This eco-cultural gesture was the beginning of a social enterprise that has planted over 87 lakh trees back home, weaving personal and corporate greetings into the act of social and environmental good.
Grow-Trees.com provides a unique Greet with Trees service that allows individuals and corporates to commemorate special occasions by planting trees on behalf of family, friends or employees, in projects initiated by the organisation in the rural sectors of India. Explained simply, Shah created the concept where one could pay as little as Rs 50 for a sapling plantation in honour of a friend or relative, and send those 'eTree Certificates' as warm greetings.
The social enterprise is affiliated with the United Nation's Environment Program's Billion Tree Campaign and WWF's Cities for Forests Campaign, says the website.
To earn trust of its customers, Grow-Trees.com instituted independent audits of the tree plantings.
"Our vision was to offer a positive way by which each person could fight climate change. Towards this, we wanted to inculcate the habit of planting trees to greet dear ones, making the process convenient and affordable. We, therefore, made this web-enabled people could plant trees with a few clicks, starting at Rs 50 per tree, the cost of buying and mailing a decent greeting card," says Shah, co-founder of Grow-Trees.com.
IANSlife speaks to Bikrant Tiwary, CEO, Grow-Trees.com ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5:
Q: The forest cover in India, especially in the urban areas, is inadequate to say the least. Your thoughts on the repercussions this has.
A: With industrialisation and globalisation also come their disadvantages. Not only does it lead to massive deforestation but also disrupts the balance of nature. In the last few years, we have seen Indian cities pop up amongst the top 10 most polluted cities in the world. It comes as a reminder of how we have impacted our environment. The exploitation of natural resources at such large scale will eventually lead to their degradation with minimal access to clean water, breathable air, and wildlife habitats. Our ecosystem is an interconnected web of resources, where degradation of one may lead to a collapse of the others as well. Without trees, replenishing groundwater can be challenging, more natural disasters will strike and life on Earth will be in peril. In order to rectify some of our mistakes, Grow-Trees has initiated plantation drives in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Jamshedpur, attempting to create carbon sinks. These trees will assist in depressurising the current resources and maintain the ecological balance.
Q: How is the pandemic a setback to climate action, if at all, for you?
A: The pandemic came as a shock for humans as well as the environment around us. Initial lockdowns allowed wildlife to come out of their spaces and gain access to more land. We saw the return of endemic species and flocks of birds for migration, seeming like the restoration of ecological balance. However, the positives were short-lived. Thousands of climate actions across the globe had to be halted to make way for the emerging pandemic. Most of the global resources had to be preserved or diverted towards providing supplies to cater to medical needs. Both government and corporates have shifted their focus to the need of the hour. Understanding the bizarre situation that the world is in, we must stand united, while also keeping in mind the larger battle we have to fight.
Q: The love for kitchen gardens, potted plants and green spaces saw a rise in lockdown. How can we translate this sentiment to love for forests and wildlife?
A: It's a delight to see people connect with the environment and take initiatives towards regreening. However, we are yet miles away from the goal. Steep actions are required to spread awareness about the need for tree plantation and large-scale initiatives. While kitchen gardens and potted plants beautify our homes, we are in dire need of forests to heal the environment. Forests are the natural source of carbon sequestration, home to millions of species and the solution to our climate crisis. We need to imbibe the feeling that the earth belongs to all living species and we must all thrive together, making space for each other.
Q: Your key message on the World Environment Day.
A: This World Environment Day, we'd like to remind people that the environment will be susceptible to degradation again once industry and travel ramp up. We need to realise our responsibility, as a nation, to revive our dwindling biodiversity and rehabilitate our ecosystems. Planting trees, opting for sustainable practices or regularly cleaning up our rivers and coasts are the simplest ways to ensure that we're giving back to the environment that sustains us. Let's work together to restore environmental harmony and remedy what we've wronged.