The Greenstand app verifies that new trees have been planted and helps tree planters get paid for planting them. In parts of the world in need of new trees, using local people for planting makes sense because they know their own areas and conditions on the ground. Many of these people have very little money, so getting paid to plant trees supplements their income. The trees themselves provide many benefits as well, such as absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and protecting against soil erosion. Fortunately, Greenstand answered some questions about their technology for CleanTechnica.
How long has Greenstand been operating, and how many trees have been planted so far?
Greenstand was founded in 2015 when our executive director and other founding members were living in East Africa. They witnessed firsthand the economic struggles that rural Africans face every single day, as well as the degradation of forests and wetlands to produce fuel. Such unsustainable practices have led to desertification, increased flooding and landslides, and extreme habitat loss across the continent of Africa. This is when our team recognized the need for a system that does not just incentivize people to plant trees, but allows them to pull themselves, their families, and their communities out of extreme poverty by growing trees. Greenstand produces technology to support massive tree planting operations in tracking and mapping their trees, as well as to facilitate payments to smallholder farmers. As of December, over 500,000 trees have been verified by the Greenstand team.
How many planters are using your tree planting system and where are they?
As of December, the Treetracker app has over 3000 users around the world. We support various tree planting organizations, local governments, NGOs, and community-based organizations primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with the structure in place to expand globally.
Some tree planting campaigns only use one tree species or several, but your system supports planting more…why is that important?
The Greenstand system seeks to value trees based on the ecological value of each species. Additionally, with location information, our team is able to verify if trees are native or non-native to the area in which they have been planted. By valuing native trees higher in our system, Greenstand is incentivizing organizations and smallholders to grow indigenous trees. Additionally, Greenstand strives to value monocrop plantings, such as plantations and fields, lower than diverse plantings in ecological hotspots. In doing this, Greenstand is devaluing monocropped sites and promoting the planting of biodiverse forests. Tree captures are verified and placed into digital wallets where the “proof of work” can be traded on a digital marketplace.
Are your tree planters making money to support themselves and their families? How much can they make?
Yes! During our pilot stage, we met some amazing planters who have managed to support themselves and their families through environmental stewardship. One of our Treetracker users, Lucy, is a single mother of three and the leader of her village’s women’s group. She acts as a village coordinator, meaning that she owns the Treetracker-loaded smartphone that her entire women’s group shares. Her fellow tree growers snap photos of their trees and upload them to the Greenstand system when they have access to the internet. Once their trees are verified, mobile money payments are made to Lucy’s phone, which she then distributes to the appropriate growers. Before she began using the Treetracker app, Lucy and her children survived off of less than $1 per day. Now, thanks to her hard work restoring her local ecosystems, Lucy has the capacity to generate sustainable income that adds up to roughly double her prior monthly income.
How is a tree converted into a digital token?
When a Treetracker user plants their first tree, they snap a geotagged photo of it in the Treetracker app, which we refer to as a “tree capture.” The uploaded tree capture is sent to the cloud to be verified by the Greenstand team. Once the trees’ existence and health is verified and the tree grower has enough legitimate personal data, the tree capture becomes a “proof of work” and is placed into the grower’s digital wallet. Each month, tree growers may upload new photos, which effectively showcase each tree’s incremental growth. Each verified tree capture is minted into a digital token that symbolizes positive environmental impacts. Older trees can provide more ecosystem services–– such as more effective erosion control, marketable products, and carbon sequestration–– and therefore they are associated with a higher value. In January, Greenstand’s tech team produced a token-trading API which allows Treetracker users to store their impact in a digital wallet and trade them with other users. This chain of custody system allows smallholder farmers to provide proof of incremental tree growth in exchange for direct monetary compensation from organizations supporting reforestation and landscape restoration. The ultimate goal of this system is to allow smallholder farmers to capture and trade their environmental impact –– a vital step in the move towards a nature-based economy.
What is the average cost to plant a new tree for the donor, or do donors pay to plant bundles of new trees?
Greenstand does not compete with tree planting initiatives, but instead supports them with our Treetracker service. Therefore, we do not sell trees. At this time, individual donors purchase or donate trees through tree planting initiatives who have partnered with Greenstand. Furthermore, there is no international standard for tree pricing. Costs may vary by species, location, and individual organizations; there is no true “average” amount that accurately reflects these differences. Greenstand strives to set an international standard for planting and in doing so hopes to increase cost related transparency within the reforestation sector. Greenstand is changing the narrative from planting trees to growing trees. Donors interested in directly supporting tree planting initiatives can identify groups using the Treetracker system to verify their impacts on our website.
How does a donor start using your app to support tree planting?
Greenstand donations primarily fund the advancement of our Treetracker technology, which in turn supports all of the groups using the app to grow trees around the globe. Today, Greenstand is welcoming new reforestation projects on the platform. The Treetracker innovation was built to scale and requires more tree data uploads to continue growing. Small projects can download the app and just start tracking! Larger projects, or those tracking over 500 trees, should start by setting up an appointment with Greenstand’s Partnership Lead, Karen Nicolas, who takes time to critically assess the needs of each project and what support can be offered by our service. There are several different options for using the Treetracker app, including customized platforms to suit your project’s specific needs.
If you are interested in discussing a potential partnership with Greenstand, please reach out to Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can your system track a tree’s lifespan?
Greenstand’s model incentivizes smallholder farmers to monitor and maintain newly planted seedlings until they are beyond the critical two-year mark. Once a young tree is planted in the ground, the responsible party returns to the tree, ideally each month, to take care of and verify the tree. These verifications are created in the form of a photo capture that has information about the tree attached to the photo, including the GPS location, species, and ownership. In our upcoming version 2.0 each capture uploaded to the system will be matched to the prior captures and over time, the compilation of these impact captures track and show the growth of each individual tree. This system not only tracks growth, but additionally creates a digital chain of custody linked to each farmer. This allows farmers to generate their own “cash crops” in the form of trees and produce sustainable income by driving the market demand for seedling plantings in remote regions.