(Answers from Ru Hartwell)
1. Why Climate Shop?
Because we just can't carry on living the way we have been. Its easy for us to lay the blame for the climatic and environmental crises with other people. 'Its the government's fault, its Big Business, its aviation, its eating meat and dairy, its China, its the oil companies, its having too many children' etc., etc. Whilst all these groups or behaviours clearly bear some responsibility, what we don't hear a lot of is the phrase, 'I am responsible'. That is because most of us don't want to acknowledge the way we're all consuming the natural world through our addiction to buying stuff.
So Climate Shop is about helping us work together to take more responsibility for the way we consume resources whilst reducing waste and drawing down atmospheric carbon. When you either buy something through us, the natural world, the atmosphere and some poor people down in Kenya all get a little helping hand.
2. What do you mean, 'It's a trust-based initiative'?
If you buy or donate an item, you're trusting that we'll send the cash raised on to the community in Kenya. Once we've done that, we're trusting them that they'll plant and look after the trees. After that we're all trusting that the climate wont get so bad that the trees die. There's a lot of trust needed to make this happen. Maybe its asking too much? But then, what have we got to lose? One thing is for sure. It has taken us 150 years or more to ruin a planet's climate and we're running out of time to fix it. We'll need to work together so much better than we have been doing, to have any hope of rising to the challenge. Co-operation requires trust so Climate Shop is as much about building trust as it is about re-using stuff, reducing waste, planting trees or fixing carbon.
3. Who gets the money?
Climate Shop is a non-profit, volunteer initiative so we have no wage bill. After costs like rent and electricity,100% of all the funds raised go towards planting trees with our community forestry project in Kenya. In August '21 we were awarded a grant to £10,000 under the Welsh Government's Wales and Africa Programme pay one worker (Ru Hartwell) to manage the Aberystwyth shop 1 day per week and one worker (Natasha Davies) to manage the Lampeter shop one day per week. The tree planting is organised by a constituted workers co-operative - the Bore Green Umbrella which has 2500 members and is partnered with 125 schools. Their job is to manage the community tree nurseries, make sure that the trees are shared out fairly amongst all sections of the population and that any losses are replaced. Lots of the latest science indicates that it is our tropical trees that do the serious planetary cooling so that is why we plant down there.
4. Can I just donate and not sell anything?
Yes please! Just use the 'Plant us now' button on the Home Page. You'll then have a chance to give us your name and email if you want to be kept updated on the project going forward. Contact us if you need some more specific info or if you don't want any trees planted.
5. Is shopping really so bad for the planet?
The stuff we buy has to be grown or mined, designed, graded, manufactured, processed, assembled, cleaned, packaged, advertised, warehoused, loaded and then transported to us. You can't conduct any of these activities without creating waste, harming other life-forms and releasing CO2. That laptop of yours has 66 different minerals in it. Mining...yes, that's eco-friendly isn't it? I'm writing this on a computer that I bought new so, like you, I'm culpably connected to a web of 66 environmentally destructive mining operations all over the world. There are 2 billion computers out there. Same applies to phones, TV's, cars and every last other thing we buy. There are simply too many of us buying too many new things and creating oceans of waste and skyfuls of CO2.
6. Why is Climate Shop any different?
Nothing new is sold by Climate Shop - everything is second hand, used, salvaged, repaired or upcycled. The environmental harm of manufacture, delivery etc has already been done with this stuff so its about extending the usable life, re-purposing old things and taking material out of the waste stream. We have no wage bill and all our stock is donated so after meeting overheads, every penny raised by the sale of an item goes to fund the planting of carbon-hungry, wildlife-friendly tropical trees. That means we are genuinely the first shops in the world were everything bought or sold draws down carbon rather than releasing it. All the electricity consumed in both shops is generated from 100% renewable sources.
7. But its fine. I might buy a lot of stuff but I recycle everything....
Consider the process. We want that new thing soooo bad....eventually we get it, we unwrap it (short little nice feeling)....show it off to our friends (short little nice feeling)....stick the packaging 'in the recycling'. (short little quite nice feeling - as we're doing the right thing by the planet)......Later on we take that stuff to the local waste centre to be sorted, compressed, baled and shipped off to a poor country for dumping in a forest, by a river. After a while it mostly finds its way into the ocean and then into our Fish and Chips. So if your next battered cod tastes a bit off remember that trinket you had off Amazon last year? It had that little bit of plastic foam around it didn't it? That's what you're eating. So don't give me "I recycle everything, so its fine."
8. Do I have to join Climate Shop on Facebook or can I just sell my stuff and then donate via the website?
If you join us on Facebook it helps us build the community, keep track of what is being sold and its easy to keep everyone updated on the project going forward but its up to you. If you'd rather not, no problem.
9. How can we trust that the trees will actually get planted?
I've been asked this question a lot since I started planting trees to absorb carbon in West Wales back in the 90's. This is one of the first batches that I put in (both sides of the river). This is a cashew orchard planted a few years ago on the project in Kenya. Viewing these earlier plantings might reassure you a little as to my motives but what should allay your concern more is our stringent monitoring regime. Once the trees are in the ground, we record the GPS co-ordinates of each planting site - mostly these are schools, churches or farmer's shamba's (growing plots) - which are all inspected annually by our local monitoring team. This is an example planting site GPS record and these are example planting site GPS co-ordinates - 03°04'34.53" S039°54'50.62" E If you copy and paste those figures in red into any Google Search bar it will 'fly you' right to that place. Try it to see what we mean. Initially you'll go to a blank Google Maps page and you'll need to click on the small square 'Satellite View' box at the base of the page to reveal the site. We will publish comprehensive planting site records once the trees are planted, logged and mapped - anticipated schedule - October 2021. If all of that isn't enough for you, please feel free to visit the Bore Community Forest Centre over in Coast Province Kenya and Alex Katana, our project manager will be happy to take you to check on the Climate Shop trees in person. If that isn't enough for you, you need to take a look at yourself.
11. Can you give me some more info on the tree planting project and its history?
Climate Shop is run by Treeflights Ltd which started life in 2006 as a carbon offset business for air travellers and is a non-profit company. We learned that carbon offsetting is problematic for a number of reasons so we don't do much of that any more but the fact remains that trees do absorb atmospheric carbon and they do so with incredible efficiency and countless collateral benefits so it would be crazy not to use them to draw back down some of the excess bad stuff we've put up there. Treeflights initially planted in Wales but after research came out in 2007 indicating that it is only our tropical forests that do the serious planetary cooling work, we switched to planting with the community of Boré in Coast Province, Kenya. To date we have planted over 2.4 million trees and our main nursery now has a capacity to propagate 1,000,000 seedlings a year. Most of our work there is mediated through the Carbon Link partnership which receives support from the Welsh Government's Wales and Africa Programme, the Welsh national climate change charity, Size of Wales and Tree-Nation.
Please go here for all the latest project news or email us if you want any more specific background info.
12. Can you sell my stuff for me?
Yes we can (usually). You'll need to email us (here), telling us your name and what you have spare. If we can take it, we'll give you our shop address so you can send it to us. If you have something big to donate and you happen to live around West Wales, drop it off at our shop or if its really special - we might be able to cover carriage or collection.
13. 20p to plant a tree sounds too cheap. How can you do it for that price?
With 12 years experience of propagating and distributing trees with our Kenyan partners we've developed a range of cost saving measures. Our main nursery has an annual propagation capacity of 1,000,000 seedlings; we have 3,000 individual members in the project and we also plant with 460 schools and community groups. This sizeable infrastructure and extensive planting partnership network gives us significant economies of scale. With support from the Welsh Government and Size of Wales we've been able to buy our own delivery vehicle and because our partner schools and farmers plant the trees on their own land, it doesn't cost us anything to get them in the ground. Tree seed is cheap, manual labour in sub-Saharan Africa is cheap. Sunlight, soil and rain are free. We have these incredibly cheap devices (trees) to hand that can quickly withdraw our excess carbon from the sky and whilst doing it, they'll provide food for bees, bats and humans plus cash crops for under-resourced schools. Given this, and the fact that we've comprehensively wrecked our planet's climate, could someone explain to me why we aren't, mobilising as a species to plant tropical trees by the trillion? Its almost like we don't want to be here anymore.
Francis Mranja with a good haul of seedlings