Giving the Gift of Sustainability

Recently I received an eCard from a thoughtful friend through a company called TreeGreetings.com. The eCard read:

“When your TreeGreeting was purchased, we initiated the process to plant the trees which can take several months to make sure the planting conditions and location are just right.

We are pleased to let you know that your fruit tree was recently planted in Central America through the nonprofit organization, Trees, Water and People, based in Fort Collins, Colorado.”

This novel idea is an inexpensive way to support the the environment and the efforts of a company who has worked with a variety of organizations including Friends of Trees (Portland, OR), Fort Collins ReLeaf (Fort Collins, CO), Global ReLeaf (Washington, DC), TreePeople (Beverly Hills, CA), Trees, Water & People (Fort Collins, CO) and others.

Currently, TreeGreetings.com is facilitating the planting of trees in areas of El Salvador through Trees, Water & People, a nonprofit organization founded by Stuart Conway and Richard Fox in 1998, in Fort Collins, Colorado. The organization supports 20 community tree nurseries that produce 650,000 trees annually to aid in reforestation efforts and have planted nearly five million trees to date.

I contacted TreeGreetings.com owner, Ilan Shamir, to find out more. Here are some excerpts of our interview.

Vangel: You have a great company that benefits both the environment and your consumers. What is the greatest benefit for you as the owner of such a business?

Ilan: Having been tied to an office as a product designer and marketer, this internet business allows me to work from anywhere, which I often do. I can live in Santa Fe and operate an art gallery and studio (ilanshamir.com), travel to Turkey with my daughter and experience a wide variety of opportunities that come with the geographical freedom that the internet permits. Personally one of my greatest satisfactions is knowing that the power of business can be so successfully combined with nature to greatly benefit the earth.

Vangel: What are some of the challenges of owning a business like this?

Ilan: Thousands of people have sent or received a card and given us such great feedback and fabulous comments how this no paper, easy to send, touching message, environmentally sustainable product has been so positive for them. The biggest challenge for TreeGreetings is how to let others know about it so we can increase the number of trees we plant. We developed a wonderful TreeGreeting where businesses can send a custom holiday greeting to customers to plant a tree or thank them for their business. We know the potential is there and built the site so that 10,000 people can be on it at any one time. It will take  persistence, creative thinking, a good marketing budget and our share of luck.

Vangel: What is the greatest accomplishment that your company has made. Any milestones that you can think of?

Ilan: TreeGreetings is part of Your True Nature, Inc. (www.yourtruenature.com) and we have developed Advice from Nature educational items such as bookmarks, postcards, magnets, journals, posters, etc that are among the most popular items in 80% of the national parks including Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Tetons and others. The host of the Today show shared on air about how our Advice from a Tree was so important in her being able to impart wisdom to her son when she was dropping him off for college freshman year. Our customers are delighted that our products have meaning to them and often take the time to contact us.

In addition, since many of Your True Nature products are paper items, we are  fiercely proud that we have replanted nearly 100,000 trees to replace all the paper we have used in our business. We are proud to run a company where team members’ ideas are honored, flexibility in work schedules is offered and an open atmosphere of communication is encouraged so we can all focus on the work at hand and enjoy being part of something positive and bigger than ourselves.

Vangel: Thanks, Ilan!

For a similar, local program in Maryland there is TREE-MENDOUS.  Part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, TREE-MENDOUS allows you to give the gift of having a native tree planted here in Maryland. In addition, the recipient will receive a certificate that states a tree will be planted. All trees are planted on public land in Maryland in an effort to improve air & water quality, reduce soil erosion, beautify our surroundings and contribute to our quality of life.

Programs like TreeGreetings.com and TREE-MENDOUS are making it easy and cost-effective to thoughtfully give to friends and family while supporting companies who strive to help the environment.