Why do we plant a tree for every purchase? Because.we.need.them.

ceiba barrigona at the Chicamocha canyon

As a small clothing company, financially, the wisest thing would be to do nothing more than selling our product. We are already way more responsible than other brands, so why the extra effort? Isn’t selling sustainable clothing not enough? Routonomy aspires to be more than just an independent clothing label. We want change and we are making it! That is why we teamed up with Fundación Federico and created Project Ceiba: we plant a tree for every purchase at Routonomy.

Why is deforestation a problem? 

We’ve all heard deforestation contributes to global climate change, but how does that work exactly? We know that trees absorb carbon (and release oxygen). A cut tree doesn’t absorb anything. However, did you know all trees, whether they fall naturally or logged, emit much of the stored carbon as CO2? One fallen tree won’t hurt the earth. It is a natural process, which is very smartly designed by mother nature. Because the fallen tree makes place for new and often faster growing plants, increasing the absorption of carbon.

This is where humans f*ck up and scale comes in. Large scale deforestation emits large volumes of CO2 at once. It doesn’t allow for natural native vegetation to grow back at pace and land is often occupied by human activities. That is simply a problem. Large scale deforestation is not only cutting trees. It is also reducing the natural habitat of all flora and fauna, sub soil and above the ground, causing a negative effect on biodiversity. Biodiversity is key for a healthy world (more about that in another blog). Large scale logging also has an effect on water cycles, not only disturbing the natural cycle but also almost always causing drought. Because trees maintain water. And we need water. 

We are talking large scale here. Super large scale. Now let’s talk close to home, for us, Colombia. Deforestation is unfortunately a growing problem in Colombia. Over the last two decades, more than 3 million hectares of trees were logged, over half of those in the Amazon. Not only is that total number shocking, even more worrying is that every new year the logged area is bigger than the year before.

Deforestation is not only an environmental issue; it is also often linked to illegal practices like mining, unauthorized cattle farming and the cultivation of illicit crops. Those practices usually hire cheap labor to work for them in dehumanizing circumstances. It is a vicious circle that is very difficult to break, making deforestation a social and socio-economic problem too.

Percentage-wise deforestation is estimated to contribute 12-20% of greenhouse emissions. We want that number to be 0%. It is an illusion to think deforestation will stop anytime soon. The economic interests of some people are simply too big. So we need to take action on the reforestation front as well. And big time! And that is why we plant trees together with Fundación Federico. 

Home sweet home: reforestation of the Chicamocha Canyon. 

Fundación Federico's story is an interesting, though tragic, one. It was founded in the loving memory of Federico Restrepo who died in a car accident. He was a young doctor with a passion for table tennis and reforestation of and hiking through the Chicamocha Canyon in Santander. Years later, his legacy lives on, because the foundation works on: 

  • Funding for and support of medical research, 
  • Promoting table tennis and…
  • Planting trees. 

    Although they focus on reforestation of various native trees, their most important tree is La Ceiba Barrigona; an iconic, emblematic and native tree to this region that doesn’t grow anywhere else. It grows slowly but steady and is able to store a lot of water in its “belly”, allowing it to survive the long dry periods. Its roots help maintain the soil. Unfortunately, it is in danger of extinction. Fundación Federico searches for the seeds, makes sure they become small plants, and then plants ceibas and other native trees. They are all planted in a part of the Chicamocha and cared for by their team of specialists.

    One of our favorite parts of Project Ceiba is we get to invite Routonomy friends or as we call them, routonomists, to come plant trees with us personally. If you’d like to come with us stay tuned on social media for upcoming dates. Also, if you are far away and cannot assist, you will be proud to know that when you buy from Routonomy, you will still be contributing to this cause and surely, a newly born tree will have your name. If you want to go plant trees independently, you can contact them and arrange a planting day any other day!

    Fast fashion and deforestation

    Although Fast Fashion isn’t the primary contributor to deforestation, it certainly takes part. Many of the fabrics used in fast fashion originate from wood. NGO Canopy estimated that 200 million trees are used each year for the fashion industry. They form the primary ingredient for cheaper fabrics like viscose/rayon. Admittedly, a part of those trees are replanted. Still, it is an environmentally impacting practice if the clothing item isn’t designed to last! So make sure you buy items that you will wear often and that are timeless! 

    Full transparency: Routonomy also uses wood based fibers like Lyocell and Tencel. We will talk more about those fibers in other blogs. For now, just know that we ask our suppliers to prove they come from certified forests. 

    So, when I buy an organic T-shirt, why do you plant a tree? 

    Now we hear you thinking… by buying clothing made of natural fibers and then planting one tree, will I solve this problem? Of course not! We won’t make up for the 3.000.000 hectares logged in the last 20 years. But not everything has to be perfect to still have an impact. 

    Routonomy’s co-founders are two mothers whose kids are 4, 2 and 1 and there is one on the way. In ten years, we want to be able to take them hiking through a forest of native trees; teach them the importance of living together with nature without trying to control it and to respect and give back in every aspect of life. We want them to know that even contributing small bits, makes a big difference. And if we are able to pass this to others, and those others pass it to some more others, we can make an ever bigger and bigger impact.

    Will you join us next time?

    We used the following sources for this blog:
    WWF, Somos el Cambio, London School of Economics / Grantham Research Institute, Sustainably-Chic
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