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I am actively looking to donate to organisations that plant trees and, as far as I know, there are several websites that allow you to do that. Some offer the possibility to follow the tree's life through pictures, to gift trees, to know the location where the tree is growing, while some others don't.

What I am not getting is the difference in price. I get that the more "services" you have, the higher the cost but... does this explain a difference in terms of tens of euros? In a website I found I can plant a tree for a few cents or few euros, while in others I can plant a tree for much more money.

So...in order to make it right, which path should I follow? Less tree, more money with "services", or lots of trees with the same amount of money and no services?

Some websites, as examples (no affiliation):

  • can you link to some such websites please? – user17915 Feb 11 at 0:40
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    How can you be sure they didn't sell you a tree that they we're going to plant anyway and then cut down in 20y and sell it back to you? – Mazura Feb 11 at 1:00
  • @Mazura - yes, that is another good question! – gabt Feb 11 at 8:14
  • @gabt Be sure to consider the environmental impact of the tree planting. How much carbon is emitted during the planting process (machinery and vehicles) and to transport the seeds and personnel? What is the footprint of all of the monitoring including photography and electricity usage of servers to share the monitoring and photos with you. You might find that algae is a more sustainable investment if you're interested in turning CO2 to O2 as it can be produced at the shore and naturally drift over the 70% of the earth that is ocean. – Billy C. Feb 12 at 1:10
  • @BillyC. - ok, but then we have another question: how can I estimate the carbon emission, without knowing how they do what they do? Also, I will look into this algae you're suggesting since I didn't know about it. – gabt Feb 12 at 7:29
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There are different levels of service.

In itself planting a tree is very easy and cheap, of the 3 billion trees in the UK, most drop thousands of seeds each year and some germinate all by themselves for free. On the other hand, planting seedlings can be done mechanically using a Damcon PL10 with four row attachment, you can plant 20,000 in a day, costing cents per tree.

But these things are kind of irrelevant, to have a healthy mature tree in twenty years time, you need to plant about a dozen smaller trees of a handful of species relatively close together, then let them grow and compete and then cut down the weaker ones, over a twenty year period, this costs a lot of money.

Some tree planting websites might just be selling you nature taking its course, some might be planting 20,000 seedlings in a day, and some might be selling you the service of planting and growing a tree over a twenty year period.

There's also the land side of things. Some services plant trees on behalf of schools, hospitals and landowners, they don't worry about the land. In ten years time the site might be a car park or a building site and your tree will be gone. Some services run plantations or whole reforested areas, and have long term plans to keep the tree cover for hundreds of years.

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    you raised a lot of issues I haven't thought about until now. How can we know how they work? – gabt Feb 10 at 11:42
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    @gabt - excellent question - please do post it as a new question to this site! – 410 gone Feb 11 at 7:35
  • @EnergyNumbers, yes, I was thinking the same. Still need to figure out how to post it since, I believe, there is not an easy answer but I will. Now I dig a bit into the topic! – gabt Feb 11 at 8:07
  • The Gold Standard organisation provide a means of paying for carbon to be absorbed by trees (you pay per tonne of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere) with a mechanism for monitoring projects. The price varies from project to project, e.g. 20 USD/tonne for reforestation in Australian Yarra Valley. That is quite a high price per tree ... but you get some sort of guarantee (of best practice, if not success). – M Juckes Feb 14 at 12:37
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Any time you want to give money to a charity, you should do some basic research on how the charity spends donated money. Some charities spend over 90% of donated funds on charitable works, with minimal overhead, others spend a lot of money on salaries and perks for executives, and some spend a lot of money on lobbying politicians or educating the public to promote their cause. How to rate charities is outside the scope of this answer, but a few places to start learning are at Student Loan Hero and Consumer Reports

For tree planting in general, you want to look into what kinds of trees are being planted and where. Will your money go towards urban trees, which provide immediate benefits to many people? Sterile farms of fast-growing pine which will be harvested for lumber in a decade? Restoration of sensitive habitat after a natural disaster? Roadside erosion and pollution control?

After all, plonking a seedling in the ground is fast and cheap. Tending the growing tree, acquiring the land, designing a species mix to support wildlife in a rapidly changing climate, getting labor and supplies to remote areas, negotiating water rights, buying out ranching and mining leases, and many other aspects are the hard part.

(And don't hate too hard on those tracts of monocultured pine - they aren't a top-notch ecological wonder, but they are vastly better than a feedlot, unrestored strip mine, or eroding bare land.)

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  • I don't mind planting a top-notch, super fancy ecological wonder over a simple pine on a feedlot...I simply would like to do something useful! But first, I wanted to understand which way is better to achieve this goal. – gabt Feb 11 at 8:05
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It depends what you want the answer to be. I have planted about one thousand trees at a cost of no dollars, but a lot of time and muscle (seeds, cuttings, trees dug from woods, etc). On the other hand, one could easily spend thousands of dollars on a large balled and burlap tree requiring heavy equipment and labor to plant.

An example of "from the woods" is: I pulled four spruce seedlings (2" tall) from the sand at the shoulder of a highway in northern Alberta. Wrapped the bare roots in damp tissue and brought them to IL. All four had grown to 4 feet when I last saw them. My cost: zero, time: a few minutes each. I expect a lumber company can stick seedlings in the ground for $1. And any government bureaucrat can get the cost per tree to over $ 1,000 each.

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    If it requires heavy equipment you are not planting it, you are transplanting it. – James Jenkins Feb 10 at 19:18
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    Depending on the health of the trees and the distance involved (Alberta to Illinois), your "from the woods" example could easily introduce non-native pests to the transplant site. Might be better to keep the whole process more local. – Altom Feb 10 at 20:24
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    well...in order to do so you need to have some land, I think. Which, unfortunately, I don't. – gabt Feb 11 at 8:08

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