Magazine article American Forests

Solving Deforestation's Puzzle

Magazine article American Forests

Solving Deforestation's Puzzle

Article excerpt

An elementary school project spawns a successful business venture-and that's good news for butterflies, tigers, and trees.

Connor Hoff is disproving the notion that one person can't make a difference. The 12-year-old from York, Pennsylvania, has raised $3,700 for AMERICAN FORESTS to plant trees for ecosystem restoration.

While working on a school project about deforestation, Connor became concerned about the state of the world's rainforests, which are declining at an average of 150,000 square kilometers per year. Rainforests, which cover 7 percent of earth's dryland, hold about half the world's species.

Connor worried about the indirect effects of deforestation-the loss of wildlife and the contribution to global warming-and how rainforests would be affected. Forests provide habitat for wildlife, medicine for the sick, and stability for the soil, all of which could soon be lost.

Periodically he would share disturbing facts he'd learned with his mother, Lisa. "I could tell that he was bothered by it," she says.

While Connor felt compelled to help, he wasn't sure what he could do. It was while watching TV one afternoon that he and his mom heard about AMERICAN FORESTS' Global ReLeaf program, which plants trees for environmental restoration. On her talk show, Oprah Winfrey mentioned AMERICAN FORESTS as part of her Go Green Challenge, which encourages viewers to buy eco-friendly products.

Connor checked out AMERICAN FORESTS' website, which describes how trees are planted in a variety of projects for $1 each. He decided to donate $25 of his own money but wanted to do even more.

He and his mom brainstormed and came up with the idea to make and sell puzzle piece pins. Although relatively easy to make, the pins were designed to spread a very important message about deforestation. Lisa says she helped with some of the logistics, but most of the planning Connor did himself. They painted various animals on the front of the puzzle pieces and glued pins to the back. He decided to donate the money he raised to Global ReLeaf.

"It's folks like Connor that make up the heart and soul of Global ReLeaf," says Deborah Gangloff, AMERICAN FORESTS' executive director. "We founded the program to prove that individuals, working together, can make a difference. Connor is proof of that."

Since launching Global ReLeaf in 1988, AMERICAN FORESTS has planted more than 22 million trees in over 500 projects in every state in America as well as in 24 countries worldwide. Global ReLeaf Forest sites include National Forest lands, and with 2 million acres of those public forests burned just last year, help is desperately needed.

Connor wanted to sell the pins at his school, Sinking Springs Elementary, so his mom helped him develop a four-page business plan to present to the principal. He says he wasn't all that nervous at the prospect of presenting his proposal, because the principal "is really nice and was interested and excited about my idea. …

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