A trip to Biak Islandâ from Derrick Emsley, our CEO

As most of you know, our Earth Week campaign this past April focused on our new planting site: Biak Island, Indonesia.

As most of you know, our Earth Week campaign this past April focused on our new planting site: Biak Island, Indonesia. From your incredible outpour of support during Earth Week, we are able to plant 500,000 trees on Biak Island. Recently, I had a chance to visit the island’s planting site, and I was so inspired by what I saw, I knew I needed to share the difference you’re making to this community and their environment.

We landed in Biak at 7:00am local time, bleary-eyed and exhausted from more than 40 hours of travel. But, upon arrival, we received the warmest and friendliest greetings—the local villagers welcomed us with songs and dance that immediately made us forget our fatigue.

Korem Village Nursery

One of our destinations was our Korem Village nursery where, according to the locals, over 70% of the mangrove population was lost when a tsunami hit their island almost twenty years ago. Today, this nursery grows a wide range of plants: from fruit trees, including papaya, mango, and guava, to hardwood species such as Kayu Besi (Island Tree), which can be used to build boats.

Being there in person, walking through the muddy channels on the way to nurseries and planting sites, and feeling your feet sink a foot into the mud with every step, it’s hard to imagine that this is what the planters go through every day on the way to the plant site. And yet, the locals quickly got tired of how slow we were moving, and had boats to pick us up to ensure we didn’t fall behind schedule. My brother Kalen managed to fall straight into the mud and held us all up (I managed to stay upright, just for the record).

A Planter’s Life

Together with our partners, Eden Reforestation Projects, we employ over 100 local villagers to help at our tree-planting sites, where they collect, transport, plant, and monitor the seedlings. It’s hard work, but extremely valuable work. On the island, a planter working five to ten days can earn between $100-$125 USD. If we compare that to villagers working in the main city reportedly earning around $250 USD a month, the difference the tree-planting income makes can be profound. When most of our planters make barely enough to provide for their families, this makes a huge difference in their lives. The men often earn income through fishing, while women find work wherever they can to afford bare necessities to provide for their families. With their planting wages, they can buy books, clothing, and pay for their children’s schooling, all the while investing towards a future they deserve.

As we journeyed through the nursery and planting sites, learning more about their day-to-day, the level of hard work is undeniable. A rundown of a day in a tree-planter’s life can go like this:

1. Villagers start by collecting propagules from mangrove estuaries up to 2km away.

2. They then bring the propagules back to the village and sort through them to make sure they only keep the ones that will survive. They then soak them in water for 24 – 48 hours, and making them even heavier to transport.

3. A single planter can plant about 4,000 propagules a day, which can weigh over 200 lbs after soaking

4. They transport the propagules 1- 2km away either by canoe or on foot.

5. When the arrive at the site, they begin to sort, count, distribute, and finally plant. The actual planting sites can be up to 500m away from where they sort, the areas can be full of heavy mud that rise to above their knees

Planting is the easy part. It is everything leading up to it that is incredibly difficult.

All these steps eventually involve entire villages. Their collective efforts come together to benefit their community, eco-systems and ultimately revitalize our planet. This, more than anything, represents your impact: never think that your influence is small—it can change the entire world.

The Global Plastic Problem: Indonesia Edition

I also saw the ingenious ways they’re battling the plastic problem—a crisis that plagues the entire world. The planters cut plastic bottles in half and use the two halves to grow saplings. This sustainable solution can grow over 15 saplings in a span of five years, compared to the maybe two saplings grown from small plastic bags that most nurseries use.

An Incredibly Grateful CEO

We spent roughly a week in Indonesia, working alongside the villagers, and trying not to get in the way. Their work doesn’t end at planting trees—they continue to ensure that the trees survive and thrive for generations to come.

Coming back from this trip, I want to say thank you to everyone who supports us. As someone who has seen what you made possible, never think that you can’t make a difference. Even by buying a t-shirt, or liking a post, you are helping us redefine the industry, rebuild communities, and restore environments.

Let’s keep planting.


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