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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A New Kind of Tree Planting

If you're a fan of sustainable lifestyle choices, its likely that you've been to a tree planting event, or donated to a charity that plants trees.  Tree planting as a way of giving back is as old as Earth Day.  Now, a company in Hawaii is offering a new twist on the traditional tree planting party - instead its asking investors to purchase units of its legacy hardwood with the ability to watch them grow. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods is selling units of 100 trees that will be tagged with RFID's allowing the investors to literally watch their investment mature over time.
RFID's or radio-frequency identification involves applying an RFID tag to an object allowing owners to track the location and identification of the object using radio waves.  RFID's have become a popular means of managing supply chains for distributors but have recently gained popularity as ways of tracking information and places.  Cities have started affixing RFID's to store windows so that people can get store information as they walk by, using their smart phones.  Now, by adding RFID's to the trees, people who have the tags can check in through applications like Google Earth to view the progress.
According to the company, Hawaii is the only place in the US with the appropriate climate for growing tropical rainforest hardwoods. Woods that have been wiped out in other places.  Hawaii also has several large tracts of abandoned acreage left from sugar crops and pineapple crops that are now cheaper and easier to grow in other countries.  As such, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods intends to fill that space with these rare trees.
Last year the company planted the first 140-acre sections with Koa trees and has plans to fill the full 2700 acre site on the Hamakua coast. The site will eventually support 1.3 million tropical hardwoods, primarily Koa, that are indigenous to Hawaii.
Hawaii has seen a loss of over 90% of its native forests, primarily to agriculture and development. According to the International Tropical Timber Organization the world has less than 14 years of tropical hardwoods left to cut before resource is completely depleted.
For its part, the company is working to restore the forest through its plan of sustainable logging and planned regrowth.  Tree owners will receive data about the ownership, growth, maintenance and lumber yield from each tree in the unit.  The trees will have GPS coordinates to provide satellite viewing of specific trees from space.
The use of RFID is growing in the multi-billion dollar timber industry as timber companies struggle with ways to halt illegal logging, and maintain control over their lands. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) also uses satellite tracking as a way of monitoring deforestation and preventing against illegal logging and is currently increasing the amount of resources it allocates for the tracking and prevention of deforestation globally.

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