A recently-funded Kickstarter campaign will soon be making it easier than ever for you to support reforestation efforts around the world - all you need is wifi and a credit card. Reforestum is a new online tool that allows you to buy and manage your very own patch of forest and offset your carbon footprint in the process.
Forests are the lungs of the world, covering 31% of the land area on the planet, providing homes for humans and wildlife and interacting with the environment in a variety of different ways - regulating temperatures, producing oxygen and creating rain. We're aware that deforestation is happening, all too familiar with those terrifying measurements that are described in numbers of football fields (the WWF estimate it's currently 48 every minute) and of its environnmental effects: desertification and increased carbon dioxide emissions, just for starters.
Reforestation at the Click of a Button
It's easy to feel helpless when faced by the realities of the situation. What can we as consumers do apart from maybe eating less meat, switching to a tree-planting search engine and using recycled paper? Now there's an app that offers you the chance to do something more. Reforestum combines a serious attempt to curb global warming and deforestation with the popularity of all those Facebook farmyard games - except, unlike a game, the forest you plant is completely real. Go online and you can design it, choose the location and once it's been planted even track its progress via satellite images.
It works in a similar way to Treedom, a website that allows you to plant trees around the world, except Reforestum has a specific focus on users offsetting their carbon footprint. You can choose to buy a forest according to a specific action you would like to offset - car journeys, flights, the food you eat, even your phone use or heating bill. Enter your details and their calculator works out the estimated carbon footprint and how many trees need to be planted to neutralise it. Enter your card details and clean up your conscience with just a click.
The Controversies Around Carbon Offset Schemes
But is it really as easy as this to become "climate neutral"? Wouldn’t it be better to change our patterns of consumption (drive less, use less energy to heat our homes, eat locally-produced food) rather than pay for the results of our behaviour? The whole concept of carbon offsetting is controversial. Some say that it breeds complacency, and is as a way for the privileged to feel better without having to do anything to change their ways. Others say that it's a genuinely effective way for people and companies to reduce their emissions.
However you feel about these kind of schemes, this project certainly seems like a user-friendly, accessible and transparent way for people to do something good for the environment, maybe even incentivising them to be greener in other ways too. Their hugely successful Kickstarter campaign has only just come to an end, so the system isn't fully operational yet. It should be up and running by 2017. For now, check out the beta version on their website and their heartfelt video pledge below.