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Where does your love of the out­doors come from? My mum was an avid week­end hiker. More of­ten than not, she dragged me along for the ad­ven­ture. Once you start spend­ing time in the moun­tains of the West­ern Cape, it’s hard not to feel pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment. In my early twen­ties, I was lucky enough to travel through Africa from Cape Town to Lon­don, vis­it­ing 17 coun­tries along the way. This, by far, was my most im­mer­sive time in na­ture. The Ethiopian high­lands were a real high­light. The moun­tains, the peo­ple, the gelada ba­boons…

How did Green­pop come about? In 2010, I flew around the world with a team of film­mak­ers to pro­duce a doc­u­men­tary about soc­cer for Volk­swa­gen. We vis­ited 12 coun­tries on four con­ti­nents, fly­ing about 360 000 km, and we wanted to do some­thing to offset the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of all those flights. The cal­cu­la­tion was stag­ger­ing: We worked out that we’d need to plant about 661 trees! So we gath­ered friends and like-minded in­di­vid­u­als – with skills in graphic de­sign, web de­vel­op­ment, per­ma­cul­ture, hor­ti­cul­ture and even so­cial an­thro­pol­ogy – and started a treeplant­ing cam­paign. We ini­tially planned to take a month off to plant trees in the West­ern Cape, but once we got go­ing we couldn’t stop. Since 2010, we’ve planted about 80 000 trees in South Africa, Zam­bia and Tan­za­nia.

What does Green­pop do? We plant in­dige­nous trees where they are needed most, in schools, or­phan­ages, crèches and com­mu­nity cen­tres. We work with vol­un­teers, com­mu­nity mem­bers and com­pa­nies. Ev­ery year, we also host the Re­for­est Fes­ti­val at Plat­bos For­est near Gans­baai. That part of the Over­berg was once a huge in­dige­nous for­est, but it’s now in­fested with alien species. The aim of the fes­ti­val is to re­gen­er­ate the land­scape through mass vol­un­teer par­tic­i­pa­tion. Vol­un­teers join us for a week­end of camp­ing, plant­ing, whole­some food, work­shops and en­ter­tain­ment. We’ve planted about 42 000 trees at Plat­bos to date. An­other fes­ti­val we run is the Fes­ti­val of Ac­tion in Liv­ing­stone, Zam­bia, dur­ing June and July each year. We host sus­tain­abil­ity work­shops and work closely with farm­ing co-op­er­a­tives, schools and lo­cal NGOs.

What does your day-to-day job en­tail? I’m the Tree-E-O (we love our puns!) and more of­ten than not I’m on my com­puter, con­nect­ing dots and do­ing project de­vel­op­ment, stake­holder man­age­ment and creat­ing part­ner­ships. Some­times I plant trees. It’s such a great neu­tral ac­tiv­ity that brings an awe­some mix of peo­ple to­gether, all shar­ing, learn­ing and con­nect­ing with each other.

Why trees? In most South African cities, there’s a huge dis­par­ity be­tween the “leafy” priv­i­leged ar­eas and the “bar­ren” un­der­priv­i­leged ar­eas. Plant­ing trees ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ties in var­i­ous ways: It beau­ti­fies neigh­bour­hoods, in­stils a sense of pride, pro­vides shade, im­proves bio­di­ver­sity and en­hances food se­cu­rity. Trees also pro­vide eco­nomic ben­e­fits by in­creas­ing prop­erty val­ues and open­ing up op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­come-gen­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, like sell­ing fruit, jam and olive oil. How can peo­ple get in­volved? The eas­i­est way is to do­nate a tree or to do a plant­ing day with Green­pop with your friends or col­leagues. Or join us at the Re­for­est Fest in March 2018.

Your favourite tree species? When I got mar­ried, one of my best men told a story about Milky the milk­wood tree and Stinky the white stinkwood tree. No doubt I was the stinky stinkwood – it’s my favourite tree – and my wife Lau­ren was Milky. The stinkwood has a beau­ti­ful shape and it’s great for climb­ing.

If you won the lotto? I’d make one of my out­landish ideas a real­ity: a prac­ti­cal sus­tain­abil­ity acad­emy, where peo­ple can learn how to live sus­tain­ably in all as­pects of their lives.

How do you re­lax? Lau­ren and I of­ten travel in South Africa. Re­cently we vis­ited the West Coast. I love how rugged and stark the land­scape is there. Or you might find us in Hogs­back, at Terra-Khaya eco-back­pack­ers. I love to get lost in the moun­tains on my bi­cy­cle or watch the mist rolling in from the com­fort of a ham­mock.

On your bucket list? Bali! Be­fore I be­came a worka­holic, I used to be a wa­ter baby. I’d like to spend time in the ocean and get back into surf­ing with­out the hes­i­ta­tion that comes with Cape Town’s cold wa­ter…

For more about Misha and his tree-plant­ing mis­sion, visit green­ or search for Green­pop on Face­book.

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