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Now you can MOVE to plant trees: Malta’s NowWeMOVE National Coordinator scales up successful campaign

By Rachel Payne, ISCA

Many of us who travel by plane have probably added a little extra goodwill to our fare to support airlines’ carbon offset schemes to plant more trees or protect existing ones – or so we hope. But what if we could also plant more trees by choosing greener modes of transport? NowWeMOVE National Coordinator MOVE Malta is experimenting with this win-win environmental scenario and has so far raised over 100,000 carbon-free kilometre donations to plant almost 1000 trees across Malta.

MOVE Malta’s founder, Cynthia Debono, shared her success story at the NowWeMOVE National Coordinators’ MOVE Week seminar in early May. Cycle for Trees started in October 2021 as a smaller initiative that was scaled up this year as Move for Trees to collect donations from walking, running and swimming as well as cycling. A local bank, HSBC Malta, supported the pilot edition and MOVE Malta teamed up with local environmental NGO Saġġar to coordinate the tree-planting. Now, three more partners have come on board, including ECO-Schools, to support the 2022 edition.

“The Cycle for Trees initiative was inspired by the need to encourage people to move more, use alternative modes of transportation, more sustainable modes of transportation and help the environment,” Debono explains.

“We allowed everyone to use the app of their choice on their phones, and all they needed to do was to click on a link and send us some details and a screenshot of their activity. So we collected all of the carbon-free kilometres – it could be one, two, ten, fifty… and for every 250 kilometres the participants sent in, we planted a tree. In March 2022, we planted 250 trees at a college where we are based. It was a lovely experience to see some of the participants who donated the kilometres planting the trees, and some of them kept coming for some days to water them until a gardener took over.”

250 may not seem like a huge number on a global scale, Debono points out, but if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this initiative from one of Europe’s smallest countries – with one of the least active populations in the EU and high population density – actually contributes to five cross-cutting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): 

  • SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing)
  • SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth)
  • SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities)  
  • SDG 13 (Climate Action)
  • and SDG 15 (Life on Land)

How does it contribute to work and economic growth, you might ask? The college did not have a full-time gardener until the tree-planting started a conversation about maintaining the college gardens in general. So the initiative also created one job. But that’s not the end of the story.

“Then what happened was that the bank was so happy with all of this, they said: ‘Ok, let’s not stop here – let’s try now to plant 2000 trees!’” Debono says.

This was the perfect opportunity to expand the campaign to include more participants, as many thought they could not participate in the first edition because they were not comfortable riding a bike. The campaign was re-launched in April as Move for Trees and anyone in Malta or abroad can donate their kilometres towards the cause.

“Everyone is free to do whatever they like, as long as they move. It’s beautiful to see all of these people moving and at the same time protecting the environment, especially those who are walking and cycling as alternative modes of mobility and not taking their cars to work or to school.”

The number of kilometres per tree has also been reduced to 50 to accelerate faster towards the goal of planting 2000 trees by the end of 2022.

More companies have also expressed their interest in submitting staff activities as part of the campaign, and MOVE Malta is encouraging schools and local governments to identify spaces where they can ask for permission to plant the trees – an important step in delivering on the donation promise.

“It’s not about going out in the middle of the night and planting trees; it takes a bit of coordination,” Debono laughs.

What struck Debono the most was how the initiative sparked a community response among strangers, companies and the education sector, and she is inviting international participants to get involved by donating their kilometres to plant more trees in Malta or to try the same campaign in their own countries.

“This is a collective effort, rather than one person walking 1000 kilometres and getting all the limelight,” she says.

“We’re investing in the future generations – we’re giving a gift to the people who are not here today.”

Read more about Move For Trees and donate your kilometres here

Move For Trees is part of MOVE Week 2022, with a special event planned for Saturday 21 May (see below).

Posted on 11/05/2022 by Rachel Payne, ISCA


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