When my co-founder, Daði, and I first sat down and brainstormed about this crazy idea of starting a travel agency without any working experience in the field, we were determined to donate part of our earnings towards environmental initiatives.
We wanted to have a positive impact on our beautiful Iceland as well as share our local travel knowledge with our guests. We both used to travel extensively in Iceland as kids with our parents and were brought up to love and respect our beautiful but fragile nature. During those travels we have accumulated a lot of knowledge about all the nooks and crannies, secret locations, hidden gems etc. of this extraordinary country. Nordic Green Travel serves as an outlet to share this knowledge and help our guests to experience Iceland as a local.
One of the things we really wanted to do was to carbon offset all tours by planting trees in areas suffering from soil erosion and at the same time contribute to the reforestation of Iceland.
But we wanted to go further.
We had always envisioned giving our guests the opportunity of planting their own trees and FINALLY we have realized that dream!
As of 2019 our guests have the possibility to plant a tree in Iceland!
Why is reforestation in Iceland so important?
At the time of settlement it is thought that roughly 25-40% of Iceland was covered in trees. As in other nations, settlers started to cut down trees for houses and to create fields and grazing land. Grazing sheep prevented forest regeneration and over the years the percentage of tree covered land shrunk drastically. So much so that by the mid 20th century the natural birch woods covered less then 1% of Iceland.
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The absence of trees combined with the fragile ecosystem had devastating affects on the Icelandic landscape. The barren land gave way to strong winds which meant the soil started to erode. Vegetation that lacked a steady root system simply blew away creating massive sand dunes and of course pesky sand storms. You can read more about the history of forestry in Iceland here.
Since about 1950 great emphasis has been put on reforestation by planting trees. Over the years we have seen drastic changes in some areas and people are finally realizing that growing trees in Iceland is not only possible but extremely efficient.
Who knows maybe one day the Icelandic joke “what do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Answer: You stand up” might not apply anymore.
I for one sure hope so.
The Þorláksskógar “soon to be forest”
Now a little bit about this plot I mentioned earlier. The plot is but a small section in what could be the biggest forest in Iceland. God willing. It’s located just outside the town Þorlákshöfn which just so happens to be my hometown. A twofer in the proud & happy category.
A little bit about the area
The town was basically built in a sand desert but the fishing grounds off the coast were very good so someone decided to go for it and build a fish factory there. Icelanders don’t really care to much for sensibility. The saying “þetta reddast” or “it will work out” in English, is a well known mantra and kinda the Icelandic way of life! So a town was built and people actually moved there.
There was just one problem. In certain wind directions houses were filled with unwanted sand which literally got through every crack and holes. There was sand on the floors, in the windowsills, couch, carpets, and tables. There was even sand in peoples beds and in their cupboards.
Thankfully the locals and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland took action and started to grow the land outside of town with great success. Today much of the land has been re-vegetated which has improved the standard of living immensely.
Starting the Þorláksskógar project
In the year 2018 another big step was taken towards the reforestation of the area. The Þorláksskógar project was formally established and the aim was clear. The purpose of the project was to:
- protect the soil, mediate water, and prevent wind erosion.
- build up an ecosystem which fosters a diverse biota.
- create shelter and protection against natural disasters.
- create jobs and promote a sustainable community.
- promote agriculture.
- increase the well being and general health of the local community.
- and last but not least, to bind carbon dioxide from the atmosphere!
The estimated size of the forest is a whopping 6000 ha or about 23 m2. It’s estimated that the Þorláksskógar forest will bind about 40000 metric tons of co2 a year! This means that if all goes according to plan, the Ölfus municipality will be carbon neutral in the coming years.
Plant a tree in Iceland
But there is much work still to do and we decided to take part, enter Plant a tree in Iceland!
When the project manager of the Þorláksskógar project offered us to join their efforts the answer was easy. We didn’t have to think about it at all! it was an absolute, unequivocal YES! It was just a matter of how we would do it. Until this point we had done all of our tree planting in collaboration with the Icelandic forestry fund Kolviður which made things a bit complicated. The conclusion was to establish this little side project which we call Plant a tree in Iceland.
At Plant a tree in Iceland you can either donate to the cause and trees will be planted in your name, or you can meet us and plant your trees with us. Tree planting is not just good for the environment it’s also a fun activity for individuals, groups, and families alike.
If you have any questions regarding Plant a tree in Iceland, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com or visit our website plantatreeiniceland.is