Tree-planting entrepreneurs put the eco in economy
It started with a festive gift project, and now the founders of Eco On Me are working on a webshop where a tree is planted for every item bought
“Nature and ecology have been the threads that run through almost everything I’ve done,” says Ben Brumagne, one of the project’s founders. “But it got to a point where I wanted to have a bigger impact on society.”
Then he came up with a simple idea. “Why not offer a product, whatever it might be, and link it to the planting of a tree? I spoke with other people about my ideas, and Eco On Me came out of it: a group of five young people who share an enthusiasm for ecology and entrepreneurship.”
Eco On Me, which is based in Brussels, put their ideas to the test in the run-up to Christmas last year, with their Tree For Life project. The idea is simple: putting a tree under the Christmas tree.
“People flood each other with presents at this time of the year,” says Brumagne. “So we thought, why not offer trees as a gift?” The result was a sapling from an indigenous tree, wrapped in locally produced packaging.
The species were selected for their fruits, nuts or blossoms and came with a set of recipes. An ideal present for eco-minded friends and family.
“We managed to sell 1,500 trees in a few weeks,” says Brumagne. “On top of that, we pledged to plant an additional tree for every tree we sold.”
Finding land to plant these trees turned out to be the toughest nut to crack. “We contacted a lot of municipalities and local councils, but without success. In the end, we found space to plant our part of the share at two biological farms. A group of volunteers gave us a hand, and the last of the 1,500 trees have just been put into the ground.”
With the tree-planting season in its last days, the Tree For Life project is on hold until next winter. But Eco On Me has other plans in the meantime, says Brumagne.
For almost everything there is an ecological option, but these products lack visibility
“We want to develop a gigantic webshop for ecological products. It’s needed, because finding ecological alternatives to common products that aren’t harmful to the planet can be a hassle. Even today, in 2017, things like ecologically sound clothes are hard to find.”
There is definitely a market of ecologically conscious consumers, he believes. “And the alternatives are out there. A lot of steps in the right direction have already been taken. For almost everything there is an ecological option. But these products lack visibility, and that’s something we’d like to change. It might sound ambitious, but we believe it can be done.”
The new project is being fine-tuned at the moment. But the concept of combining the sale of ecological products and a tree planting programme is still there.
“It’s not clear yet how we will do it, but the idea is that for every product that is sold through our platform, a certain percentage will be invested in planting trees. With every purchase, customers will be giving something back to nature.”
Photo courtesy Eco On Me