Why pop stars are like the paper industry when it comes to planting trees

What do Coldplay and Duran Duran have in common? An appreciation of the key role of forests in global sustainability – and plans to help.


Big name music artists such as Ed Sheeran, Hot Chip and George Ezra are increasingly becoming conscious of the carbon footprint of touring – and are choosing to help offset their emissions by planting trees.

Trees take in carbon dioxide (the most commonly produced greenhouse gas) from the air and turn it into wood, while emitting oxygen into the atmosphere. Planting trees can mean reforestation of areas that have been depleted (usually for logging purposes or to clear land for agriculture) or, as in the case of the European paper industry, the sustainable management of forests.

ed sheeran performing planting trees campaign

It’s worth noting that in Europe – where forests are actually growing by more than 600m m3 every year – sustainable forestry forms the cornerstone of how the paper industry sources its raw materials and is a key contributor to the creation of a bio-based circular economy.

Meanwhile, a 2019 study by ETH-Zurich university in Switzerland that modelled the restoration potential of earth’s forests found that the planet as a whole could support another 900 million hectares of forests (an area almost the size of China) – with the potential to reduce atmospheric carbon by a quarter.

No surprise then that sustainability-minded musicians are planting trees. UK rock band Coldplay – the most successful band of the 21st Century – are currently on their Music of the Spheres world tour, and have pledged to make it as sustainable and low carbon as possible. As part of this, the band will fund the planting (and lifelong care) of millions of trees, including one for each ticket and T-shirt sold.

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter George Ezra, whose 2019 album Staying at Tamara’s was a UK number one, has made a donation to the UK’s National Trust to plant 17,000 trees across the country. 

“We are planting the trees in the right places to maximise the impact they will have in locking in carbon”

Hilary McGrady, National Trust Director General

Global megastar Ed Sheeran (150 million records sold, highest number of followers on Spotify) is acutely conscious of his own carbon footprint: “I’m trying to buy as much land as possible and plant as many trees as possible,” he has said. Though he hasn’t announced targets, Sheeran says he hopes to rewild as much of the UK as he can.

To ensure the proper planting of trees, it makes sense for artists and bands to partner with specialist charities. Hence synth pop hit-makers Hot Chip have teamed up with Forests Without Frontiers – a non-profit set up to reforest degraded landscapes with the help of artists and musicians – to plant 800 trees to help offset the carbon on their 2022 North American tour.

Some musicians have also used album releases to support tree-planting projects. Multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter Passenger pledged to plant a tree for every copy sold of his 2021 album Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted. Partnering with environmental charity Ecologi, Passenger has now funded the planting of more than 18,000 trees.

In February of this year, veteran popsters Duran Duran launched their own tree-planting project linked to the sale of NFTs (digital assets). They plan to plant ‘micro forests’ around the world, beginning with a project in New Zealand. Micro forests are small areas (eg the size of two tennis courts), often in urban environments, that are densely planted with a variety of seedlings. They develop rapidly, maturing within 20 years, and can perform more effectively as carbon sinks than forests planted with a single type of tree.

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