What is Reforest?
Reforest is an Australian social benefit enterprise (ABN 89 629 970 467). This means that having a positive impact on society and the environment is a core value by which we measure our success. We aim to have the greatest impact possible whilst also making a modest profit that will allow us to grow and be sustainable.
Why does Reforest exist?
The idea for Reforest grew from concern about climate change and the future we are leaving for our children. We were frustrated at the lack of options for the average person to have an impact on their carbon emissions. For many of us, it is not feasible to avoid flying, driving a car or many of the other activities which contribute to our carbon footprint.
So we asked ourselves what we could do.
Before creating Reforest, we considered compensating for our own carbon footprint by buying some land and planting enough trees every year to counter our personal CO2 emissions Then we realised the amount of work and expertise it takes to prepare the site, raise seedlings, plant a diverse range of tree species and care for those trees so that they thrive. With busy modern lives, it just wasn’t feasible.
So, we wondered if we could engage with someone who already owns land to do the work for us, sending us photos and updates as our trees grow so that we know we’re genuinely doing some good. The more people we spoke to, the more we realised we weren’t the only ones who would like to do that. Reforest was created to provide that option for everyone.
Why does Reforest only cater to fuel and flight emissions (at the moment)?
Just about all of us drive a car on a regular basis. Electric cars are making great progress but remain out of reach for most people, and public transport is not always available or appropriate. So until we all use electric transportation powered by renewables, there is great need for a solution to those unavoidable fuel emissions we create on a regular basis. We want to enable drivers to reforest their carbon and accelerate the transition to zero-carbon transportation.
For several years aviation has been one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions, but also one where many people have very limited alternative options available. Carbon offsets have been available in online flight bookings for many years. However, even with the high level of climate change awareness today, only 1-2% of people buy them. We want to give airline passengers a much more compelling way to counter the emissions of their flights and help to reverse climate change.
Fuel and flights are first, but we won’t stop there. Soon, we plan to offer Reforest for a whole range of purchases and activities that have a measurable carbon footprint.
Is using Reforest the same as buying a carbon offset?
No, when you use Reforest you are not buying a carbon offset.
If you’re booked a flight on an airline’s website you may have noticed the carbon offset option. The idea is that an offset will cancel out the carbon emissions from your flight. You pay for someone to retire a carbon offset which was generated by some kind of project, sometime in the past, somewhere in the world. But there is a lot of controversy around this, particularly because buying that offset does nothing to change the future emissions of the airline you flew with. And because of these issues, very few people buy them (only 1-2% of airline passengers on average).
Reforest was created to overcome the failings of these traditional carbon offsets. When you use Reforest, you get a tangible, transparent solution to the carbon emissions from your fuel or flight. Using Reforest means you pay for new trees to be planted; trees that you can see and track over time, and which will help to restore native forests and biodiversity. Your trees will remove CO2 as they grow. If your retailer (e.g. airline) accepts the challenge to match your action, double the number of trees are planted, removing double the amount of CO2 you generated.
How much of my payment goes directly to tree planting?
Your payment goes straight to the project to allow them to commence planting. Using Reforest, you are supporting high quality reforestation projects which would otherwise struggle to get funding and be viable. We take a small commission to help cover our costs. Initially this is set at 15%, and we plan to reduce this as we increase in scale.
Our goal is to maximise the impact of your action by keeping our operation lean and converting as much of your payment as possible into trees. As a social benefit enterprise, we aim to earn a modest profit that enables us to grow sustainably. We do this by asking each project to plant a small number of extra trees for Reforest, and we sell the carbon offsets from those extra trees. Therefore, our own success is closely aligned with the long-term success of the reforestation projects that you have supported.
We can only make our modest profit if the planted trees thrive.
Is a purchase with Reforest classed as a donation?
Unlike a typical donation, Reforest aims to return some of the value of your tree purchase to you in the form of loyalty points with your Retailer, or other benefits. We work to turn your action into real world impact, and to make that impact tangible. Because we believe your trees have real value in reducing emissions, we aim to give you benefits that have value in thanks for your action, in addition to the knowledge that you have had a climate-positive impact.
Reforest is not a registered charity, so your payment is not a tax-deductible donation.
How is the cost of planting one tree calculated?
Each project has its own unique costs, which Reforest has no influence over. When a project is submitted to Reforest, the landowner or project manager will calculate the total cost they need to charge per hectare of planting to make the project viable.
Reforest will divide that figure by the number of trees being planted per hectare to calculate an average cost per tree. Landowners/Project Managers will consider the costs to prepare the ground, collect seeds native to the area, raise those seedlings, plant them and care for them until they are fully established.
What does a fraction of a tree mean (e.g. 0.4 trees)?
Your purchase buys the preparation, planting, care and protection of your trees for at least 100 years. When your amount of carbon emissions require a fraction of a tree to be planted (e.g. 0.4 trees), this means that you are only paying for 40% of the total cost required to provide all this care. Trees in your personal forest in the Reforest app have 3 different sizes to reflect this.
If you make another purchase from the same project, for example 0.8 trees, this purchase will first go towards covering the remainder of your initial tree. In this case you would have purchased 1.2 trees, represented by one full size and one small size tree icon. If your next purchase was in a different project, you would have two partial trees representing 0.4 and 0.8 trees respectively.
Once a project has been planted, we combine the purchases of any partial trees to ensure that full care and protection can be provided to every planted tree. So, your partial tree will effectively be shared between you and another Reforest user. In your personal forest it will remain at a smaller size to reflect your personal share.
Every tree in your personal forest in the App represents a real-life tree that has been planted in one of your chosen projects.
How do you calculate how many trees I need to plant?
Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Reliable data is available to forecast how fast different types of trees grow in different geographic and rainfall areas, and we can calculate how much carbon they will store over time. Reforest uses the Australian Government Department of Energy’s FullCAM model to calculate the carbon that will be stored over time by each Australian reforestation project we feature.
We calculate the amount of carbon that will be stored per hectare of the project’s planting area. We also use the project’s planting density (number of trees per hectare) to work out how much of that carbon each individual tree represents. This way, we can arrive at a reasonably scientific amount of CO2 per tree planted, so we can tell you exactly how many trees you need to plant to remove all of the CO2 created by your fuel/flight.
As a forest grows over time some trees do not survive. This is natural and allows room for the stronger trees to thrive and create a full canopy. So our projects plant a high density of seedlings knowing that the end result will be a smaller number of fully grown trees that provide the right amount of cover and habitat, as well as the full amount of CO2 sequestration that we planned.
How do you calculate the carbon emissions from my fuel/flight?
Reforest uses well established calculations to work out how much CO2 you have generated. For fuel, we multiply the volume of fuel purchased by the amount of CO2 that 1 litre of that fuel generates:
- 1L of unleaded produces 2.4kg of CO2
- 1L of E10 produces 2.3kg CO2
- 1L of diesel produces 2.7kg of CO2
- 1L of LPG produces 1.6kg of CO2.
For flights, Reforest takes your fight code and uses data from OAG, ICAO and other sources to identify the specific plane you are travelling on, the amount of jet fuel that flight will burn, your fair share of that jet fuel, and the carbon emissions your share will generate.
Burning jet fuel does not just produce CO2, but also a variety of other compounds such as nitrogen oxides, water vapour and sulphate particles. Much of the fuel is burned at high altitude where those emissions have a greater climate impact than emissions at sea level (this is called radiative forcing). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that aviation’s total climate impact is between 2x and 4x greater than its direct CO2 emissions alone, due to this radiative forcing effect. Some online carbon calculators do not consider radiative forcing at all and will therefore show a lower amount of CO2 for the same flight. Reforest uses the IPCC’s lower estimate of 2x the basic CO2 emissions in calculating the climate impact of the carbon emissions from your flight.
We stay up to date on the latest research and will update this in the future if a more precise figure is published. Our approach to calculation the emissions from other purchases/activities will be described here as we add them to the app.
When will my trees be planted?
In many parts of the country, tree planting can only happen at one or two specific times of the year when rainfall level and temperatures are optimal. Most projects listed in Reforest will be due to plant at the next planting season, at most 12 months in the future. You can purchase trees in a project right up until the planting commences, so in some cases your trees will be planted almost straight away.
Even if your trees are not due to be planted for a few months, you will be kept updated as the project completes each initial stage including collecting seeds, preparing the ground, raising seedlings and then, of course, planting the trees themselves.
How do I know my trees will actually be planted and protected?
Reforest provides you visibility of your trees via imagery and updates that you can access directly within the app. We also provide a link to the project’s official registry entry at the relevant authority, which in most Australian cases will be the Australia Government Clean Energy Regulator. As registered projects, they are regulated and must submit periodic audit reports to the authority to prove their authenticity.
A requirement for projects to be registered and featured in Reforest is that legal protection is put in place to ensure that those trees cannot be removed for at least 100 years. This is done by the project manager or landowner as a conservation covenant over the land. To help projects stay on track, we transfer your payment to them as they deliver the reforestation and biodiversity outcomes you have paid for.
Projects get a large chunk of your payment upfront to help them get underway, and the rest over a 10+ year period as they care for your trees. So there is a strong financial incentive for projects to make sure your trees thrive over time.
What about if my purchase was already carbon neutral?
The future we are working towards is one where all the products and services you buy are truly zero carbon (if not carbon negative) and support regeneration of our native forests and biodiversity.
When you purchase products or services labelled as ‘carbon neutral’, such as a carbon neutral flight, this typically means the company produced carbon emissions but they purchased and retired enough carbon offsets to cancel those emissions. This is better than buying a product that is not carbon neutral, but definitely not as good as if the company did not produce any emissions in the first place.
The problem is that you, as the customer, do not get any visibility or choice in the type or location of the carbon offsets that the company used to make your purchase carbon neutral. The cost of those offsets is built into the price you’re paying, but you have no say or sense of ownership. Also, it is unclear whether the company is actually working to reduce their carbon emissions over time or if they simply plan to continue buying offsets and including them in the price that you pay.
Reforest therefore still lets you plant enough trees to remove the underlying real emissions of a carbon neutral purchase. By doing so, you can have a genuine impact on your carbon footprint and prompt your Retailer to do more to reduce their future emissions. You also get to choose the location and type of impact you want to have.
Why would my retailer match my tree planting?
Many airlines, fuel companies and other retailers of carbon-emitting goods and services recognise that they need to respond to their customer’s concerns around carbon emissions. Participating in Reforest provides them a direct way to do that. It gives them the opportunity to work collaboratively with you, their customer, to reverse the impact of those carbon emissions.
The people in those companies generally care just as much about restoring our natural landscapes and reducing emissions as you do. But the context they are in may be a little different; they have shareholders and other stakeholders who need to see a clear business case before they can make that investment in renewable technologies and cleaner ways of doing business.
By using Reforest you are signalling to your retailer that your future loyalty depends on them responding. That helps create the business case they need to plant trees with you and commit to those future emissions reductions. This is how your Reforest purchase helps to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.
What happens if a fire or other event destroys my trees?
Reforest and the projects we support are committed to ensuring that the total amount of carbon you have paid to be reforested is actually removed from the atmosphere. Projects are periodically audited to ensure that they are delivering on their forecast level of carbon sequestration.
To manage the risk of a fire or other event destroying your trees, we build in a buffer of extra trees planted across all projects and we work with the project manager to make up for any lost trees. If a project you have paid to plant trees in does not go ahead for some reason, we will let you know and will ensure that enough trees are planted for you in an alternative project to remove the same amount of CO2.
How long will it take my trees remove the CO2 from my fuel/flight?
Your trees will remove the CO2 from your fuel/flight in up to 25 years. If your Retailer accepts our challenge to match your tree planting, then double your carbon emissions will be removed from the atmosphere over that time frame. And after, they will continue to store more carbon.
How do I earn benefits by using Reforest?
We suggest to our Reforest Partners (e.g. airlines, fuel companies and other retailers) that they offer you points in their particular loyalty program each time you plant trees. It is ultimately at their discretion whether they do this and how many points or what other kind of benefits they are willing to offer.
Separate to those loyalty points, Reforest tracks your total impact in your personal forest. When you reach certain milestones in the growth of your forest, we may offer you special additional bonuses as a thank you for leading the way on carbon emissions.