Belgians and expatriates plant a forest in one day

BRUSSELS, March 20, 2011 – In support of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Billion Tree Campaign, more than 600 volunteers – Belgians and expatriates of all ages – joined forces in Oetingen (near Gooik) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 to plant a forest of 4300 trees in a single day! Besides the Belgian trees, some funds raised will also go towards planting trees in Africa by local youth in the Jane Goodall Roots&Shoots programs (see below).

This was the second tree-planting event organized by Sunbeams, a not-for-profit association that helps people living in Belgium take simple steps towards living a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. The technical support for the event was provided by the Association for Forests in Flanders (Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen – VBV).  The event was made possible by land-owner Hugo Thienpont, who kindly offered his land to be converted into a new and diverse forest.

The Slovenian community, lead by the European Commissioner for the environment, Mr. Janez Potočnik, the Slovene Ambassador to Belgium, Mrs. Anita Pipan and the Slovene Ambassador to the EU, Mr. Dr. Rado Genorio, celebrated their 20th anniversary of the independence of Slovenia by planting Linden trees at the Sunbeams event. The mayor of Gooik, Mr. Michel Dooms, and the landowner, Mr. Hugo Thienpont, organized a warm welcome for the dignitaries. The UK Ambassador to Belgium, Mr. Jonathan Brenton, planted trees with his family and UNEP was also represented by Mr. James Morris. All participants agreed that it was great to see such a diversity of civilians planting trees for the environment and plant a forest in one day.

To see hundreds of people here today, planting trees side by side, crossing language barriers, is really heart-warming. This is what Sunbeams is all about: showing that every individual, regardless their age or background, can make a difference. Whether it is planting trees or taking small steps in daily life, we all can make this planet a better place. ” said Ilke Pedersen-Beyst, founder of Sunbeams. “We will plant another forest next year!

More trees were planted by:

  • Belgian delegation of Friends of Amma, the largest contributors of trees this year with 570 in total
  • Representatives and students from a broad range of Belgian and international schools, groups and organizations, including: Belgian scouts, British Junior Academy of Brussels, Girl Guides of Brussels, the European Council, the European Commission, the European Schools I and IV, International Montessori School, Montessori House of Belgium, Montessori House of Brussels and the University of Kent at Brussels
  • Companies such as: Bamboo Consulting, B-honey, Gardeners Club of Brussels, LnP consulting and
  • Individuals and families from the commune of Gooik and elsewhere in Belgium

About Sunbeams

Sunbeams is a not-for-profit association that helps people living in Belgium take simple steps towards living a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. It was formed in 2008 and comprises a group of practically minded individuals who want to do what they can to reduce their impact on the environment.

About VBV

The Organisation for Forests in Flanders or Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen (VBV) is a key European participant in UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign and has pledged to plant 1 million trees in Flanders.

About Jane Goodall’s Roots&Shoots Program

Part of the fee paid by participants will be donated to a tree planting operation in the Republic of the Congo (Africa). The local African youth participating in Jane Goodall’s Roots&Shoots movement will plant a green corridor to connect two nature reserves, in order for the chimpanzees and other wildlife to migrate freely between the two areas.

Also present: a selection of Belgian nature organizations with information booths, such as: Natuurpunt (leading nature organization), Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen (bird protection), and (organic food delivery and recycling service) – the latter offering a taste of delicious organic soup to tree-planting participants.