Plant the Peace: Fighting climate change one tree at a time

Cori Shalit, Arcade Editor

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Plant the Peace, a new nonprofit founded by three Tulane University students, aims to fight “climate change at the intersection of education technology and carbon reduction,” according to one of the co-founders, senior Max Steitz. 

The nonprofit’s website offers free educational games across categories of geography, vocabulary and environmental trivia. For every 10 correct answers, Plant the Peace plants one tree around the world.

Steitz had the idea for the nonprofit as a kid. “I was interested in creating a game … It taught people but instead of profiting, we actually did something with the money and that thing was planting trees.”

Nearly a decade later, Steitz joined forces with senior Franziska Trautmann and junior Max Landy, and the three of them founded Plant the Peace last spring.

“We’re constantly adding games and developing new games as well as partnering with new environmental organizations and it’s really developed since that moment a couple months ago, rehashing the idea and saying ‘Hey, so you were 12 when you had the idea, but it was still a good idea. We should actually flush it out.’”

Cecilia Hammond | Contributing Artst

While Plant the Peace was founded in April, what really allowed the nonprofit to take off was receiving The Victor C. Alvarez Spark Innovation Award from the Phyllis M. Taylor Center in May. This allowed the founders to build a new website, develop new games, and allow users to create accounts on the site and track the number of trees planted.

Plant the Peace is currently planting trees with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit that plants trees in Sub-Saharan Africa. They are also looking forward to partnering with NOLA Tree Project, a local tree-planting organization, and other ethical and sustainable brands. But they’re still looking forward to working with other global tree-planting mechanisms as well.

“We’re gonna move into the Amazon, into the Congo, across the United States and North America,” Steitz said.

The organization is focused on becoming completely cash sustainable in the future so it can avoid relying on grants and donations like other nonprofits. The website’s advertisement revenue is part of this, but the organization also partner with certain businesses that are trying to improve their sustainability. 

“We go in and we assess how much carbon they’re producing, what their effect is, and we say, ‘Hey, we recommend you plant X, Y and Z amount of trees per X, Y and Z’ … to become carbon neutral or carbon negative,” Steitz said. 

Plant the Peace is helping companies to become more sustainable, while also gaining funding for their cause. 

For example, a partnership with Oh Shoot Repairs, a Tulane-founded company, means that every iPhone repaired funds the planting of five trees. Plant the Peace has also partnered with local restaurant Good Bird and is looking forward to potentially partnering with Dat Dog.

The young organization already has big plans for the future. Steitz and Trautmann want to get Tulane more involved in their project and have requested an appointment with President Mike Fitts to talk about these goals. 

“Our dream would be that Tulane could offset their carbon contribution, their carbon footprint, by planting one tree per student via us at a fraction of the price of even one student at Tulane’s tuition,” Steitz said. 

The founders say they also hope to plant trees themselves one day. Steitz is working with Tulane professor Lee Gary to purchase a plot of land in Louisiana.

“And then we can bus everyone for Outreach Tulane to go plant some trees,” Trautmann said. “Just planting trees in Sub-Saharan Africa won’t have a huge effect on global warming in the U.S., you know? So especially for local businesses like Good Bird, it would be great to be able to also plant trees in New Orleans.” 

So far, Plant the Peace has planted more than 8,000 trees. To follow their progress, check out their website and Instagram @plantthepeace.