The soil on tree number 6,028 has been gently packed down and Bidvest company, Konica Minolta South Africa, has ended its 2012/2013 financial year creating further shade, beauty and sustainability at South Africa’s impoverished schools, bringing the total number of trees planted over the past five years to 17,678. Run in conjunction with the Trees for Home initiative of South Africa’s national greening and food gardening social enterprise, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), the project’s latest 2,007 trees were planted at 40 schools throughout the greater Durban and Pietermaritzburg areas. “Since the inception of this project in 2009, we have managed to create a veritable forest of trees,” says Alan Griffith, managing director at Konica Minolta South Africa. The project is also quantifiable from a sustainability point of view, as the FTFA’s Trees for Homes initiative is a registered carbon offset programme under the Carbon Protocol of South Africa. By taking travel, electricity and paper usage into account, the FTFA online carbon calculator provides a high level estimation of a company’s annual carbon footprint, as well as the number of trees it will take to absorb that amount of carbon. “Based on these calculations, we are proud to state that the number of trees planted have already offset Konica Minolta South Africa’s carbon emissions, giving us a ‘carbon-neutral’ status,” says Griffith. “Aside from this, from a social perspective, activities such as studying for exams, chatting to friends or even just dreaming of the future are a lot more conducive under a canopy of branches that provides shelter and coolness during the country’s hot summer months. In fact, the beautification of schools in particular has been linked to improved academic performance. According to a 2010 study entitled ‘Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links’, students performed better academically at schools surrounded by nature and were more likely to graduate.” In each area, Konica Minolta South Africa branch employees have become thoroughly involved with the planting of the trees, which consisted of indigenous and fruit trees. From here, the trees become the responsibility of the teachers, learners and caretakers. Pieter van Zyl, Pietermaritzburg branch manager at Konica Minolta South Africa, took part in the tree planting at a girls’ high school in the area and believes it is everyone’s social and moral responsibility to implement environmentally sustainable measures. “Planting these trees not only mitigates our carbon emissions, but also brings about environmental and social benefits such as preventing water run-off, settling dust, provide shade and shelter, lessening noise and helping to beautify our city,” he says. “Konica Minolta South Africa employees were thoroughly involved with the planting of the trees along with the Durban schools’ staff and children, and found it to be a greatly inspiring and fulfilling exercise. Prior to the planting, the school children were educated on the importance of proper ground preparation, planting techniques and aftercare. This will ensure that the trees will thrive so that they might be enjoyed by generations to come,” adds Gary Goadsby, Durban branch manager at Konica Minolta South Africa.
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