Agriculture minister joins supermarket brand to launch tree-planting pledge

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for forestry Pippa Hackett have joined with supermarket brand Aldi Ireland to launch its campaign to plant one million trees by 2025.

Aldi is the first retailer in Ireland to commit to this level of partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Woodland Environment Fund (WEF), which is an initiative under which Irish businesses can partner with landowners and the department to help create new native woodlands in Ireland.

It provides additional incentives to plant new native woodlands and supports the government’s target to plant 22 million new trees a year until 2040.

Aughrim woodland

Representatives from Aldi Ireland were joined by Minister McConalogue and his colleague Minister Hackett to launch the new commitment at Aughrim, Co. Wicklow.

Working in conjunction with Green Belt forestry consultancy, Aldi Group managing director Niall O’Connor and the ministers pulled on their wellies and planted the first of what will end up as a total of 30,000 oak, birch and ash trees.

Niall O’Connor, Aldi Group managing director with Minister Charlie McConalogue. Image source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Aldi has said that planting one million native trees will remove more than 160,000t of carbon emissions over a 100-year period.

To put this in context, this equates to roughly 640 million kilometres driven by an average passenger vehicle (or the emissions from about 400 cars each year), 68 million litres of petrol consumed, or 20 billion smartphones charged, enough to charge all of Ireland’s smartphones almost 47 times over each year.

The native tree plantations will create a wildlife corridor for native species and enable grassland to revert to more natural vegetation, further enhancing biodiversity in the area.

Tree-planting progress so far

In January 2020, Aldi announced its involvement in the scheme. To date, over 103,950 trees have been planted, including at Rockfield, Co. Limerick, where 16,000 trees were planted.

Further plantings took place at sites in Muingaphuca, Co. Kerry, where 15,000 trees were planted, as well as more than 24,600 trees across Co. Mayo, Headford, Co. Galway, where 20,000 trees were planted and the Aughrim, Co. Wicklow, site where 30,000 trees were just planted.

Speaking at the event, Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “We have set ambitious targets as a country to plant 440 million trees by 2040, equating to 22 million native trees each year.

“Encouraging our native Irish biodiversity to flourish is highly important, and I am delighted to see a company such as Aldi supporting the Department of Agriculture led Woodland Environment Fund.

It is important that companies and individuals play their part in reducing the amount of carbon we emit, and I commend Aldi and the team for all their hard work.

Commenting on the initiative, Niall O’Connor, Aldi Group managing director, said: “Aldi is committed to minimising the environmental impact of its business. We are targeting to plant 225,000 trees a year for the next four years which forms part of our wider sustainability strategy.”

Minister Hackett added: “As minister responsible for forestry, I am delighted to see Aldi interact with our Woodland Environment Fund. It’s one which demonstrates the best of public private partnership, as it offers firms the opportunity to top up payments to farmers and landowners who commit to department-funded forestry.”

Environmental goals

Aldi Ireland and Aldi UK have been carbon neutral since January 1, 2019. Aldi is the first retailer in Ireland to successfully trial traceability technology to increase sustainability credentials across wild-caught fresh fish.

To date, Aldi has removed more than 616t of plastic from its 145 Irish stores, replaced over 870t of unrecyclable material with recyclable alternatives and removed 500t of packaging from its core ranges.

Under Aldi’s €60 million investment programme – ‘Project Fresh’ – stores will be powered by 100% green electricity. Aldi has invested in improving its energy management systems and its entire store network is now powered by 100% wind generated energy.