Bristol activists to plant millions of trees with investment

By Steve Mellen
BBC News

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Ecologi foundersImage source, Eliot
Image caption,
The founders of Ecologi, from left, Alex Price, 28, Lucy Jack, 38, and Elliott Coad, 35

A group of climate activists say a £4m investment will help them plant millions of trees around the world.

Bristol-based Ecologi, which uses subscriptions to pay for environmental projects, got the money from investment group General Catalyst.

Elliott Coad, one of Ecologi's founders, said his ultimate dream was to plant "a million trees an hour".

General Catalyst was one of the first companies to back Snapchat, Airbnb and Deliveroo.

The team behind Ecologi - husband and wife Elliott Coad and Lucy Jack and their friend Alex Price - describe the business as a "subscription service for the planet".

Image source, Ecologi
Image caption,
Ecologi is paying for millions of mangrove trees to be planted in Madagascar

Founded in 2019, it is backed by nearly 16,000 members of the public and more than 6,000 businesses.

Ecologi works with groups like US-based Eden Reforestation Project, paying local people to plant trees in their own areas.

'We don't have much time'

Mr Coad said Ecologi began when he and his wife were looking at their own carbon footprints back in 2019.

"At the time I was commuting to London and buying fancy coffees and I started to wonder what good the equivalent of one coffee could do if I spent that money on climate action instead," he said.

"When I looked into it I was blown away that I could offset my entire carbon footprint for about £5 a month, plus plant about 140 trees a year.

"That idea just got stuck in my head."

Image source, Ecologi
Image caption,
Elliott Coad said mangroves are important as they capture much more carbon than other species of tree

Ecologi began as a non-profit but Mr Coad said the founders soon realised they could do more as a business.

"When you are dealing with climate change, the one thing you don't have is time," he said.

"Non-profits and charities have a history of growing slower than say things like Spotify or TikTok, which feel like they just appear out of thin air.

"So Ecologi is built to make a profit but we try and align ourselves with the ethos of a charity."

'We can't rely on politicians'

The platform works by letting people around the world calculate their carbon footprint based on where they live and their lifestyle.

Investments are then used to plant trees, particularly mangroves, as they capture much more carbon than other species, and fund renewal energy projects.

Subscribers have access to Ecologi's finances and supply chains via their website, and can also see where their trees have been planted thanks to satellite footage and photos.

Image source, Ecologi
Image caption,
People who donate to Ecologi can keep track of how their trees are faring

Mr Coad said the General Catalyst investment was "a dream come true" for the team, who had been "penny-pinching" in the early days.

"The investment means we can now bring the brightest and best from around the world to work with us," he said.

"Just one year ago our community had planted a million-and-a-half trees. Now it's a million every 10 days and we would one day like to plant a million a day, maybe a million an hour."

He said tree planting was still "the best option" in terms of taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

"Nature is amazing. If we give it a little help, it will carry on doing the rest of our behalf," said Mr Coad.

"I joke that I hope one day we go out of business because governments have caught up with what needs doing, but there is a feeling that politics will never rise to the occasion and there is a need for groups like ours to take action.

"We should never leave it to the politicians or big companies to do it, because it's just not going to happen, and every day matters."

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