THE VALUE OF A TREE and why we need to rethink how we measure it

March 21, 2022

What is a tree worth? 

Cut down, an average tree could be worth up to a thousand BAM. It’s simple math: no. of cubic meters x the price of m3 of wood for heating or processing. 

Planted and left to grow – what would be the tree’s value? Less or more than BAM 1,000? This is where math becomes more complicated – because a single tree growing in nature makes a range of impacts on our lives. 

The value of a tree is embedded in every breath we take. The ecosystem services it provides are practically invaluable: it absorbs and removes carbon and replaces it with oxygen, it reduces air pollution in cities, holds the soil together to prevent landslides and stormwater runoff, it shields us from cold winds and creates a shadow we can hide in from the sun. In addition, all this leads to more avoided greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy bills for owners of homes and buildings. 

Destructive effects of climate change are increasingly present in our everyday lives: frequent floods, longer droughts that destroy crops and increase food prices, wildfires that consume entire forests and pollute the air… the list can go on. 

A single tree is the single best nature-based solution to many of these growing threats to humankind: from rising CO2 levels and temperatures to air pollution and natural disasters, trees have an answer to all. 

How to put a price tag on that?

We do not have the luxury of waiting for the climate change response to come from someone or somewhere else. Living in a time of climate crisis requires all of us to undertake action, personally, collectively and immediately. It’s encouraging to see the growing number of initiatives and efforts by communities, organizations, and individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and around the world, starting to mobilize around the climate emergency.

So, for all of us who care about the future of our communities and the planet, but find it challenging to directly contribute to the positive change, we developed a way to contribute quickly and conveniently: how about planting a tree online?

This was, for the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, made possible through UNDP’s innovation engine’s, the Accelerator Lab’s, unique web platform that allows any person or organisation to calculate their CO2 footprint and immediately offset a part of it through planting trees online (at the place of your choosing in  Bosnia and Herzegovina) by using an online marketplace. The planting of trees is handled by professionals and seedlings are well taken care of, so you don’t have to worry about the sustainability of your offset.

Are you more of a face-to-face person who doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty with the like-minded crowd? The platform allows you to organize, register or join others in climate actions, greening campaigns, and events. 

Trees can be planted in spring or in autumn – so the platform was first tested over the three autumn months of 2021. The results were impressive: online marketplace connected the supply of local tree seedlings by six vendors (public forestry and communal companies) with demand for tree planting by some 200 individual and corporate buyers. Over 17,000 new trees of 17 different kinds were purchased in the test campaign by 132 individuals and 38 companies, and planted at 34 locations across the country. These trees will over their lifetime absorb 20,000 tons of CO2, which is, for comparison, the amount of CO2 that 10,000 cars on gasoline produce on average in a year. The concept was proven to be viable and functional, delivering three times the targeted tree-planting target in a little over two months, and attracted over 16,000 visitors to the platform over that time.

For spring 2022, the plan is to grow the supply and cover the entire territory of the country with tree seedling vendors and planting locations – so everyone will be able to gift a tree to whatever part of Bosnia and Herzegovina they wish.

The value of a tree is not the price of a log.

It’s the future value of the world we have pledged to leave behind for the generations to come.