Treedom: 10 years of commitment for the environment

Translated by Claudia Oppong Peprah, proofread by Lauren Valentine

In 2010, Treedom was brought to the market in Florence with an ambitious project: selling real trees from a distance, allowing the buyer to keep track of their development. Ten years later, what are the results and the prospects?

”It was during the years when Facebook’s game Farmville was trending, which Federico Garcea, one of the founders, was a fan of. He even spent money to buy virtual trees for his farm. Tommaso Speroni, a friend of his, had the idea: if people are willing to spend real money to buy virtual trees, why not real trees right off? This joking about led to the heart of Treedom.” These are the words of Tommaso Ciuffoletti, Content Manager of the platform, who gave us an interview.

But what is Treedom? The main service offered by the online platform is the sale of trees. Then they are received by farmers in developing countries. However, the work does not stop there.

A virtual connection by means of trees

The aim of the platform is essentially to plant trees. But how and where? “We carry out agroforestry projects. This means planting a mix of trees which interact with each other in a way that has a beneficial effect on the environment,” replies Ciuffoletti. “There are trees, for instance, which have nitrogen-fixing properties. You can try to plant them next to crops, e.g. corn, in order to avoid the soil’s organic matter degrading.”

This also involves a significant effort to instruct the farmers who are going to cultivate these kinds of systems. Ciuffoletti adds: “A tree is a long-term guarantee, much more than seasonal cultivation. A mature tree has a productive capacity with maintenance costs close to zero.

The production capacity is the second aspect of Treedom’s projects. In fact, the farmer who takes care of the tree’s requirements can use the product to his needs. An incentive for the small business, but also a support for the future. “In some countries, schools accept fruit as a payment; you can have your children study,” says Ciuffoletti. He continues: “At times, the farmers we propose our projects to believe I am crazy. We offer the plants, train them on how to cultivate them, and leave them the fruits. We don’t want anything in return, except a photo uploaded on the platform and the tree’s individual journal kept up to date. Thus, I have to explain that it is our aim to establish a connection between the buyer of the tree and the farmer who cultivates it. This relation takes shape with the entry in the journal’s pages and the geo-referenced photo of the tree.”

Expansion Prospects

Treedom is a young and expanding platform. Thus, there are numerous markets and sectors to explore. Indeed, according to Ciuffoletti, “Our head office is based in Italy, but we have another address in Germany. We are also currently evaluating the British market. Maybe we’ll open up to further European markets afterwards. However, people can already buy on our platform from all over the world, wherever they are.” “We are also part of a network of B-corps, with outstanding commitment and high standards in the social and environmental domain. It is essential for us to know that we are not alone.”

New involvement for biodiversity

Treedom’s agricultural activities have to go towards biodiversity. “We have started a pilot project in Tanzania in order to rescue bees: we’re trying to combine the plantation of melliferous plants with the construction of beehives. This allows the farmer on one hand to gain an additional source of income, and on the other, we work on the biological front to enrich biodiversity. Furthermore, research has shown that trees pollinated by bees produce better fruits. You don’t always have the right conditions for such a project, but you must do it wherever possible, because of its incredibly positive impact,” explains Ciuffoletti.

Conclusion

In ten years of company history, Treedom has played its part in benefitting the planet. To the advantage of the environment, of course, but also to the benefit of the economies and societies of the countries which are involved in the projects.
The style of the webpage resembles that of a computer game, with the possibility to create forests and donate one’s trees. However, the impact of the game is very real and visible, with more than 600 000 trees throughout the entire world. To use the words of Ciuffoletti once again: “The tree alone is significant in that it forms part of the realization of a project together with other trees: this is what is essential for us. […] The figures can only tell part of the tale: far more important is what goes beyond.”

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