Greenstand’s 6 millionth capture: Another milestone in MRV success

Greenstand hit another Million Milestone this July, with upwards of six million Tree Captures recorded. This achievement came a mere five months after the Alaska-based nonprofit documented five million captures and slightly more than two years since reaching the first million mark. 

“I wouldn't say it's a huge milestone for us; it's just a number at the end of the day,” said Vice President of Programs Sebastian Gaertner, downplaying the significance of the achievement. “We’re trying to move a big long train. I think we're managing slowly to get it going a little bit, it's moving, and it's got momentum, but it's not at speed.”

Greenstand continues to build the technology required to effectively identify when single trees have been captured multiple times. Nonetheless, Gaertner estimates that about two million individual trees have been planted and captured through Treetracker. 

Tree Captures are the primary function of Greenstand’s Treetracker app, and they are exactly what they sound like - pictures of trees. Within Greenstand, they serve two purposes: to certify that a planted tree continues to survive and to provide financial compensation for the tree farmer who nurtured it.

Farmer-captured MRV data

Treetracker is a form of the Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) data collection methods used by reforestation projects today. MRV is the process of capturing data to show what was done (i.e., trees were planted) and the impacts those actions had (i.e., biodiversity sustained, carbon sequestered, incomes paid to smallholder farmers). Treetracker enables farmers to track trees individually by tagging each tree with specific GPS coordinates, time/date stamps, species data, and details of who “owns” the resulting impact. 

“What we have achieved in the last years, it's kind of a silent change,” Gaertner said. “When we started and told people that we wanted to check individual trees, they thought we were crazy. The concept was just not there.”

As Gaertner describes, the concept of proving individual seedlings were planted and continued to survive and thrive into adulthood was largely unheard of when Greenstand began. However, that only served as additional motivation, and Greenstand’s diligent volunteers have developed Treetracker to where it is today. This complex, multi-faceted tool benefits every contributor, from the grower to the donor and beyond. 

When a company or an individual purchases a tree through a third-party planting organization, a tree farmer plants, nurtures, and takes captures of the tree as it matures into adulthood. The captures are then sent through the administration panel within Greenstand to be verified and tagged. 

Long-term income opportunity

The tree farmer receives one Impact Token per capture and can save, trade, or sell the tokens to enterprises as a form of carbon credits. The Impact Wallet is a digital vessel where Impact Tokens are stored and can be sold or traded.

“The Impact Wallet has the idea where it's like, this is your account,” Gaertner said. “You can plant trees all over the world, through our projects or anybody who uses Greenstand, and you can build up your own impact, restoration projects, and forests.”

Gaertner feels the full impact of the Wallet-Token system is often undersold. Farmers are disproportionately affected by poverty, and the entire Treetracker process helps farmers worldwide work to stay above the UN poverty line of $2.15 per day

Treetracker gives farmers an opportunity to profit from a high-impact environmental service that requires minimal effort once the tree is past its most vulnerable stage. 

Greenstand aims to sustain itself financially by marketing Treetracker to corporate enterprises and planting organizations. However, profit is not the goal - Treetracker started as a proof of survival, and Greenstand continues to uphold that value.

Gaertner hopes that Greenstand will aid in shifting the focus of the world economy from extracting and destroying our natural resources to restoring our ecosystems and improving the financial situations of our farmers. 

“It's a bit like taking gold out of the ground. So somebody does the work, and therefore, this is valuable. It's the same thing with nature, somebody does the work, and it's valuable,” Gaertner said. “We just have to acknowledge that regeneration and growing trees is the most valuable thing we can do as humans.”

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Jackson Sneeringer is a contributor to Greenstand’s communications team and is supporting the mission through her writing. She can be reached at jackson.sneeringer@greenstand.org.