Jan 31, 2013 • By

Can I plant a tree?

There are a few moments in life when you feel like you are really connecting to the world and making a difference. I recently had that experience on a trip to our Green Giant greenhouse in Irapuato, Mexico.

I was able to plant a tree.

Here’s a picture of me and my tree.

My tree and thousands of trees just like this one are being planted all around Irapuato to help underground water retention, which is crucial to this region as it has experienced significant water stress. The trees also help with carbon offsets.

What started as a small passion project 15 years ago has really taken root. In the beginning, they planted 200 to 300 trees per year. Since then, the effort has continued to grow – the 1,500 trees planted this year is more than double the 740 planted last year. To-date there have been 11,000 planted in the region.

On the day of my visit last fall, there were 50,000 trees and seedlings in the greenhouse waiting to be planted around Irapuato.

“All of our plants conduct environmental volunteer initiatives in their communities, but the Irapuato work may be the most focused long-term committed effort we have with the largest goals,” says Terry Gilchrist, an environmental manager with Global Safety & Environment based in Minneapolis, who was with me on the trip. “The work is aligned with the plant’s specific capabilities and General Mills commitment to positively impact climate change.”

According to Carlos Llamas, an agronomist for Green Giant in Irapuato, employees and volunteers collect the seeds from native trees in Irapuato once a year. The seeds are brought back to the greenhouse and cleaned by hand.

The seeds are then sown and grown in the greenhouses where they wait to be planted in various regions around Irapuato. The trees are typically grown at the start of the rainy season, so they have the best chance to survive. In fact, the planted trees have experienced an 80 percent success rate.

“Everyone in our plant – including the families of our employees – gets involved with our trees,” says Emillio Lacedelli, the plant manager in Irapuato. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s a great team-building effort.”

Sonia Perales, the safety supervisor at the plant who helps coordinate the tree-planting effort, agrees. (She wrote about the Irapuato project, here).

“With every tree planted, we’re giving a little back to the community and helping to preserve the environment,” says Sonia. “It’s easy to be green at General Mills Irapuato.”

When I returned home to Minneapolis, I told my 3-year-old daughter that I got to plant a tree. I showed her pictures of my tree. Her response, “Can I plant a tree, too?”

I said, “Of course you can. In fact, let’s do it together.” Once the snow melts.