Community//

“Reduce how much plastic you buy or use.” With Penny Bauder & Matt Hill

Starting with a project of just 20,000 trees back in 2014, our charity has grown to be one of the largest and most recognized tree planting organizations in North America and around the world. We planted over 4 million trees in 2019 alone, and that’s a huge impact because it’s not just about trees, it’s […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

Starting with a project of just 20,000 trees back in 2014, our charity has grown to be one of the largest and most recognized tree planting organizations in North America and around the world. We planted over 4 million trees in 2019 alone, and that’s a huge impact because it’s not just about trees, it’s about the planet’s life support systems for clean air, water, biodiversity, climate, health, and social impact — what we call the 6 pillars of reforestation. And that’s only possible thanks to the support of our community.


As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Hill.

Matt Hill created One Tree Planted in 2014 with a mission to make it simple for people to give back to the environment. As a father and nature-lover, Matt wants to make sure future generations can enjoy the great outdoors.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was managing a sustainable food packaging company in 2010 representing manufacturers. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver happened to be going on at the time, and there was a mandate for there to be compostable products. Because of this, I made relationships with many businesses and learned that there are a ton of companies that want to help the environment, but either don’t know how or believe it is too difficult. That’s really what encouraged me to start One Tree Planted as a way to offer businesses an easy way to give back and help the environment by planting trees.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Our mission is simple: make it easy for people to understand the importance of trees and make it even easier to get trees in the ground. This is something anyone can be a part of to help the planet, from kids and families that want to help habitats for animals to big businesses that have the resources to restore forests after fires or other disasters. The climate crisis is so big that it’s hard to wrap your head around it, but planting a tree is one simple act that anyone can do.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Starting with a project of just 20,000 trees back in 2014, our charity has grown to be one of the largest and most recognized tree planting organizations in North America and around the world. We planted over 4 million trees in 2019 alone, and that’s a huge impact because it’s not just about trees, it’s about the planet’s life support systems for clean air, water, biodiversity, climate, health, and social impact — what we call the 6 pillars of reforestation. And that’s only possible thanks to the support of our community.

We work with individuals, business partners, and schools to bring our vision to life:

a. Individuals can make a huge difference on their own. They can donate ($1 = one tree), fundraise, and become tree ambassadors to further support the mission.

b. Businesses can participate in measurable ways, such as by planting a tree for every product sold, running a social campaign, or donating a percentage of sales. They can also engage employees through tree planting events.

c. Teachers can participate in our T.R.E.E.S. School Program which brings environmental education through free lesson plans, activities, and resources for kids to learn about sustainability in fun ways.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

There’s research showing that many consumers want to shop with brands that have a social or environmental mission, and that businesses that have corporate giving programs have better employee retention and engagement. This translates into profits, better customer loyalty, more efficient and engaged employees. That’s all great for the bottom line.

And we hear from our business partners all the time that they received very positive feedback after announcing their partnership with us or after sharing photos or updates about the projects that were completed. It helps to elevate that business. And beyond that, implementing sustainability will help reduce waste and save money. Things like improving energy efficiency in your workspace, eliminating single-use packaging, reducing printing, and being thoughtful about the types of vendors you work with, that’s all practical stuff that adds up to make a big difference for the planet while providing cost savings too.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

Kids and parents can play a big positive role here, and their voices are powerful because we all know they are the ones who will deal with the consequences of how we treat the planet today. In addition to planting trees and learning about nature, here are some other ways kids can help:

a. Shop at your local farmer’s market. Because transportation is a big part of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, buying local produce can make a huge difference.

b. Participate in one “meat free” day a week. You don’t have to go vegetarian to help change the planet but reducing meat consumption will help.

c. Get your whole school involved. This is where sustainability can really be normalized and brought to group activities or school-wide initiatives everyone’s a part of.

d. Reduce how much plastic you buy or use. Bring reusable options with you when you visit the grocery store or shopping mall.

e. Reduce the length of your showers or the amount of water in the bath, and turn the tap off of the water while you are brushing your teeth.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Things take longer than expected to really gain traction, so you have to be patient and persistent with your vision before you see big results. Ultimately it’s worth the wait when you know you’re doing the right thing.

2. Don’t worry about how other charities do things.

3. Innovate as you go and think far outside the usual norms.

4. Take the challenges one at a time, there will always be new ones.

5. Don’t be surprised by fast growth, be prepared for it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Three people come to mind. Aaron Minnick at the World Resources Institute has been a great champion of ours and helped create a partnership between our organizations that’s been incredibly synergistic, and Sean Dewitt at WRI as well who was a decision-maker in our working together. Aaron and I met at an event, had some beers and got along well, one thing lead to another and now our organizations have an amazing partnership to get millions of trees planted over the next few years. Hugh Locke over at Smallholder Farmers Alliance in Haiti was also a great supporter at the very beginning when One Tree Planted was just getting started. He helped me understand reforestation better and provided a good reference early on. Key people at key junctures can really make a huge difference.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you, and I hope I’m already doing that with One Tree Planted. In all seriousness, I want to continue to encourage people to get involved and take proactive steps for sustainability, whether that is helping us plant more trees or just playing a role in your own community. No matter your age or where you live, everyone can do something to help the planet so just do it! One action can lead to another and inspire others around you, and when we put all our actions together we can create a much healthier and more sustainable world.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

I’ve learned a lot about patience in this experience. I’m a guy who likes to get things done fast, but some things take time. Building our organization has taken time, reforestation projects take time, and sometimes there’s a gradual multi-step process needed to make real progress. I still pivot on a dime and make decisions quickly, but when there’s a good reason for things to take a while I’m ok with that too, so it’s all about balance when you’re growing something meaningful.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/onetreeplanted/. One Tree Planted on InstagramTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

The “Lungs of the Earth” – Can We Save Trees So They Can Save Us?

by Priscilla Hart
Community//

“Plant a tree.” With Penny Bauder & Chris Kaiser

by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
Community//

My Climate Reality Stories as An Environmentalist and Creative Artist.

by Angie Abreu Olivo

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.