Why does Reforest exist?

The idea for Reforest grew from concern about climate change and the future we are leaving for the next generations to come. We were frustrated at the lack of options for regular people, like us, to have an impact on the carbon emissions from the products and services we buy. For many of us, it’s not feasible to avoid driving a car, buying groceries, or many of the other purchases which contribute to our carbon footprint.

We wanted a really tangible and meaningful way to remove those emissions, to restore ecosystems, and importantly also to encourage faster decarbonisation by the retailers we buy from. We wanted to be an active part of the solution, not passive bystanders.

Reforest exists to give everyone the power to reverse climate change and lead the shift to a new economy that restores the planet, instead of damaging it.

Why does Reforest ask you to log your purchases?

Your carbon footprint is almost entirely created by the products and services you buy, and the only long-term solution to the climate crisis is to get every retailer to zero emissions (or even beyond to Climate Positive) as soon as possible.

If you simply want to use the app to plant enough trees to remove all your carbon emissions, that’s totally fine and is easy to do in the app. But the real power of Reforest is the message it lets you send to the retailers that you buy from.

When you plant trees to remove the CO2 from a purchase, we ask you to tell us who your retailer was so we can let them know about your action. As their customer, your concern about the footprint of your purchase is important to them, but that message needs to be delivered in the right way.

With Reforest, you’re showing your retailers just how important climate action is to you by actually paying money yourself to plant trees. You’re demonstrating that you don’t just want talk but action, by taking action yourself.

You’re sending a positive, encouraging invitation to your retailers to join you and work together to make your transactions good for the planet. Every retailer wants positive engagement with their customers, so this is a great opportunity for them to build their relationship with you!

And you’re offering your support to help them reach Net Zero faster if they do join you, as the carbon reduction from both your tree planting and theirs will count towards their path to Net Zero.

The carbon emissions from your purchases are a shared responsibility between you and your retailers, and so decarbonising those purchases should be a shared action too. The companies who genuinely care about your concerns and the health of the planet will be eager to hear your message and respond.

Is using Reforest the same as buying a carbon offset? 

Using Reforest is similar to buying an offset in some ways, but is actually a much more tangible and powerful way to drive real change.

Let’s take the example of booking a flight – you may have noticed the carbon offset option on the airline’s website. The idea is that an offset will cancel out the carbon emissions from your flight. You pay for someone to cancel (retire) a carbon offset certificate which was generated by some kind of project, sometime in the past, somewhere in the world.

As well as being very abstract and intangible, buying offsets can be a bit controversial because they do nothing to change the future emissions of the airline you flew with. In theory the emissions from your flight were balanced by the certificate that was retired, but nothing got better or changed, so your next flight will generate the same amount of CO2 and you’ll have to do it all over again. Remember, the goal is to get our retailers to zero emissions asap.

With Reforest you pay for new trees to be planted in a local project of your choice; trees that you can see and track over time, and which will help to restore native forests and biodiversity. Your trees are planted in certified reforestation projects, so they are carefully managed and audited to ensure they are removing CO2. As your trees grow, they will create new carbon offsets.

If your retailers come onboard and match your action – so that together you’re removing double the CO2 that your purchase generated – those carbon offsets will help them get to Net Zero emissions faster, and even go beyond to Climate Positive. This is how Reforest enables you to lead the shift to a new economy that restores the planet instead of damaging it.

If your retailer does not match your action, we will simply retire the offsets from your trees on your behalf.

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 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 paid to remove your CO2 emissions and restore local ecosystems.

We call this ‘profit for impact’, because our model does not let us have one without the other. We think this is how the new economy needs to work, and so we aim to set an example that shows it is possible.

Is Reforest a non-profit, and is a tree purchase classed as a donation?

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.

We call this ‘profit for impact’, because our model does not let us have one without the other. We think this is how the new economy needs to work, and so we aim to set an example that shows it is possible.

As a result, Reforest is not a registered charity and your payment is not a tax-deductible donation. For business in particular, we believe that addressing the carbon emissions of your operations is now a core business cost (and therefore deductible) rather than being a charitable 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 my payment cover?

Your purchase pays for the preparation, planting, care and legal protection of your trees under conservation covenant for at least 100 years.

In some cases a project will offer other benefits in addition to CO2 sequestration and biodiversity protection. You can read about all the benefits offered by each project in the Reforest app.

Every tree in your personal virtual forest in the App represents a real-life tree that has been planted in one of your chosen projects.

How do you calculate how much CO2 my trees will remove?

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’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.

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 purchases? 

Wherever possible, 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. For the really technically minded people out there, we apply a radiative forcing factor of 2 to reflect the additional climate impact of each kg of CO2 released into the upper atmosphere.

Our energy calculations in Australia are based on the State-based emissions factors from on-grid electricity generation, published by the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy (National Greenhouse Accounts Factors, August 2019).

CO2 emissions from grocery purchases are extremely difficult to calculate given the lack of data around Scope 3 emissions for such a wide range of products from diverse origins and distribution chains. Until better data is available in Australia, our estimates rely on published data about the different carbon footprint of a kg of a range of different types of foods, and information about the average grocery basket size.

Where specific data is unavailable, in Australia we default back to the average amount of CO2 per $1 of expenditure across the economy; currently set at 0.236kg per $1 (Exiobase 3).

We aim to stay up to date on the latest research and to refine our estimates over time. 

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 until the trees that are available run out.

In some cases your trees will be planted very soon after your purchase. 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.

If we still have trees available in a project when the planting date comes around, Reforest may cover the basic cost to get those trees planted and your payment will then reimburse Reforest for that cost plus provide the extra care and protection required to ensure your trees thrive into the future.

How do I know my trees will actually be planted and protected?

Reforest provides you visibility of the project site 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 we do everything possible to try to ensure that your trees survive and thrive into the future.

What about if my purchase was already carbon neutral?

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 definitely better than buying a product that is not carbon neutral, but not as good as if the company did not produce any emissions in the first place; which is the ultimate goal.

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.

If you’re happy to have purchased carbon neutral and want to leave it there, you can simply not log that purchase into your app. If you do put it into your app, we will estimate the underlying real emissions of your purchase (i.e. before offsets were used), and let you plant trees to reforest that CO2 yourself. You can still invite that retailer to come onboard and match you. When they do, they will still plant trees with you, and your purchases with them will be Climate Positive, removing more CO2 than they generated.

Why would my retailer match my tree planting?

Many 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 offering them your goodwill and future loyalty if they respond and join you. You’re also offering support to help them reach Net Zero faster. That helps create the business case they need to agree to put a cost on their emissions by planting trees with you, and commit to future emissions reductions. This is how your Reforest purchase helps to accelerate the transition to a restorative economy.

What happens if a fire or other event destroys my trees?

Reforest and the projects we support are committed to doing everything possible to ensure 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, and we only work with projects that follow best practices for fire and drought risk management.

As Reforest and the number of projects we support grows, we aim to build in a buffer of extra trees planted across all projects that will cover any unavoidable losses in particular projects, and we will try to help effected projects to recover.

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 purchases? 

Each project is a little different, but as a general rule your trees will remove the CO2 from your purchases in 10 to 15 years. If your Retailer accepts your request 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 that as part of coming onboard they offer you rewards such as points in their loyalty program, cashback value or other benefits each time you Reforest with them. It is ultimately at their discretion whether they do this and what kind of benefits they are willing to offer.

Separate to those benefits, 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.