73%. These earmarked donations are also used to cover administrative costs, which average less than 9%.
In the first few months, it is crucial for the grass surrounding the tree to be kept short, otherwise, they are competing for the sunlight. This is why we always plant our seedlings in rows and at the same distance from each other, so our employees can better identify the seedlings in the grass. Our high survival rate is probably the result of this regular manual cutting of the grass, which is reflected in the consumption of 720 machetes and 7,800 files per year to sharpen them. Presumably, the above-standard payment and the high social benefits for our currently more than 100 employees on the planting area and in the tree nursery also contribute to this and the fact that we do not pay piecework payments or unit premiums, as is often the case with planting, but instead focus on quality and care.
The land rights belong to the non-profit Mexican Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. Some areas are regulated by property law (Ranchos 1 and 3) other areas (Ranchos 2, 4, 5, 6) by Mexican agricultural law (Article 23, Section 5), most comparable to the German cooperative law. In the case of property rights, the following applies: The non-profit Mexican Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. is the owner. The following applies to agricultural law: After every 30 years, Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. has the right to renew these agricultural rights. Therefore, land covered by this type of agreement (ejido land) is also considered to be possessed or owned by Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. Whether Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. will make use of this renewal every 30 years or whether Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. might prefer to strengthen the cooperative of small farmers by transferring the rights to the cooperative and entrusting them with the further maintenance of the land, has not yet been decided. This depends on which of these two options is most promising in terms of ensuring biomass growth. For the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, an easement, called ‘Gravamen’ in Mexico, has been registered, so that Planet-for-the-Planet A.C. may not transfer the land or parts of it to third parties, nor encumber the land or parts of it with mortgages or even cut down a single tree without the consent of the German Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation.
The Mexican state Campeche is one of the world’s so-called biodiversity hotspots. The areas we are reforesting there are tropical dry forests, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Trees grow much faster in these climatic regions and therefore capture more CO2 at the same time than trees in Central Europe. For the past 20 years, Felix and his family have spent a lot of time in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, as they run a company for sustainable urban development in the neighbouring state of Quintana Roo and are involved in the protection of sea turtles. Felix gives numerous lectures at schools and conferences on his idea of planting trees during their stays, as he does in Germany. When the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference took place in the neighbouring Mexican city of Cancún in 2010, Plant-for-the-Planet, therefore, had a comparatively strong presence, resulting in the planting of trees by ambassadors and conference participants right next to the entrance to the plenary session. In 2011, Plant-for-the-Planet decided to take responsibility for its own reforestation area and reviewed areas in Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico. Mexico participated in the selection with 16 eligible areas. After weighing up many criteria, the decision was made in favour of the federal state of Campeche. This is where the chances of realising ecologically sensible, socially acceptable and economically viable reforestation on a large scale were estimated to be the highest while planting a tree for one euro and maintaining it for several years with a high survival rate. The Finkbeiner family, friends and relatives contributed financially for these areas to become the property of Plant-for-the-Planet A.C, Mexico. Dr Raúl Negrete Cetina, an independent sworn land surveyor, founded the non-profit Plant-for-the-Planet A.C, Mexico and became its voluntary chairman. The same happened in Brazil, the USA, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, were mostly parents of climate ambassadors or older ambassadors themselves found their own national organisations and run them as voluntary chairmen, just like Felix and his parents are volunteering for Plant-for-the-Planet. Not one Euro of a donor’s donation may be used to purchase land unless this is the explicit wish of the donor. This is what happened in 2019 when a supporter donated money for the earmarked purchase of a 91-hectare research area in Constitución. A few weeks later, thanks to this earmarked donation, Plant-for-the-Planet can start the first large-scale planting trial under the scientific guidance of Imperial College, London and ETH Zurich. Today, three full-time ecologists are working at the research station, who are visiting planting and research areas in December 2020 under the leadership of Prof. Dr Tom Crowther.