Planting trees and investing in the future
‘Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen,’ says Sofia. Every tree you plant removes around 10 kilograms of CO2 every year, she explains. She and 10 other children from years 3 to 6 meet every other Wednesday to learn about climate change, pollution, trees and how to care for them, and to create presentations on these topics.
The Josef-Schwarz-Schule (JSS for short) offers the programme as part of its Plant-for-the-Planet after-noon club, started by teacher Jennifer Hohenschläger based on the student initiative of the same name.
‘We hope the children will become ambassadors for environmental protection and share information with other students at the school via presentations. The aim is to encourage the other children to take on social responsibility and actively shape their own future,’ says Hohenschläger.
The Plant-for-the-Planet initiative was started in 2007 by the then nine-year-old Felix Finkbeiner. Inspired by the Kenyan professor Wangari Maathai, who planted 30 million trees in Africa in 30 years, Felix’s vision is for children to plant a million trees in every country on earth.
Deforestation, particularly as a result of wild fires, produces 20 % of the world’s damaging CO2 emissions – which is particularly tragic, given that trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Trees are a symbol of hope in the fight against CO2 emissions: every tree absorbs CO2 as it grows and stores it in the form of carbon in its wood. The CO2 only enters the atmosphere again when the wood dies through age or is burned. The initiative helps children take tackling CO2 emissions into their own hands, ‘while the grown-ups just talk about it,’ as Felix puts it.
When the JSS ambassadors are not working on their presentations, they are selling the ‘Gute Schokolade’ chocolate bars made by Plant-for-the-Planet. The manufacturers and distributors donate the profits they make from selling the bars, and the organisation uses the money to plant new trees to store damaging CO2 and produce oxygen. The chocolate is also fair-trade, and supports farmers and their families in Mexico.
‘For every five bars you buy, the initiative plants a tree,’ explains Hohenschläger. The children at the club give out loyalty cards so that parents and children can keep track of how many bars they have bought and eaten. ‘We designed them ourselves. For every five bars you buy, you get a stamp on your card. There is also a tree certificate that we made ourselves,’ says 10-year-old Noelle. The teacher has put a limit on the number of bars each student can buy in a week to prevent chocolate consumption getting out of hand.
‘The children recognise that they are part of something bigger and that they can make a difference – at school and at home,’
says Hohenschläger. To further their knowledge, the climate ambassadors attended the initiative’s 2018 annual meeting in Possenhofen, from 20 to 22 April. At the annual meeting of active environmental protection ambassadors, the children talk about their activities, discuss future projects, get to know each other and make plans for the coming years.
One such plan was for the students themselves, and not just Felix’s initiative, to start planting trees. In response, the JSS Friends’ Association donated a number of apple trees to be sold to raise money for Plant-for-the-Planet, one of which was planted on the school property on 9 May 2018.
‘Trees are living beings that grow and develop slowly, which means they need time to adjust to new living conditions,’ says 12-year-old Kai, as he checks the trees’ soil. Together with the rest of the afternoon club, he planted the fruit trees and makes sure they get the water and attention they need.
‘Hopefully there might be some apples next year,’ says Sofia, regarding the trees they planted with pride. While they might not yet bear any fruit, they are already doing their bit to ensure a better future for the children who planted them.
Plant-for-the-Planet is an initiative for children and young people that aims to create awareness of global justice and climate change among children and adults, and to actively tackle climate change by planting trees.