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Interview: #LoveNature with WeForest CEO Marie-Noelle Keijzer

It is with great pride and pleasure that we’ve teamed up with international non-profit organisation WeForest, dedicated to landscape restoration by planting bio-diverse and indigenous trees.

In the run up to International Day of the Forest (21 March) and to mark the launch of our new #LoveNature campaign we’ve caught up with WeForest CEO Marie-Noelle Keijzer.

At Brabantia we care about our products and the impact they have on our planet. This exciting new collaboration aims to donate one tree for every Brabantia rotary dryer purchased – and we’ve set a goal to plant 500,000 trees, helping to make the Burkina Faso desert a greener place.  We want to encourage consumers to help save the planet and dry their washing naturally too!

WeForest Marie-Noellle KeijzerLet’s hear from Marie-Noelle on WeForest’s latest news:

What’s the main goal of WeForest? Our mission is to Make Earth Cooler by planting trees. Why trees? First of all, trees sequester carbon dioxide, meaning less greenhouse gases. And secondly, trees create clouds, radiating the sun rays right back into the atmosphere. Recently, researchers at Oxford University have confirmed what we have long known: halting deforestation and replanting of forests is the most direct and effective way to curb global warming.

WeForest is building a movement to heal our Earth by replanting 20 million km² by 2020. How many trees has WeForest planted to date? Five years ago I started WeForest and planted the first 50 trees. Today, we have planted over 8 million trees in three different continents and our aim is to plant another 7 million trees in 2015. Ambitious, you think? Not at all.

This planet is our legacy to our children. We have to make it a cleaner, healthier, better and cooler place. At WeForest, we do that by turning degraded landscapes into beautiful, bio diverse, lush and green forests. With great partners like Brabantia we will succeed in achieving this goal.

You talked about CO2 sequestering. How much carbon dioxide does a tree absorb?This question takes us right back to our biology lessons, for some of us that’s some time ago. So let me refresh your memory. Trees use CO2 to grow; they ‘grab’ this from the air, giving oxygen back. This makes trees excellent carbon sinks. How much CO2 a tree sequesters depends on the type of tree and the place where it grows.

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Let’s take Burkina Faso, where the Brabantia forest is being planted. One tree in Burkina Faso sequesters around 2.4 kg CO2 per year. Now, let’s go back to our math classes for some arithmetic. Once the Brabantia forest of 500,000 trees is growing, it absorbs 1200 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is comparable with driving 8 million km in an average car. Or 4,285 households using a tumble dryer. However, drying your washing outside is of course much better: no CO2 emission at all! The Brabantia rotary dryer therefore has a double impact on the environment.

In making the Burkina Faso desert greener, the villagers are involved in the planting. How has this helped raise the local awareness for sustainable practices? When you want to create the best possible circumstances for trees to grow, you must make them important for the local community. That’s why we start with talking to the villagers to engage them in the project. We train them which seeds are best and how to store them until sowing. We discuss with local herders how to use the cows’ manure and how to prevent overgrazing by using cattle corridors through the forest. The villagers have taken ownership of the project, and they have a real vision: they want to invest in wells for their cattle and they want to build a health post in their area. These are all spin-offs of the forest!

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Restoring the landscape has a positive impact on the local communities in the area. Can you tell us more about it? Everybody in the area remembers what the landscape looked like before: a barren and desolate place where nothing grew. Nobody wants to go back to this. Now the women collect the seeds for planting the trees, a paid job! They use products of the forest to make soap and brooms, which they sell on the local market. Before, nobody was farming in the area; the land was too poor and they did not have time for farming as it took them very long to collect fodder for their animals.

Now we see people planting vegetables and the cows are fatter than ever. Household incomes are rising, and this means that more children can go to school. Education is highly valued by the local people, especially women. Whenever they have the resources, they will enrol their children in school. Last month one of my staff visited one of the villages and the people told her that 17 children were now enrolled in secondary school, and one was going to university abroad.

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With International Day of Forests (21 March) just around the corner, what small changes can consumers make in their gardens / or homes to go greener? International Day of Forests is a global celebration of forests and their vital role for our planet: 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood; forest are home to more than 80% of our animal and plant species; forest protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide; and forest plays a key role in our battle to mitigate climate change. To commemorate International Day of Forests I suggest we all plant two trees, one in your own garden and one, together with WeForest, in one of our planting projects.

Making Earth Cooler is a key priority. Do you have any tips for businesses on ways they can think/become greener? Companies must become greener, also because their customers demand it. A recent survey by Accenture shows that 85% of the people around the world expect that companies from which they buy improve their quality of life. Young people, our future business leaders, choose their employer based on its social responsibility values; they want to be part of it. My tip for companies is to engage customers and employees in their sustainability efforts. Make a positive impact on our planet together with your most important stakeholders: the people who make your products and the people who buy them!

LN_WeForest_Green desert projectHas there been any unique ways/projects that young people have undertaken to help support WeForest’s efforts that will inspire our readers? Everybody loves trees, but children are especially fond of trees. Understandably, you can climb a tree, you can build a house in it, and you can hang your swing from its branch. What’s not to love about trees? It’s really moving when we get feedback from young people from all over the world who spontaneously get involved with WeForest. Like a school in America that organised a tree fundraising event. Or a 16 year old German girl who spontaneously became a WeForest ambassador in her school and did a class project about us. It’s heart-warming and very inspiring for me and for my team to hear their stories.

And to help inspire our readers, can you tell us how you prefer to dry your laundry? You might think I am making this up, but it is true: when weather permits I dry my wash outside, and it hangs on a Brabantia rotary dryer!

To find out more about WeForest and follow their global tree planting movement, head to their Facebook Page, tweet them at @WeForest_org or take a look at their website. 

Interview: #LoveNature with WeForest CEO Marie-Noelle Keijzer was last modified: November 2nd, 2016 by Aime