In the past decade, the world has lost 80% of its trees (UNEP). Moreover, it is easy today to lose touch with the fact that we live on earth and it sustains us. Since 2010, Greenpop has planted trees in South Africa, and even in Zambia where the deforestation rate is extremely high. Their idea: make green living fun and accessible! With almost 30 000 trees planted and 3500 volunteers engaged, it seems to be a concept that works… Misha Teasdale, co-founder of Greenpop, accepted to answer several questions about his organization.
Interview conducted in February 2014.
Misha Teasdale, co-founder of Greenpop
Misha, why did you create Greenpop?
“I created Greenpop because I have done a large project where I travelled around the world doing a documentary for Volkswagen, and we wanted to compensate for the carbon footprint of 3 600 000 kilometers flying… so we decided to plant some trees! We planted the trees in September 2010; that is how we started.
Why planting trees?
“I think there are various reasons why people would want to plant trees. For us, the predominant reason was social cohesion, so we could get people to connect with each other. And also because trees are very relevant from a climate perspective: the more trees we have cut down, the more carbon is produced.
What were the first steps to create Greenpop?
“The first step was gathering a group of like minded individuals together, so that they could assist us with making the idea a reality. The next thing we needed was a plan. Once completed we started selling people trees on street and on a website. As soon as we started receiving trees, we started planting.
Now, what are the main projects of Greenpop?
“Currently, our main project is a Cape Town planting project, which is where we plant trees in schools and communities. In addition, we have a project just North of Cape Town, in a place called Platbos forest, where we planted 5000 trees last year, and we aim to plant 8000 trees this year. We also have a big project in Livingston, Zambia, where we plant about 4000 trees every year. Zambia has one on the highest deforestation rates in the world, so we are very motivated to see how we can add value to the tree planting in Zambia.
Why do you think that green living can be fun today?
“We feel that it is very important for green living to be fun. If people feel good about green living things will happen. Therefore, whenever we are working on projects, we are always trying to make it as fun, accessible and inclusive as possible.
After three years with this organization, what are the results that you are proud about?
“I am really proud to have a good group of staff that is intrinsically motivated and excited to be part of the ‘treevolution’. I am really excited about the fact that we are able to go as far as Zambia and plant trees, and earn an income from it as well as create measurable impact. I am really excited to be breaking ground in a new space that I think globally is still quite a non-conventional space.
When you speak about ‘treevolution’, what is it exactly?
“We like to have fun with everything we do, so we often create silly words with the word ‘tree’ like ‘treemendous’ or ‘treevolution’. More largely our motivation is to create a movement instead of a company, where people are excited, and enthusiastic about getting involved. So, the word ‘treevolution’ stands from ‘revolution’, but maybe it is not as forceful! (laugh)
What are the three words which can describe the spirit of Greenpop?
“People: we are all about people, celebrating people, and bringing people closer. Ourselves: we are all about supporting ourselves and making sure that we are able to do the work that we are set out to do, so that we can do it longer and more sustainably. And our Planet: it is all about the planet, it is all about adding value and not subtracting.
What is the biggest difficulty that you met since the creation of Greenpop?
“The biggest difficulty I have met is maybe the lack of sleep! (laugh) I think if you are able to drink lots of coffee, if you have passion and horsepower, you can bring those together. With these three components: passion, horsepower and coffee, you can do anything!
What or who inspired you to launch this organization?
“I have had various experiences in my life where I have engaged with NGOs and socially orientated causes. I have had various mentors or people that have allowed me to see that there are other ways and opportunities to make things like this happen. I feel like they are not always that tangible in individuals specifically, but more the experiences that I have been through, that have allowed for me to open my eyes and realize that having a holistic approach to life and being focused on a business where the core is all about good things has come through a series of experiences.
Which advice could you give to the young South-Africans who want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society today?
“The best advice I could give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur is to come up with something simple, to be persistent, and to get as many people as you can involved with your idea, whatever the means and costs. Because your best customers are going to be your friends and family.
What is the business model of Greenpop? How do you sustain the structure financially?
“In order for us to make a finances work, we sell tickets for festivals and for climate action conference style events. In addition, we take companies tree planting: they pay a facilitation fee and they get the value of having the staff engaged on a social level. They are able to interact with each other, and they are able to interact with fellow South-Africans that potentially, due to social cohesion and divide, would not generally be able to do so. And we also sell trees. So you can join to our website, and you can buy a tree at www.greenpop.org.We will send you the certificate and the GPS coordinates of where it is planted… and hopefully one day you can go and visit it!
In ten years, how do you see your organization?
“That is a tricky question! (laugh) I am excited for good and sustainable growth, the most I am concerned about growing too large and then having more work that I now want to do. Our next phase is trying to get focus and trying to be as good as we can at the things that we are doing. Then, I would like to focus my energy on having one off events across the continent, where tree planting can be celebrated by both volunteers, and individuals on the ground, where we can bring in the NGO sector, the private sector, and government.