In 2007, when Felix Finkbeiner was nine, he had to give a report on climate change. As he researched his report, Felix learned about Wangari Maathai, a woman in Kenya who led a project which planted 30 million trees. She also started the United Nations (UN) tree-planting program, the Billion Tree Campaign.
Felix was inspired. He told his classmates in Germany, “Let’s plant a million trees in every country of the world!”. Two months after Felix first talked to his class, his tree-planting project, “Plant-for-the-Planet”, began.
The connection between trees and climate change is important. Carbon dioxide is a polluting gas, and one of the main causes of climate change. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it. When trees are cut, their stored carbon is released again. But when trees are planted, more carbon dioxide is cleaned from the air, which helps slow climate change.
Felix went to other schools and encouraged them to plant trees. News programs learned about Felix’s plan and covered the story. Plant-for-the-Planet used groups of young students around the world to spread the ideas further. Three years after Felix came up with the idea, Plant-for-the-Planet planted its millionth tree.
Sharing the idea is almost as important as planting the trees. Plant-for-the-Planet offers training for students. The group hopes the students will not just plant trees, but will also talk to adults in government and businesses to try and get even more trees planted.
When Felix was 10, he spoke to the European Parliament. In 2011, when he was 13, he spoke to the UN. The UN put Plant-for-the-Planet in charge of its Billion Tree Campaign.
Things were not always easy. Felix asked the leaders of big chocolate companies to give a small amount of the money they made from selling chocolate to help plant trees. The company leaders just laughed.
So Felix found people who helped him make his own chocolate bar, in a way that’s healthy for the planet. Now “The Change Chocolate” bar has become a best-selling chocolate bar in Germany. And for every five bars sold, a tree gets planted.
Felix is now 21, and Plant-for-the-Planet has 70,000 young members in 67 countries. The group also has over 130 people working for it around the world.
In 2015, Plant-for-the-Planet bought 52 square miles (135 square kilometers) of land in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Most of the trees there had been cut down. The group has already planted 3 million new trees on the land.
From early on, Plant-for-the-Planet’s slogan has been, “Stop Talking. Start Planting.” In all, Plant-for-the-Planet has planted 1 billion trees. But they have a new goal – they want to plant 1 trillion (1,000 billion) trees.
Earth Day Challenge
Today, on Earth Day, take a minute to think about a change you’d like to see in the world, and decide how you might start on it. After all, look at the incredible results that came from one 9-year-old boy’s simple idea.