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Interview with unFootprint

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Through unFootprint, we donate 1% of sales to the tree planting organisation Trees for the Future. In this interview, Arjan Kwakkel – founder of unFootprint – talks about his company and why they chose to work with Trees for the Future.

How did unFootprint come about?

“Since childhood, I have always valued nature, and after studying Computer Science, I was keen to combine my personal interest with my work. With my previous employer, I got involved in a project where we built an IT system that provided insights on how to act more sustainably.

I noticed that few tree planting organisations offer transparency to their customers, such as where and how many trees are planted and what the effect of those trees is. This gave me the idea to build a system that provides insight and transparency, thus motivating companies to make the right moves.”

What is the purpose of unFootprint?

“With unFootprint, I want to ensure that companies and their customers can make a positive impact on climate change, by donating as many trees as possible. In addition, I want to offer more transparency throughout the tree planting chain so that there’s more understanding and trust.”

Why did you opt for Trees for the Future?

“Trees for the Future is an organisation that also makes a social impact. People, nature and the environment should all benefit. They have an approach, called the Forest Garden Approach, where they work with farmers to plant trees on the farmer’s own land. The trees should improve the farmers’ food security, so they don’t have to move every time. Thanks to this approach, farmers benefit so much that they voluntarily decide to participate. So besides having a positive effect on climate change, it also has a positive impact on the farmers themselves.”

Do the farmers also maintain the trees themselves?

“Yes, they do. As a result, the trees have a much higher survival rate. When trees are planted on a large scale on government land, someone has to be hired to look after the trees. Or people can simply hope that enough rain falls. If that doesn’t happen, the trees will die. Moreover, the trees won’t be properly protected from being cut down. With Trees for the Future, it’s clear to whom the land belongs and so the trees are cared for and protected.”

How does the process work?

“The trees are grown at a nursery, which is matched to the climate where the trees are planted. When the saplings are 30 cm tall, they are distributed to the farmer. The farmer then plants the tree himself. In the first year, the trees are planted on the property border. A kind of wall is created where the trees provide shade and protect the yard from bad weather and animals. In addition, fruit trees provide food.

Trees are also planted in the yard, thus retaining nitrogen in the soil. This eliminates the need for artificial fertilisers and improves soil quality so that rainwater is also well absorbed. The farmers try to create a healthy biodiversity, where the trees can support and reproduce themselves. So it’s possible that at some point there are more trees than originally planted.

In the first four years, Trees for the Future aims to have an annual status report from the farmers, giving insight into how many trees are in the yard. This will allow us to properly track results. I’m in the process of making those reports transparent through unFootprint. That way, we can send customers a message after a year with the number of trees per area and what the developments are in the area.”

Where are the trees being planted?

“Last year, most of the trees were planted in Tanzania. Many trees are also being planted in Kenya. There are relatively many drought problems in Kenya at the moment, so they have chosen to plant only in areas where there is a lot of water, such as near large lakes. In western Africa, such as Senegal, trees are also being planted. And in central Africa, projects are being launched now to help farmers in drier areas.”

Why should more companies plant trees with unFootprint and Trees for the Future?

“Trees help absorb CO2. But thanks to Trees for the Future, you also help make a social impact. For instance, the trees increase biodiversity in the farmer’s yard. Farmers don’t have to constantly move to a new place, which also prevents deforestation and again, helps the climate. Because farmers get more livelihood security, they will also not move to the big city or become climate refugees. This allows them to continue doing what they have been doing for generations.

You too can help take an extra step towards sustainability. With every purchase, you make a
difference. What are you waiting for?”

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