You can do a lot with language assistants: they play your favorite music, set an alarm, indicate the number of calories in an avocado or a bitcoin rate. By now you should be able to save the environment from your couch – at least that’s what online mail order company Amazon promises. With the company’s latest campaign, perhaps it suffices to say: “Alexa, grow a tree” (German: Alexa, plant a tree) – and today’s good deed is over.
The company announced, on Monday, that from now on, language assistant owners in the United States can donate one dollar via voice commands. Amazon uses this money to plant a tree with the US environmental organization One Tree Planted. The project sounds ambitious: reforest the Appalachian Mountains and California. Fruit trees are being planted to fight hunger in India. In the waters of the Pacific Northwest, trees are said to help stabilize salmon stocks again.
Customers must use their Amazon Pay account to monitor the number of trees they have enabled. In addition, Amazon is donating $1 million to One Tree Planted. The campaign, which runs from April to December this year, aims to plant an additional 1 million trees. So far, only US customers can participate in the new campaign. As Amazon says, “We believe every action and donation, big or small, matters when it comes to supporting a more sustainable future.”
One expert says “crap”
But many scientists and environmental organizations are skeptical of large-scale reforestation projects. “Tree-planting campaigns can help nature restore and revitalize deforested areas,” says Nikola Ude of Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland. In terms of climate protection, planting is more than just “wiping a window,” says a forest policy expert.
It remains unclear whether these measures help or harm nature and the population. “Trees that do not belong locally are often grown on land expropriated from the state that is actually owned by smallholders,” says Ude. This confirms Study from the magazine Nature Sustainability 2021: Scientists conducted a survey of northern India and found that afforestation efforts did not increase the level of forest cover. Increasingly, as a result of cultivation, the original deciduous trees valued by local residents have disappeared.
Trees take decades to fix carbon. “It would be better if the climate were emitting less carbon dioxide into the air, using less energy and resources,” says Uhde.
Amazon wants to cut its emissions to zero by 2040, but the internet giant’s record has been rather poor so far. Amazon’s 2020 Sustainability Report shows a 19 percent increase in carbon emissions in the first year of the pandemic. Amazon cites rapid growth as the reason: During the pandemic, more people were delivered, and sales increased 38 percent to $386 billion. Protecting the environment is easier than you think – with less demand.
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