Sustainability Champions recently attended the U.S. summit for the One Trillion Tree project at the Thompson Hotel in Washington, DC. Over 140 attendees came to the event, a chance to meet and converse with a vast community of governmental departments and organizations working together to bring impactful change against the climate crisis.

Photo Credit: Casey Horner

One Trillion Trees was set up for organizations to make a commitment to conserve and restore forests and plant 1 trillion trees by 2030; this is the number of trees scientists have agreed we need to plant to avoid catastrophic climate and temperature change.

The initiative was set up to support the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2031 and seeks to drive change by supporting innovation and ecopreneurship and helping to galvanize the private sector by facilitating stakeholder partnerships. One Trillion Trees falls under the World Economic Forum's initiatives to accelerate nature-based solutions.

Forests are an essential component of the fight against biodiversity collapse and climate change. Harnessing the power of trees through reforestation fosters job creation, health benefits, aids the search for new drug discoveries and propels the move towards sustainable livelihoods. Trees are also an essential component in cities, providing not only shade and reducing heat but also filtering air pollution.

The event included inspirational speeches from a cross-section of speakers from corporate to non-profit influencers who shared their initiatives and visions for scalable solutions across public and private sectors. There was support from all levels of the sustainable community, including government presence with an opening speech by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Other notable talks came from Founder and Executive Director of OneUpAction, Kevin Patel. This intersectional youth-led organization stands by its mission to support marginalized young people, providing resources to empower them within their local community to establish critical tools to build a regenerative future.

Our impression was that there are so many people who care and so many who have the power, the potential, and the opportunity not just to make a commitment but to act, to make a visible difference. Being at events like these, surrounded by people who are already collaborating, taking action, and have already committed to finding pathways to solve these challenges - that feeling is electric! It's so exciting and motivating.

As opposed to so many meetings that discuss what can and can't be achieved, people at One Trillion Trees were saying, 'here's what we're already doing, and here's what we want to do more of, how can we do that?' It's heartening to see people are already taking that action. So many trees have already been planted, so many commitments pledged, making a significant difference. Hearing these things leaves you with the sense that things are happening.

We have a lot more work to do, and some of it is overwhelming in terms of how much needs to happen because 1 trillion trees are a lot. But we need a lot of trees. And so many organizations are finding fantastic ways to plant them and support this initiative, whether in the rainforest or cities or areas like Africa, in the Sahel just below the Sahara. The Great Green Wall comes with a considerable commitment to plant trees across the African continent from west Africa to the east in order to prevent desertification by stopping the Sahara Desert from moving further south. People are already working on it. In Senegal, they have planted 30 million trees for this project. It's very motivating and super exciting.

Photo Credit: John Reed

We were thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to be part of this summit, knowing that this was just a tiny portion of the people involved in making a difference. Above all, what struck us was that One Trillion Trees focus on what Kevin Patel of OneUpAction calls 'solutionists,' and it's refreshing to be surrounded by solution-oriented people. It resonates with our objectives at Sustainability Champions. We'd love to see more of these events because the sustainability field benefits from the opportunity to collaborate and share positive messaging to help encourage each other to keep going. Though these types of commitments can sometimes seem overwhelming, collective action makes a difference, and each individual counts. If one million people all decided to plant ten trees a year, that's 10 million trees. The individual action is relatively small, but the result is quite significant, so we all need to work together to make that possible.

You can find out more about the 1 Trillion Trees project here:

And the great work of OneUpAction here:

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