By Zoe Kramer
Regrow Borneo, a new organization started in September which works as a partnership between Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute and the Danau Girang Field Centre in Borneo, is a tree-planting project located in the Lower Kinabatangan rainforest, Sabah, Borneo. The purpose of the project is to encourage donations towards planting trees as a counteraction to carbon emissions from flying. The trees take carbon out of the atmosphere, reducing the heavy ecological footprint that planes create.
The project also has a research component. The Regrow Borneo team will monitor the impact of planting the trees on carbon sequestration as well as on wildlife, ecosystems and local communities.
This region in particular is currently at high risk. According to a UN report, by 2022 all but 2% of its lowland forests will be gone. With increased deforestation comes an increasing number of species dwindling in numbers because their habitat is shrinking. The main endangered species in the Kinabatangan is the orangutan, whose population in the area has decreased by almost a third in the last 16 years. Additionally, Borneo as a whole is home to several endangered species including the pygmy elephant, the Borneo rhino, and the Borneo bay cat, according to WWF.
Borneo has for a long time been a model of biodiversity, with approximately 15,000 plant species and 222 mammal species as well as hundreds of others. However, under current conditions, this diversity could be under threat. The region has lost 75% of its forests since the 1970s, in large part due to palm oil plantations. The palm oil industry now inhabits 82% of the island and plays a crucial part in Malaysia’s economy. Palm oil is used for products ranging from margarine to lipstick.
Regrow Borneo hopes to help combat this problem by re-establishing the island’s natural rainforest. It costs £2 to plant, grow and maintain a tree for three years. The organization will monitor the number of trees planted and report back to its donors. While it doesn’t guarantee lasting reforestation, Regrow Borneo will continue to plant trees so long as it continues receiving donations.
While it promotes avoiding flying, Regrow Borneo acknowledges that some flights are necessary especially within the academic world. The project offers a simple way to counteract the ecological impact of flying, particularly for longer-distance flights.
The organization hopes to raise £15,000 within this academic year, and claims that every penny will go to planting trees. Its partnership with Cardiff University makes Cardiff the first UK-based university to have a project balancing its carbon emissions.