I must admit that I am only somewhat environmentally conscious. Sure I turn the tap off when I brush my teeth and my Dad installed in me an innate reaction that always makes me switch of the light when I leave a room. Also when travelling I re-use my towels and I will even complain if the hotel doesn’t adhere to its own policy. I have always disliked air-conditioning so that makes it easy to save electricity and I try to refill my water bottles. But that’s about it. Or at least that was about it until I met the guys and girls from Greenpop.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
This saying meant little to me when I first met Greenpop directors Misha, Lauren, and Jeremy. Trees were just sort of there for me and while I knew that deforestation was a problem in some parts of the world, these parts always seemed quite far away. Looking around green Cape Town surely we couldn’t have a lack of trees?!
I first met the three on the mat when I was teaching a Bikram class a few years back. I must admit I initially had a little crush on Misha. Not only was he gorgeous, but he always smiled at me in the middle of class and someone who is doing a Bikram class and smiles instead of gnarls at the teacher in the middle of class, deserves nothing but praise. Then I met Lauren, who is also his girlfriend, and I was immediately over my crush, because Lauren is one of those girls you can’t help but wanting to be best friends with. And Jeremy, better known as the artist Jeremy Loops has the voice of a naughty angel that you just want to listen to and sing along for hours. Not only are these three awesome in their own right, but they also made it their mission to plant as many trees as possible to make our earth a greener and thus better place.
It started in 2010 when Misha and a friend had to travelfor an ad job and racked up some 360 000 air miles. Upon their return they wanted to do something to offset the carbon footprint they had gathered, but weren’t happy to just hand over money. They wanted to actually make right, get down, and their hands dirty. 1000 trees were necessary to make up for the trip and a 1000 trees they planted within a month with the help of friends and family. After that nobody felt like stopping and Greenpop and its Treevolution was born under the leadership of Misha, Lauren, and Jeremy. Since then 27,000 treelings have been planted into African soil.
Deforestation is a huge problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where people need the wood to survive, but have no concept of replacing the trees for future generations. I made my first tree hugging and planting experience two years ago at Platbos forest where Greenpop had gathered for their second Reforest Fest – basically a weekend of planting, camping, and dancing the night away.
This was not only the first time I ever planted a tree, but also the first time I ever went properly camping. And while I was probably the only one who brought her duvet and a bottle of pink champagne along, this wasn’t your average hippie weekend. While there were no heels in sight, everybody was wearing their chicest Wellingtons, denim mini shorts and Panama hats during day and at night we turned the forest into a dance floor of note with some of the best musicians Cape Town has to offer.
Tree huggers have never been cooler thanks to Greenpop and every event reflects that. During regular planting days schools in the Western Cape are made greener and kids educated on the benefits of trees and how to care for them. Communities benefit from fruit orchards and under-greened areas get uplifted by communal planting days with young and old involved. Projects and parties around town are put into action to show people a greener lifestyle with small changes as well as an annual trip to Zambia – anyone for tree planting next to the Victoria Falls? Don’t forget your rain cape!
Now just in time for the holiday season which means travelling for quite a few of us they have launched their new Trees for Travel project. This allows companies in the travel industry the option to offer their clients to travel a bit greener by adding a tree to their booking. Trees will be planted by Greenpop and clients get a certificate with the GPS coordinates of their tree. This program is also available to individual travellers and Travelettes who would like to add a bit of green to their next trip. Each tree costs ZAR 100 (currently about EUR 7) which includes tree, mulch, and fertilizer, the planting of the tree as well as the monitoring to insure that it will grow big and strong.
And for those of you who are staying put this season why not gift a real Christmas tree for someone who is far away? I already have quite a few nieces, nephews, and friends on three continents who can’t wait to come to South Africa, not only to play with lions, but also to pick cherries from their very own trees.
All images via GreenpopTweet