Inspired by Arbor Day and wanting a greener urban environment, the founding members established Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur in 2013.
The society provides free trees and volunteer sessions at their nursery in Bangsar. These activities invite urbanites to talk about the environmental issues and how to ease the strain on our planet.
“The nursery is also a showcase for practices that can be adopted at home,” Yasmin Masidi added. “We’re always happy to talk with volunteers and guests about plants because we want to nurture that spark of interest.”
“We believe that when people love plants, they tend to love nature. And when people love nature, they want to save the world we all live in.”
Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur is supported by The Body Shop, Aeon, AirAsia, Maybank, Bandar Raya Developments Berhad (BRDB), The Edge Education Foundation, and Maybank.
In partnership with Taman Tugu, the organisation is part of the Malaysian Nature Society’s Urban Community Forest network.
Bringing environmental conservation to Malaysia’s urban areas
Much of the mainstream conservation efforts take place outside the urban areas. Forests, swamps and residential gardens come to mind when we think about nature.
“There are pockets of green around us that are, unfortunately, often overlooked and constantly under threat from over-development,” she commented. “Yet these urban pockets of green, including those pots of plants on your balcony, are important for supporting biodiversity. It is also a way for people to start bonding with nature.”
“We feel there is actually a great deal of concern and interest among Malaysians about environmental issues. However, education on ecosystems, biodiversity and sustainability often seem inaccessible or overwhelming.”
Helping thousands of trees find new homes
Their funds largely come from donations, sponsorships and occasional grants. The sales in their pop-up shop, which sells gardening essentials, cover a small portion of the funds.
Some trees are propagated from existing mother plants at their nursery filled with diverse types of plants, from Brazilian spinach to sanchezia.
“Other plants that we give away were raised by host gardeners. They are regular volunteers that grow these plants at home, specifically for the organisation, or donated by home gardeners,” she said.
“Our nursery stock depends on the plants that are donated to us, though we do have a number of plants that we almost always have in the nursery.”
Various plants in their nursery include ornamentals edibles, large trees, ulam plants, vegetables, bunga telang, plants used in traditional medicine, and fruit trees.
Individuals can take up to two plants. NGOs and community gardens can ask for more. They also have a fund, Kelak Gelak, that provides mature fruit trees for children’s orphanages and shelters.
As of January 2019, they have given away 30,323 trees. The plants have offset over 630,00kg of carbon dioxide in the environment.
Since 2013, they have trained over 10,000 volunteers to be environmental stewards. In each volunteering session, the nursery space holds up to 20 people.
It is challenging to find enough resources. Yet, they would love to grow their pool of people who can run volunteer sessions and speak at the events and workshops.
Green hearts, green lungs
There is has the potential for the organisation to grow and for the work they do to reach out to more people.
They want more Malaysians to be educated and empowered about what they can do together to halt the loss of biodiversity and solve climate change.
“Other states, including Penang and Sabah, are interested in starting up similar initiatives. We would be extremely happy to have chapters in other states!”
In their next plans, collaborating with MNS and other partners, they hope to help maintain the Pulai forest trail in Bukit Persekutuan (Federal Hill).
Having just launched Free Tree Society On-the-Go, they are currently visiting schools across Klang Valley.
“We have received emails from schools located in other states, including Johor and Negeri Sembilan. We know there is a need among students and teachers for this kind of environmental education,” she added.
They continue to run these initiatives with their end goal in mind–to build a global movement of tree planters who will ultimately save the world from the climate crisis.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘black thumb’, only poor technique. The skill to keep a plant alive and happy can be picked up by anyone, it just takes time and experience.”
Feature Image Credit: Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur