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A Seedy Little Venture

by Katie de Klee / 30.04.2013

There’s one organisation that has been popping up all over Cape Town for the last couple of years. Greenpop (making GREENing POPular) have managed to use every possible tree related pun in their campaigns. But credit to their copywriter – word play is appropriate for a company that is focused on having fun while they do some good.

In 2010 Greenpop founder Misha Teasdale travelled 360 000 air miles while doing an advertising job with the Volkswagen Junior Masters football teams. Shocked by the environmental impact of his job he decided to try and offset his carbon footprint. To do so would cost R20 000 in carbon credits, paid into an invisible carbon stock exchange. But this felt strangely intangible, so with the help of some friends, Teasdale decided to use the money to plant trees instead. The idea for a tree-planting organisation had germinated.

To date Greenpop have planted nearly 18 000 trees. Not bad for a homegrown three-man operation. Misha Teasdale, Lauren O’Donnell and Jeremy Hewitt (also known to many as musician Jeremy Loops) founded Greenpop, officially a ‘business with an embedded social cause’, in 2010 and September of that year became a tree-planting month.

plant day

Misha is the visionary, Jeremy is into smart systems and keeping things fun while Lauren is good at bringing the ideas together into workable projects. Sounds like theirs is a bit of a dream team.

There exists a strange societal prejudice that organisations with a social conscience should benefit from their hard work only with blessings and thanks, whereas companies that ferociously damage the planet are allowed to make huge profits. Maybe you’ve seen that TED talk too?

Greenpop runs itself like a business; hoping to pay competitive salaries and make profits they can reinvest. Keeping your staff happy means a productive team. They continue to be ‘resource savvy’ with how they allocate their funds. Which means they have almost as many interns as employees in their office.


As an organisation they’ve tried to be innovative with their business model, which means Greenpop is self-sustaining instead of reliant on charitable grants. A healthy amount of time, energy and money is spent on their own marketing and awareness campaigns and the Greenpop staff are incredibly busy and the business is growing at a rapid rate; exciting, particularly for a business that specialises in simply planting trees.

Greenpop organise Green events, ‘voluntourism’ and corporate planting days where employees of companies like MTN and Woolworths get a chance to get their hands dirty and the company gets to show some corporate responsibilities. No company is excluded from this opportunity: if Shell, Exxon or the Bilderberg Group want to send their staff to plant trees why shouldn’t they. But the association with Greenpop comes with stringent rules about how you can use their name alongside yours.

grey water

The trees planted by Greenpop are largely at schools in the barren Cape Flats. Greenpop build relationships with the schools and keep ongoing monitoring programs running with the teachers and pupils to make sure the trees survive. The survival rate of the trees in the schools is over 70%.

On two weekends in May, just before the rains, Greenpop is hosting a Reforest Festival in the indigenous Platbos forests. Win your Mahala tickets here. The aim is to plant 2000 trees in a day and to have folk and acoustic live music and DJs. It’s really a very wholesome weekend.
This July Greenpop will host their second Trees for Zambia project, a three-week tree-planting event in the rainforest surrounding the Victoria Falls.

Greenpop’s media partner Makhulu have recently won the UN Forum on Forests Short Film award for the Africa region with their film Amazing Grace. The film was shot during last year’s Trees for Zambia project. Rowan Pybus, Director of Makhulu, picked up the award in Istanbul a few weeks back.

Amazing Grace features Lloyd Manyaya a Zambian man who gave up felling trees for charcoal burning and decided instead to plant new trees and sell his saplings. He is one of Greenpop’s suppliers now. In Zambia Greenpop are trying to popularise the idea of growing trees for income, instead of simply cutting them down for fuel. Research is also underway into programs where women in Zambia can swap 100 trees they’ve grown from seed for a solar cooker. The solar cookers will also help decrease the need for charcoal burning, so the program would first grow trees and then protect them, changing people’s behaviour in the process.

Amazing Grace – Lloyd Maanyina from Makhulu on Vimeo.

Now seems like a good time to quote Jeremy’s email signature: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb.

The Greenpop Facts:
Years: 2
Trees planted: 17876
Locations: 234
People benefiting: 100,500
Volunteers: 2798
Employees: 11
Interns: 9
Mission statement: To make cooling the planet cool through tree planting projects and events, other green activities, inclusive education, positive environmental awareness, intelligent communication and activating people to start DOING! Striving to inspire sustainability for our People, Ourselves, our Planet – POP

green crowd

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