10 Question with Tali Orad, the founder of 1Treellion.org

Tali Orad is the founder of an NGO whose mission is to collectively make a meaningful global impact by bringing communities together to plant trees.

1.Thank you so much for sharing your story with our readers. Tell us about yourself and your motivation for creating 1Treellion.org

First of all, thanks for having me here and giving me the time to share the hopefulness and opportunities we see and experience with tree planting.  I am that person who brings things to life, literally and figuratively.

I’m an Israeli serial entrepreneur, living in New York. I am the founder of 1treellion.org as you mentioned, an NGO with the mission to collectively make a meaningful global impact by bringing communities together to plant trees and help in the fight against climate change. Inspired by my father’s career path, I became an engineer in a field that was mostly dominated by men. The last startup I founded, called Screen, was an IoT (internet of things) in the consumer electronic space, the mission there was to help families strike a healthy balance with their electronic devices. 

For-profits weren’t my only entrepreneurial initiatives. My first NGO came about after I saved the life of a dying baby using CPR, resulting in founding an NGO to raise awareness to CPR education. I started 1treellion while working on my other startup Wibble, which is a vlogging tool with a mission to change the way we learn. 

When I first read Crowther’s research on how the planting of approximately 3 trillion trees can help mitigate the effects of climate change, I decided to take action –  the same as I did with Screen, Wibble, or B.E CPR – and this action is now 1treellion.org. I was honored to share my journey on TEDx as well as TED.com

As part of my work at 1treellion, I host The Butterfly Effect podcast where I bring experts to discuss stories that inspire others around the area of trees and climate.  I believe in the power of people to make a change, and hope that with the help of the people we can help our planet.

2. What inspires you the most about bringing communities together to plant trees?

I love this question. I believe that the power in change and growth lies within us coming together. As I explain in my TEDx talk, the refinement on how and who to plant with was a journey. 1treellion.org started with supporting planting of trees all over the world based on the environmental impact of the planting site. Soon enough we realized that this was not enough, and when we plant with communities we create an ecosystem where nature and people rely and support one another. Then we are not just impacting the environment, but also the people that live in it.  

We have planted in various locations around the world, and yet our site in Kenya stood out. Not because of the location but because the planting was part of something more. 

Can you explain why Kenya stood out for you? 

Compost toilets were replacing the pit latrine (aka the pit toilet) that is known to contaminate the underground water. Also, water stations were added on site, providing clean drinking water to the community. Then we planted the trees.

The grey water from every water station is channeled to water a tree, the compost from the composting toilets used to fertilize a tree, and the trees provide shade and income base to the community. Trees and people are now one ecosystem, supporting one another. 

There is even a yearly celebration for the compost where the community sings happy birthday to the compost before it goes to the trees. 

Can you find a better inspiration for planting with communities?!

When we are looking at trees only as a carbon sequestration tool, we are missing the bigger picture and the additional value it brings us. 

Tree Planting in Kenya. Credit: 1treellion.org

3. Why trees?

There are many stories about trees, from the children’s book The Giving Tree written in 1964 by Shel Silverstein, to The Overstory by Richard Powers. They all showcase our relationship we have with trees and nature. They are an integral part of our planet. In fact, they are the 2nd largest nation on it (counting the ocean as the first).

The list of benefits trees provide us is long, to name a few… air purification and carbon sequestration; they filter the water we drink; provide shelter to human and animals; trees are key ingredients in 25% of all medicines; they provide habitat to over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity… I can go on and on, but you get the picture.

When Crowther’s research came out it was a no brainer to me and the rest of the 1treellion’s team that trees are the way to go. Adjusting our mission to planting with communities was, as I mentioned before, after learning and having other planting projects and analyzing their success and their impact on people and the planet.

4. Your website’s mission is to raise enough funds to plant 1 trillion trees, how close are you to reaching this goal?

1treellion’s mission is to plant 1 trillion trees, which is 1 and 12 zeros (1,000,000,000,000). Our plantings are within small communities around the globe. We are aware of how ambitious this number is. We are not doing it alone, many other organizations are aiming to achieve this goal, and I am hopeful we will be able to do it. Mainly, because there is no other planet besides planet Earth, therefore we must achieve this goal!

5. How does one get involved with your organization and to help their own community plant trees?  

Simply by reaching out to us on our website, 1treellion.org. There you can join the cause, or help by donating to help support our global plantings. For context, $1 is 1 tree that we plant.

If you are interested, you can see some of our projects using this link

Tree Planting in Thailand. Credit: 1treellion.org

6. What has the feedback been like from communities and organizations? 

Mostly appreciation and gratitude. Remember, these are small projects, usually in rural communities. Funding usually goes to big projects where millions of trees are being planted. When we planted in Tanzania it was with the school children where 2,500 trees were planted in a day. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small number but for this community it was a big deal!

7. Have you been able to travel to see the impact you have made from planting trees in different areas of the world? 

1treellion was founded in September of 2019, just before the pandemic started. Our travels to each planting site are currently virtual. We get to experience each site by a detailed progress report that includes the location and conditions of the trees, various measurements of the trees and the site, information on the community, still images, and videos. We are hopeful that it will change soon as we have many locations to visit, and plenty of trees to visit and plant! 

8. You also have a podcast on your website called “The Butterfly Effect”, tell us a bit about this podcast and why it was created. 

The Butterfly Effect Podcast came about in June 2020, when the world already shut down and hope was far from grasp. Yet at 1treellion, by June 2020 we already started planting and saw the beauty and hope trees give us. This was my inspiration to share hope and positivity, and see where it will lead.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. In other words, this effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China due to a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico. 

Just like the butterfly wings, this podcast has the power to change and impact. In one of my first episodes I speak with James Musyoka from our Kenya’s project, the project that inspired me to help inspire others. Together we unfold the story of this planting. Ever since that episode the podcast has evolved. In each episode I bring a different expert to discuss a different topic about climate change, and share hope that we can still take action and change our course.

Some of my guests include Dr Kenneth Lacovara, where we discuss dinosaurs; Alexander Verbeek about the direct and indirect effects of climate change; Kathie Mills on forest bathing; Dr Chad Hanson on forest fires; and many more.

Climate change is scary and depressing, we can close our eyes and ears and ignore it, but it will only get worse. I invite you to look for the things you can control and act, as there is hope.

We are all butterflies on this planet, and our actions matter. Take a listen, you may learn something that inspires you to take action. This is the link to listen on the podcast app of your choosing. 

Tree Planting in Armenia. Credit: 1treellion.org

9. What do you think the future holds for 1Treellion.org? Do you have any projects in place this year? 

There are many projects lined up for 1treellion in 2022. The two that are coming up are in Brazil and Nicaragua. You need to remember that planting trees should only be done at the right time, which in those locations are during the rainy season. 

If you have a backyard and are interested in learning when and how to plant a tree, check out this step by step guide to planting a tree.

10. What is your favorite tree?

My last question at every episode of the Butterfly Effect Podcast is “what is your favorite tree?”. I should have guessed you will ask me that as well.

For the 40 or so guests I had so far on the show, most shared a favorite tree from childhood, mine is too.

When I was a child I sprouted an avocado seed, and when it became big enough for planting I planted it with my grandparents in their backyard. This tree grew old and remained there till my grandparents passed away. I loved my grandparents deeply and this tree represented our bond.

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