Mysore’s first tree-plant start-up, Sapgreen, is now in business. Its founders – Anil Kumar and Ashwin Upadhyaya – are self-confessed greenhorns who have the backing and goodwill of the Friends of Roadside Trees (FORT), a bloggers group, and a bunch of green-minded college students. It is a club-up of a civic initiative of public-spirited residents with a local business venture, in an effort to green Mysore.
Earlier efforts at tree-planting have been sporadic. And an ambitious scheme, launched jointly by the Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and the forest department a couple of years back didn’t make much headway because of poor funding. It was in such depressive scenario FORT-Mysore came along to promote the idea of people planting trees to celebrate life’s little noteworthy events - a birthday, wedding anniversary, felicitation on your getting an award, children’s success in examination, son’s trip abroad for higher studies, your daughter getting spouse visa that enables her to join her husband; her first Diwali after marriage, first Ugadi and several other firsts, for so many in the family.
When it comes to a cause, a green one, flimsiest of reasons would do. My wife and I plan to plant a sapling this Ugadi to mark our two-and-a-half year old grandson Siddarth’s first day at play school in California. What has it got to do with our planting a sapling in Mysore? It is the thought that matters. Those who think tree would find a reason even where there is none. FORT-Mysore is about persuading people to think trees; and be inventive in finding reasons to plant them.
But then many people with such green intention cannot always carry it out in action. This is where Sapgreen fits in. They take care of the nitty-gritty. Sponsor a tree; and Sapgreen takes care of the rest. FORT-Mysore can synergize with Sapgreen; FORT-Mysore can generate people’s interest (in tree-planting), and the other translates it into action.
They haven’t discussed tariff, but Sapgreen plans to put a price tag of Rs.300 on every tree-sponsorship. A sapling would cost hardly a tenth of this price. Over 90 percent goes into protection and upkeep of the plant till it takes root and can fend for itself. The plus point about Sapgreen founders is they guarantee survival of every sapling that is sponsored; and the odd ones that wither away for some reason are replaced.What is more, the status of every sapling can be monitored on the company website through a tree-coding system. Every sponsor gets a certificate of planting. Ashwin says they have plans to have a photo gallery on the web, with pictures of sponsors who plant their own saplings. They also have plans for putting out video-clips of tree-planting on YouTube. The packaging of the sponsorship sounds impressive. Whether their price would be acceptable to our middle-class mindset remains to be seen.
Maybe Rs.300 would become palatable, if the company chooses to plant in pairs; which means every sponsor would get two trees for the price of one. After all, there wouldn’t be much difference in the cost of upkeep of the pair.