What is the impact of a million new trees on our natural environment? How many more are needed? And just how long does it take to plant them? All good questions. In 2017, Officeworks committed to planting two million trees by 2025. It was just one of the targets set by the company through its Restoring Australia initiative, created to help protect our natural environment and tackle climate change.
In September, with the help of Greening Australia, Officeworks is set to hit a major milestone: the millionth tree will be planted at one of 19 sites across Australia. “It’s a great result,” says Officeworks Managing Director Sarah Hunter. “We’ve been facilitating the planting of two trees for every one used, based on how much paper Officeworks customers buy. Basically, every time you purchase paper products from one of our stores, we ensure trees are planted in places where Australian landscapes need regenerating. It means our customers can be confident that when they shop with us, they’re giving back.”
Restoring the Balance
When Candice Anderson moved to a 60-acre (24.3 hectare) property near Cooma, in the NSW Monaro region, she was looking for a treechange. Her land is home to rare grassy woodland but Candice soon discovered the landscape, like many areas in the region, was degraded and endemic species were disappearing.
In 2019, under the guidance of a Greening Australia ecologist and with the help of team members from Officeworks, 300 new trees – ribbon gums, broad-leaved peppermint and silver wattle among them – were added to Candice’s plot. Despite ongoing drought conditions, most of the trees are thriving and the landscape is regenerating. “Biodiverse landscapes are resilient landscapes,” says Candice, who tends to the property almost every day. “If you have a lot of plants and animals on your land, it’s a healthy landscape.”
Caption: Candice Anderson at her NSW property with Officeworks team members and Greening Australia staff as part of the Restoring Australia initiative
Farmers Face the Future
Not far from Candice’s property, the McGufficke family has been breeding merino sheep for 90 years. With parts of their land suffering from a mysterious dieback of the native ribbon gum trees, affecting the fragile ecosystem, daughters Ivy, a year 12 student, and Miranda, who’s studying agriculture at university, decided to take action. They knew that if the farm was to be productive for a fifth generation of their family, they needed to do something.
Caption: Tree planting on the McGufficke family property near Cooma in 2021 is helping improve the natural environment.
“I don’t think we can remember the trees having leaves on them and we’ve been here our entire lives,” Miranda explains. About 15 years ago, the family fenced off a particularly damaged section of land and, in 2019, began replanting it with the help of the Restoring Australia initiative. “It’s amazing seeing the regeneration of the new plants,” she says. “They’ve come from nothing. There’s birdlife we’ve never seen before, endangered species and lots of animals coming through.”
Miranda and Ivy’s mother, Michelle McGufficke, can remember what this country was like before the dieback, with gum tree canopies and extensive birdlife, and understands the urgent need to attempt to reverse the environmental damage. “For what our business is, we have to look after the land in order to be productive,” she says. “The girls can see that. But we’re restricted with the time we can dedicate to regeneration. Without the support of Officeworks and their volunteers and Greening Australia staff, it would have taken a lot longer and been a lot harder.”
Caption: Miranda and Ivy McGufficke and their mother Michelle checking on tree seedlings planted on their NSW sheep farm.
Greening the Community
What Officeworks’ Restoring Australia has done in this region of NSW is similar to that at other sites around the country, including the wheatbelt region of Western Australia, South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria.
Caption: Officeworks team members at a planting site in the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria, helping to improve the natural environment.
“We focus on areas where we can help conserve natural landscapes and improve biodiversity outcomes,” says Sarah Hunter. “It could be restoring woodland ecosystems, improving habitats for threatened species, or rejuvenating existing bushlands. We work closely with Greening Australia to identify the most suitable planting sites each year, where the trees we plant can have the most impact.”
Caption: Tree planting around Lake Mary and Serpentine Lagoon has helped restore the natural environment
In Queensland, planting around Lake Mary and Serpentine Lagoon is restoring coastal wetlands that protect the Great Barrier Reef from silt and pollutants. Kangaroo Island’s wild residents have been the benefactors of more than 40,000 new trees. In Tasmania alone, more than 185,000 trees have been planted to create habitat corridors for the island state’s many small mammals.
And it’s not just Officeworks customers that are making a positive difference. Officeworks team members are just as committed to Restoring Australia – they are able to attend volunteer days to plant trees in areas near them and help with other regenerative work. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” says team member Braden Simmons of helping on both the Anderson and McGufficke properties. “But this is also a good way for us to get out in nature and give back.”