Climate change is already affecting many areas of our environment - especially our forests. Although various factors play a role in the problem, even small actions can make a big difference. A project by two students from Magdeburg is taking a new approach to counteract forest dieback. With "Zimmerwald", reforestation begins in your own living room.
Sebastian Plessner is the founder of the "Zimmerwald" project and is studying in his 6th semester the Master Economic Policy Analysis at the University of Magdeburg. He came into contact with local forests at an early age through his father's forestry business. When hurricane Friederike caused enormous damage to the forest in 2018, he decided to take action. The aim was not only to support conventional reforestation, but also to raise people's awareness of the forest. "As not all cities are as green as Magdeburg, many people don't know how to behave in the forest, what tree species there are and what the situation is with forests in Germany in general. That's why we bring the forest to the people," reports the 26-year-old.
And in the truest sense of the word: With "Zimmerwald", small trees are supplied in a complete package with a specially matched pot and soil, often replacing expensive imported houseplants. The easy-care trees can easily stay in your own four walls for a few years and then be planted in your own garden or in a suitable forest in a partner forest. "We want to build a bridge and support reforestation in Germany as well as awareness and mindfulness for the forest on a small scale," says Plessner.
Support from student initiative
A project that requires a great deal of effort and dedication. The project initially took four years to organise. "We need to know which native trees can cope with the climate changes here and which trees can be grown indoors," explains Sebastian Plessner. The coronavirus pandemic also made conditions more difficult. Initially to find a better connection to other students, founder Sebastian joined the student initiative "Enactus". This supports Magdeburg students from all disciplines in founding economically, ecologically and socially sustainable start-ups. The aim is not only to impart specialised knowledge, but also to promote contact between committed students. It therefore made sense to further develop the Zimmerwald project via Enactus and even gain new members as a result.
The Zimmerwald project is currently a non-profit organisation: the tree sponsors to date include various stakeholders from the University of Magdeburg, several companies and a number of private individuals. The initiative also receives significant support from many regional companies and institutions. The response has been remarkable, as the practical indoor trees can now even be found in several German states, including Lower Saxony, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein. "I am very pleased with our project and it fills me with joy every day to see how we can give something back to nature as a small, private project. The trees that we have already distributed and planted are proof enough that you can do something good for the environment with small means," says the Master's student. Planning for the future of the project continues with a great deal of creativity and passion. For example, a campaign to prevent forest fires is planned for next year, and the founders can well imagine cooperating with the University of Magdeburg.