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Social entrepreneur Dan Morrell is a massive and complex environmental global warming. But his solution is simple: The way to save the planet is one at a time.

by Ian Wylie

photographs by Corbijn

from FC issue 40, 334

Dan Morrell, 38

Founder and CEO

Future

Somerset, England

It’s 26, and Dan Morrell flies economy from Heathrow to JFK, takes a cab to First Avenue and Street. He straightens his tie, down his suit, and strides the United Nations building. He his passport at security and scans the for his welcoming party. No one.

He his watch. He’s right on but there’s no sign of Kofi — or the tree that he and are supposed to plant in Washington Park. Damn it, there even a shovel. Not good. this wasn’t such a idea after all. ops with UN secretaries-general were the thing that Morrell had when he wrote a hit-and-hope to the UN suggesting that its forthcoming on sustainable development and global ought to set an example by going Flopping himself into one of the in the lobby, Morrell begins to how his fledgling ecocommerce business, Forests Ltd. might made better use of his airfare.

Osborne, cochairman of the UN’s Panel on Forests, enters the on his way to convene the conference. He allows 30 seconds to brief him about Forests. He likes what he and says, Dan, this is I want you to address the forum. prepares himself for a room maybe 50 or 60 people, tops. But the that Osborne leads into is not one of the smaller chambers at the UN; it is Assembly Hall. And few of its 1,969 are empty.

Morrell has no carefully script, no PowerPoint slides. So in minutes flat, he tells his audience the simple truth his work: We plant trees at $5 a pop to the carbon dioxide that you Morrell thanks his listeners for time and then sweats in as the translators conclude their A delegate stands and begins to Then another stands and and then another. Morrell the room to a standing ovation, and Forests has won some very friends.

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Ten trees will the carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) that one citizen generates in four says Future Forests. trees will negate the of your family vacation in the Plant eight trees, and cancel out four years’ of garbage. Seven trees offset five flights New York and London. Six will all of the CO2 released by your refrigerator its lifetime. Five will your automobile emissions for a Four trees will let you your washing machine for six Plant three trees, and you can carbon-neutral train commutes for 10 a week for three years. Two will offset the CO2 generated in the delivery, and brewing of four of coffee a day for six years. And just one That’s enough to make an citizen of Uganda carbon-neutral for a year.

It can’t be that simple, can it? Of it can’t, and Morrell, 38, Future founder and CEO, is the first to it. Photosynthesis is complex to a stultifying and CO2 absorption depends on a multitude of factors. Such details are to Morrell, who lives in Somerset, but if he has learned anything from his career as a nightclub operator, a importer, a fashion retailer, and an middleman, it is this: The simpler the the better it sells.

The major of the Green Movement have adept at hand-wringing and alarm but they have proved at solution delivery and implementation. The and optimism of the late 1980s and 1990s appear to have lost: The burden is too heavy, the of the task too great. But carve the problem into chunks of responsibility — and give the power to repair the damage they’ve caused — and you a chance of turning the tide.

feel powerless about the Morrell says. But from little they remember their school biology they can make a connection planting a tree and CO2 absorption. people start to change minds about driving cars, using their recycling their waste just because they a tree planted somewhere.

The U.S. or UK citizen has a lifestyle annually produces 11 tons of CO2 the main contributor to the greenhouse and to global warming. But trees absorb CO2 and produce in its place by-products: oxygen and wood.

says Morrell, is an efficient way to CO2 emissions that cannot be at their source. As a rough five trees can, photosynthesis, absorb 1 ton of carbon the atmosphere over a period of 100 And there are other benefits: can filter nitrous oxide, dioxide, and lead; reduce the of dust and noise; and create habitats for wildlife. They good too. Yet the world’s are being destroyed at a rate of 20 fields a minute. That releases approximately 1.8 billion of CO2 into the atmosphere every

But you won’t find Morrell a tin cup under your nose, and he like being mistaken for hippie eco-warrior. Future he says, is strictly an ESP — an provider. We’re like the who collect your newspapers or your tin cans, says We recycle your air.

The simplicity of Morrell’s proposition has support from actors, businesses, governments, musicians, and than 10,000 ordinary citizens around the world. Forests has planted some indigenous trees in 55 forest in India, Mexico, and the UK and anticipates the absorption of 29,000 tons of over the trees’ growing The organization plants long-term native species such as beech, hawthorne, oak, and yew, and its natural forests are with local partners on land.

With some from the University of Edinburgh’s of Ecology and Resource Management and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon ( ECCM ), Future Forests has a model for calculating the ratio CO2 emissions and uptake of carbon by Acting as an RD arm for Future Forests, the assesses and inspects each site to calculate and to monitor of carbon sequestration per hectare

Becoming carbon-neutral by planting is no get-out-of-jail-free card in terms of reduction, says Morrell. If you to reduce your negative on the planet, you need to think using less energy. But underestimate the power of trees.

Only Rock and Roll

For environmentalists, Dan Morrell can be a little bit too and roll. It’s the evening of 28, 1986, the day the space shuttle exploded. Morrell is clambering the back of a rented Volkswagen with some of his showbiz They’ve been nightclubbing in and are heading back to Morrell’s to continue the fun. With him are a of models and session musicians, drummer Tony Thompson, who has finished touring with Bowie. Robert Plant is to hitch a ride too — he a drummer to help with a Led reunion and is keen to talk to — but there’s no room. have to find a cab.


En the driver loses control of the car on an icy and crashes. Everyone in the car sustains though, thankfully, none of the are fatal. Thompson has possibly both arms — so for the Led Zep revival. Morrell has a fractured and will be unconscious for a week.

A period of recuperation in the country allowing Morrell to evaluate his career. His work on a floating had been a laugh: Ferrying up and down the river from neatly sidestepped licensing and mooring regulations. The video-game that he had begun as a teenager his brother had been lucrative, his clothing factory had been a to catwalks around the world.

The gave me a chance to decide was important, Morrell says. Did it if someone sold a shed-load of games? Who gives a dime going to a nightclub every Does anyone need to be that this dress is than that one? I I had to make a break to something meaningful. Nursing his wounds in a in the Somerset village of Castle Morrell used the time to — and to generate a list of for new ways to spend his time. One of ideas was Future Forests. In a bleary-eyed Morrell and his girlfriend into morning after attended a party the night Walking down London’s Harrow Road, the couple themselves gasping for air. Yet it Morrell as rather odd that the lining the route looked so Must be something to do with he mumbled to his girlfriend. What if.

Of course, Future Forests was one of Morrell’s new ideas — and it have to wait its turn. By he had cofounded a music-brokerage business, Productions Ltd. which between record companies and agencies to match prerelease to TV ads for clients like Adidas, and Honda. But the tree-planting bug was eating at him a bad case of Dutch Elm disease. backing from the Forestry Morrell took his idea to the largest motoring organization, the Association, offering to plant to offset the CO2 generated by its members. The AA it, bought it — then sat on it for years.

Undeterred, Morrell his idea back and took it on the His one-day-a-month hobby turned a two-weeks-a-month mission, as he milked his for introductions to every CEO and marketing that they knew. Airways, Ford, Virgin Morrell tried them When you know that is fundamentally a good idea, there’s no way out. But while no one no to Future Forests, no one said yes A breakthrough came in 1996, on a journey to London, when found himself sitting from Rodney Bickerstaffe, general of the UK’s biggest union, Unison. The two men had never met but Morrell did what came Poor guy, I gave him one and a hours of wall-to-wall Future

Bickerstaffe made no promises, but a later, Morrell received a from a union member who to buy a tree. Another check a day later, and then the floodgates Bickerstaffe had sent a memo to all of his urging them to support Forests. We had been spending all of our appealing to the big wealthy brands, but it was the public-sector workers who really got us

Cleaning Up Business

Dan has managed to a tangible benefit from an problem, says Sue Welland, 40, director of Future Forests, who a high-profile job with Eurotunnel to with Morrell. He can make you that anything is possible and you are the person to make it happen. He has the of lateral thinking and slight that can make the difference an okay idea and a piece of

But without a proper scientific Morrell’s magic could appear to be an illusion. Unexpectedly, Forests had found a sympathetic ear in the industry. Max Mosely, president of the Internationale de l’Automobile, invited to a Brussels, Belgium forum on CO2 It was there that Morrell met Richard Tipper, a world on carbon sequestration and an environmental to the UK government. We hadn’t really what we were doing, to be says Morrell. But through we were able to work out how many trees would the emissions of one car, one aircraft one toaster, whatever. Getting the to stack up was fundamental to our credibility. We that what we are claiming to be is 100% true.

With punching in the figures, Future developed a CO2 audit program, how many tons of CO2 a company and then calculating how many would be needed to offset tons. In the past two years, than 40 clients have through the audit, and such as the design group Imagination, the J. Walter Thompson Co. Mazda UK, and TRW Systems can now claim to be carbon-neutral.

Europe PLC is one of Morrell’s most fans. Last year, planted more than trees throughout the UK, in such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Tunbridge to help compensate for CO2 produced by its UK office and 160 branches. And it’s not about upstaging rival says Katharine Johnson, 36, the communications coordinator. The impact has beyond tree planting, she Working with Future has given us a platform to have a within the company about our responsibilities. It has started lots of here and has made us think carefully about the way that we and our use our cars. For example, we’re up car-sharing clubs for our clients and at ways that we can work closely with public-transport

Mazda UK believes that its investment in forests has yielded $3 worth of PR. Tower Records is for similar results when it its online sales service this fall. Clients get a differential from carbon-neutrality, but also get a kick out of the celebrity that Morrell — a networker and a member of London’s Groucho Club — has in. Afrika Bambaataa, Stella the Pet Shop Boys, and Joe Strummer all room in their schedules for

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Future Forests has made as well. Some environmentalists say planting trees is a distraction allows business to shirk for cutting CO2 emissions. But Morrell that his clients know his is no cure-all: The problem of greenhouse is way too big for us to solve with tree but our mission is to challenge mind-sets. is not a panacea. It’s not the answer to change. But as part of an integrated program, it’s an important of the answer.

Planting trees for individuals, Morrell, is simply good More than 10,000 own trees through Future from the police chief in who made all of his patrol cars to the college kids in Southampton who their local Kentucky Chicken to go carbon-neutral.

Morrell is his net wider through Future innovative ecocommerce Web site. miles driven, vacations information from your bills, and so on, and a calculator determines how tons of CO2 you generate. Then go and buy the exact number of trees to offset that amount. where you would like the to be planted, and Future Forests back a certificate and a map showing the location of your trees.

High

The first tree Morrell planted — a tree planted along a path outside Castle station — is now tall to climb. He walks past it time he takes the train to Paddington terminal. Our forests are not about carbon offset. about biodiversity, natural and having a cool place to go.

believes strongly enough in trees that he’s to put it first in his life. He has reduced to his music business and works exclusively for Future Forests. Now Future Forests is bringing in $3 million a year, it no longer Fullview to pay the rent on its Castle and London offices.

From its Web Future Forests intends to renewable electricity and carbon-neutral In a deal with Green 21, the company hopes to be able to flight passengers of carbon-neutral air The plan would allow you to fly Atlanta to Adelaide, or from to Singapore, and have trees for you that would offset the carbon emission. And Morrell and his chums have already some time at a studio year to cut a CD titled Global

The zeitgeist is on Morrell’s side. levies are looming, and when the Protocol is ratified ( perhaps as as 2002 ), offsetting CO2 will be in the UN. But that has Morrell a little There could be an unacceptable of carbon-offset forestry, an ugly that fells rainforests and them with fast-growing such as eucalyptus just to quick carbon credits.

and such environmental pressure as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace expressed concerns about forestry, and Morrell is keen to his brand. Future Forests is putting something back communities. We plant indigenous species for local people. In and Mexico, for example, we plant trees so that the local can gain a living from after them. There is access to all of our forests, and we do a lot of urban We also work with helping kids to understand the

It takes as many as 100 years for to fulfill their carbon-offset and Morrell says that his are fully aware that entering a long-term commitment to the I like trees. They’re and easy to explain. But there’s no for quick PR fixes when helping to save the planet.

).

Sidebar: Who’s Fast

Dan founder and CEO of Future Forests applies market incentives and savvy to an intractable environmental — climate change and warming. Here are some of his techniques for winning people to his cause.

Keep it simple. have a massive capacity for hugely complicated packages of But to make an idea memorable, you to keep it simple. That’s why we up with the idea of one car, 5 per year — one citizen, 15 per year. The reality is much complicated than that, and it on the species of tree, soil rainfall, longitude, latitude, and all of other factors. We average it all out so the figures stack up, so why complicate the

Don’t go to the barricades. It’s far to interact with people to protest against them. Of we respect a lot of the environmental campaigning takes place, but whom the chairman of Avis rather to — the campaigners who are protesting his building telling passersby the business is damaging the environment or the planters who are offering him a means to the damage?

Ditch the phony sharing bit. The future to single-issue-focused groups who can make attractive to CFOs as companies for environmental taxes and regulations. At we found ourselves in companies’ budgets. Now we’re migrating their operations budgets because clients recognize environmental planning is a core and that tree planting is a commitment.

Now I feel so much about. Mark Zorro

idea. Excellent motive. Th. Savalia

If it is all just that an. Martin van den Berg

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