Why I Gift My Daughters a 'Forever Forest' Every Birthday and Holiday Season

It shows them how small actions add up over time.

Sami Grover's two daughters holding journals

Sami Grover

There’s long been a debate here on Treehugger about whether personal solutions can help solve the crisis we face. And as I argued in my book "We’re All Climate Hypocrites Now," there’s certainly a case to be made for remembering that our own, relatively small actions only have an impact if we can learn to leverage them toward broader cultural and/or political change. 

Yet I do believe these small actions add up. And it’s often the deeply personal action (picking up litter, for example) that opens a doorway toward understanding the more systemic ones (like holding producers accountable for the waste they produce). This is something I think about a lot.

As someone who serves on the board of an activist-oriented forest protection organization, I hear regularly from some that investments in influencing policy or holding corporations to account are going to be far more impactful than "feel good" actions like going out and planting trees. 

So why do I continue to donate my time, money, and energy to both activist-type efforts and to more regenerative and/or conservation-oriented projects? The simple answer is that each is important to me and my own personal understanding of how we’re going to get our society back on track. 

In our family, we have created a holiday tradition that really speaks to this idea. And that’s the gifting and continued re-gifting of a small tree-themed journal to each of my daughters. I sneak it out of their rooms each birthday and holiday and return to them with a new page filled out with (terribly) hand-drawn trees that I have "planted" in their honor. 

The planting, by the way, is not done by me. Rather, it’s taken care of with a donation (through my employer matching program) to One Tree Planted—an organization that funds tree planting and forest cultivation at an apparent average price of $1 per tree. Projects can be found all over the world, and the organization focuses heavily on funding solutions that also have added social, economic, and ecological benefits like supporting a transition to agroforestry, for example, or regenerating natural flood protection. 

Forever Forest Journal

Sami Grover

We call the girls’ journals their "forever forest" and my goal is to keep going until the journals are either completely filled with trees or I myself am no longer on this Earth. The intention of this gift is three-fold:

  1. To directly help maintain and create a livable climate and healthy ecosystems for their future
  2. To help them see how small actions add up over time
  3. To inspire them to find their own ways to make a meaningful difference

In that sense, it’s a little different from the now well-established practice of “gifting” a dedicated donation during the holidays. And that’s because it is explicitly designed to accumulate—and to communicate something meaningful over years, not just a specific holiday. (While tree planting is a nice, tangible action, the idea could obviously be adapted to other ecological or social goods—installing solar panels on non-profits through an organization like RE-Volv, for example.) 

Will it change the world? Probably not.

Will their teenage selves one day ask for me to give them money instead? Quite possibly.

Does individual tree planting have its limitations, given the continued systemic deforestation that is happening for disposable packaging, and for rapacious and deeply problematic biomass energy? Absolutely.

But, for now, they seem to take genuine delight in seeing their "forest" grow. And they are also starting to connect some dots about how it’s possible for each of us to make choices—either to help protect and regenerate the ecosystems around us or to waste and degrade them through carelessness and greed. This, perhaps, is where ideas like Forever Forests and tree planting more broadly really come into their own—not as an ultimate solution to deforestation, but as a way to take ownership or responsibility for the crisis that is all around us.