Run & Plant Trees; Earth Runs Innovate to Make a Difference
“My personal vision is huge, I want to enable everyone to move – run, walk or roll – and to plant a tree for every kilometer or mile they do. I believe by making small changes and multiplying that by millions will give us a fighting chance to protect our future.” says Earth Run founder Tash Acres. Read on to discover her wonderful ideas to make an impact on people and the environment.
Interview with Earth Run Founder Tash Acres
Let’s start at The Beginning; in short, what is Earth Runs?
Earth Runs is a sport-environmental community organization, with an aim to motivate people to get moving; running, walking, rolling; and in return we reward them by planting trees for them. We show them the positive impact they can have on the planet with every step they take.
What is the history behind Earth Runs?
I’m a slow runner, a plodder, I’ve done a few races in my time, but mostly I run for physical and mental health. However, despite knowing that it’s good for me, I still need motivation to lace up and get out the door, especially on the cold winter mornings! Just before the pandemic, I started to look for a virtual challenge that would keep me focused, however, the only ones I could find were for throwaway cheap medals. I’d just thrown away a whole load of my daughters gym medals as she didn’t want them any more. They couldn’t be recycled because they were full of plastic and mixed medals – and so I didn’t want to go down that route.
Initially I started to think about a greener medal – and I came up with a biodegradable, seeded medal that can be planted to grow wildflowers (which we now also make and sell) – but it just wasn’t enough for me. Instead I started to think about how we could harness all the miles that runners do. And eventually the idea of planting trees for every mile you run came to me.
The easiest way of testing if this was something others would be interested in was to launch virtual races, and the idea grew (excuse the pun) from that! Knowing that the 5k you did this morning will plant 5 trees that will last a lifetime or longer, and will help create oxygen and support wildlife habitats really does give you motivation. Seeing the impact you’ve had on the planet, just by doing what you already do is a wonderful thing.
The idea grew, and I was fortunate to win an award with Brooks Running that allowed me to build the organisation further. We’re now hosting events sponsored by companies to get people moving, we’re also selling our seeded-medals to other events in order to protect the planet further. Who knows where it may lead, but we’ve planted 60,000 trees to date and we have no plans on stopping!
You mentioned your really cool biodegradable medals! Describe a little more how they are made?
I was sick of throwaway medals that are cheap to produce and harm the planet. Making something that people can show off, but when they’ve finished admiring them, can then plant to grow something amazing was just perfect. All our medals are handmade, and we have social enterprises who help us make them, and we’ve also set up smaller micro-businesses for those that need to work more flexibly. We never wanted to mass produce and lower the value of what we do. We strongly believe that everyone should win when you do.
You have a number of Virtual Challenges – how do they work?
Our participants can choose from a number of virtual challenges. They can sign up to ‘race’ a set distance, such as 5k, 10k, half or full marathon; or, they can set themselves a monthly or yearly target. They pay to enter (some of the challenges are sponsored) and then when they’ve completed the distance, they upload the evidence and we reward them by planting trees. Currently, a 5k will plant 5 trees, a 10k will plant 8! Every quarter we send out an impact report that shows just what their trees have done. The change that they’ve made to the planet.
The numbers behind Earth Runs: How many trees are planted per participant kilometer? How do the numbers work out?
It differs per challenge, but, in general 5k will plant 5 trees; 10k, 8 trees; half-marathon will plant 12 trees, and a marathon will plant 15. We get sponsors whenever possible to sponsor races and challenges; so we’ve recently hosted a 40k for 40 trees in July challenge which was a real hit, and each year we host #TreeHour, which plants 60 trees for 60 minutes of moving forward. My personal aim is that all the challenges will be sponsored so that our participants can just focus on doing the miles and we can encourage more and more people to benefit from moving forward.
How much CO2 equivalent does a tree equate to? How is this calculated at Earth Runs?
CO2e is a hard thing to calculate – research will show many different answers. However, we try to err on the side of caution and are forever reviewing our figures. Each tree, like each runner, is different, some will grow fast, some slow and some will sequester more carbon than others. As a guiding principle, currently we’re using the calculations by One Tree Planted based on Winrock International’s Carbon Storage Calculator, which works out at 10kg of CO2 per tree.
The thing to remember is that everything is an average and best guess. All trees are different. We focus on doing as much good as we can, and doing something is better than doing nothing. Over the forthcoming years, the science will be disputed, more research will be made, but the trees that you ran for will still be doing their stuff.
Where do you plant the trees?
Our trees are planted all around the world. From Madagascar to Brazil, to Australia, Europe, India, Africa and America. It’s more costly to plant in the UK, but from time-to-time there are projects that we are able to support.
How do you ensure the trees are planted correctly and mature in a good way?
We plant with a few well-established charity partners who are looking for long-term impact rather than short-term headlines. We focus on the impact the trees can have and where they are needed most. All of our partners are committed to working alongside the local communities to ensure the issues that have caused deforestation and often the subsequent poverty those communities have faced are addressed by good long-term forest management.
What’s the future for Earth Runs? What kind of collaborations and ideas do you have for the future?
My personal vision is huge, I want to enable everyone to move – run, walk or roll – and to plant a tree for every kilometer or mile they do. I believe by making small changes and multiplying that by millions will give us a fighting chance to protect our future. But in order to make that happen, it’s got to be about collaboration. We’re actively working on partnerships that will get us closer to that vision. Joining together, encouraging people to feel good about the activity they do, and showing that a small stone can create a huge ripple.
There’s a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I refer to, ‘The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn’. That’s the future.
Inspired by Tash? You can check out all that Earth Runs does at earthruns.com. Perhaps you want your participants to plant trees as they race your event? Go ahead and contact us, and we will get you in touch with Tash!