Dell gets green thumbs-up for reforestation acts

reforestation

Underproductive farmland along the eastern shore of the Upper Ouachita River in Louisiana is the target of a massive reforestation effort. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It may come as a surprise, but one of the top tech solutions companies is also in the business of funding some of the world’s most significant reforestation efforts.

Dell over the past seven years has helped plant more than 600,000 trees on nearly 1,700 acres, an area that’s roughly twice the size of Central Park in New York City.

Some of the obvious benefits include offsetting carbon emissions, rebuilding habitat for wildlife and establishing parklands for public enjoyment.

But what sets Dell’s Plant a Tree program apart from similar company-led initiatives is how it goes about raising the money to support such projects.

The program is completely voluntary. Dell asks customers — both individual and corporate — whether they’d like to donate a relatively small amount to offset the carbon emissions their newly purchased device will generate over its lifespan.

Giving customers a way of meeting their individual environmental goals is an intentional byproduct of the fundraising model, said Bruno Sarda, director of Global Sustainability Operations at Dell. It also makes the program more effective.

“The impact that we can have helping our customers become more sustainable can be much greater than the impact we can have ourselves,” he said.

How the money is used

Proceeds from Plant a Tree — which range from $2 for a notebook to $40 for a server — help fund reforestation and conservation projects that are undertaken internationally by the Carbonfund.org Foundation and domestically by The Conservation Fund.

reforestation

The Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, where Dell has helped The Conservation Fund plant 20,000 trees across 65 acres. Credit: Sean Gardner for Go Zero.

Donations are used to plant seedlings, but also to protect mature trees from deforestation and logging. The latter approach is particularly effective since older trees process more carbon dioxide than younger ones.

Dell’s support has helped restore 776 acres with native oak and hickory trees along rivers in Kansas. It has also funded the Native Species Reforestation Project in Panama, which is reestablishing habitat for ocelots and spider monkeys by planting forests again on abandoned cattle pastures.

Reforestation in Louisiana

The multifaceted impact of these projects is particularly apparent in a Dell-supported project being led by The Conservation Fund to restore thousands of acres of northern Louisiana forests along the Upper Ouachita River.

An aerial view of the 16,000-acre expanse comprising Mollicy Farms east of the river shows the extent of the ecological issue facing the region. Trees were cleared from the land 50 years ago to grow soybeans, a crop that never flourished there.

“If you look down the Mississippi River as it flows down to the Gulf, that used to be vibrant forest land,” said Jena Thompson Meredith, director of corporate relations at The Conservation Fund. “Today, it’s not.”

The fund’s progress in the region includes securing about a quarter of the Mollicy tract three years ago and making it part of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge. The fund, with help from Dell, planted 108,000 native hickory, oak and cypress seedlings on the newly acquired land that year.

Benefits to wildlife

The goal this year for Dell and the fund is to restore another 400 acres, creating additional habitat for hundreds of species, including the Louisiana black bear, which is designated as “federally threatened.”

Land preservation in the region also protects habitat for tens of thousands of migratory birds, provides open space for public recreation, enhances air and water quality, and reduces flooding and erosion.

“Dell has really led this kind of model in the high-tech industry,” Meredith said. “I would be hard-pressed to find another company that has been more successful.”

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
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