Amazon announced today that it’s teaming up with environmental charity One Tree Planted to allow U.S customers with Alexa-enabled devices to use the voice command “Alexa, grow a tree” for donating $1 to the tree-planting nonprofit. Customers can track their donations in their Amazon Pay account. Amazon will also donate $1 million to the tree-planting nonprofit (which is .066% of what its net revenue from a single day of sales, based on data from Q4 2021).
It aims to “plant a total of 1 million trees, starting in April through December 2022” at four different sites: surface mine restoration in Appalachia, forest fire restoration in California, fruit trees to fight hunger in India, and orca whale protection in the Pacific Northwest.
Not as simple as one, two, tree — Before you plant trees willy-nilly, make sure your donation will make a difference. Social media efforts to plant trees — like the scammy @plantatreeco fad on Instagram last year — don’t always take root as they promise. And even if your donated dollars do put seeds in the ground, the trees may not survive long enough to what it’s supposed to.
A study in Science shows that reforestation has potential to mitigate some effects of climate change, but it’s not so simple. Earth, with a billion hectares of new forests, may not actually be much cooler, since the leaves in forest canopies absorb more heat from the sun than some other surfaces.
Amazon’s history on climate has been inconsistent — As the world's largest online retailer, Amazon emitted about 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020. Its workers organized a walk out to protest climate inaction in September 2019.
The same year, in the wake of all the pressure to take climate action, Amazon and Jeff Bezos launched the Climate Pledge, which has a goal of hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Still, the company has been caught backing corporate lobby groups that battle a U.S. climate bill and promoting books with climate disinformation. According to the company’s latest sustainability report, its greenhouse gas emissions rose nearly 20 percent from 2019 to 2020.
Head in the clouds — Jeff Bezos, whose public philanthropy has historically been very limited, has repeatedly expressed that space exploration is key to combatting climate change. “If you want to protect the Earth, save the Earth, we have to go to space,” he said in a 2019 speech. In 2021, hours after flying into suborbital space, Bezos said "we need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.”