In our latest A Day in the Life of... interview we meet Henry Emson, founder of One Life One Tree and creator of The Sequoia Project which enables people to offset an entire lifetime of carbon emissions by planting a Giant Sequoia tree in one of their UK plantations. Recently, the trees have become increasingly popular as memorials, enabling families to create a sustainable tribute to their loved one which can be visited for generations to come.
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit" - Nelson Henderson
Before we begin, can you share a little bit about what you do and how you got started?
The genesis of the idea for One Life One Tree was planting Giant Sequoias for my two young children, starting their journey to a carbon neutral life as early as possible – a single Giant Sequoia tree captures the same amount of CO2 as your average UK person’s total emissions during their lifetime (around 520 tonnes).
Concerned about the global climate crisis and the scale of the action needed, I began offering to plant Sequoia trees for others who wanted to join us on this journey. The response was amazing so I started buying more land, brought expert forestry contractors in, and we now have almost 1,000 Sequoia Patrons.
We buy land in regions which are optimal for Sequoia trees to grow and plant saplings for each of our ‘Sequoia Patrons'. We then nurture the saplings to a size where protection from wildlife is no longer needed, and commit to donate the land to a tree friendly charity. We also plant native species on the site which are left to mature alongside our Sequoias to help with biodiversity and prevent monoculture.
Rise and shine… what’s you morning routine?
It normally starts with my kids coming to climb into my bed around 7am (if I’m lucky). Then its get up, set breakfast, make coffee and decide how much maple syrup I need to put on my kids cereal to persuade them to get a proper feed in before school. Everything after that is a bit of a haze until I sit down at my desk around 9am.
Looking around, can you describe your workplace to us?
If I'm at home it’s a desk in my dining room. I’ve got two fabulous paintings, an 8ft canvas of a buffalo head and a 6ft canvas of a Tiger, plus a house plant on the table to keep me company. If I'm visiting one of our sequoia plantations in Wales or England, it's more likely to be a green field with wonderful rural views.
Who are your customers and how do you serve them?
They tend to be environmentally-minded, of all ages and creeds, the binding factor being the desire to take action. People chose to become a tree patron for many reasons, from parents planting a tree for a new baby or a grandad wanting to give something back, having lived a full life. More recently we've seen families choosing to plant a Giant Sequoia as a lasting and sustainable memorial to a loved one. Our patrons want to create a bond with their tree, and the person it's been planted for, and to watch it grow for generations to come.
We encourage our patrons to come along to one of our Planting Days so they can create a sense of ceremony when planting their tree. They can roll up their sleeves, get involved and take photos of the event. A Giant Sequoia is a legacy - a monument to your loved one which can live for thousands of years - as well as providing a net zero carbon footprint for their life.
Each patron receives a slate plaque engraved with their name, the date of planting, and the location coordinates of their tree, as well as a spruce seed pencil which they can plant in their own garden. The plaque can be displayed at home or in the garden and as slate is such a long-lasting material, it means future generations will always be able to find find the location of their Sequoia memorial tree. Patrons can visit their tree whenever they like, sit in its shade and enjoy watching it grow over many years.
What do you like best about what you do?
Meeting our Patrons, and the feeling I get when I've just spent a day planting 100 Giant Sequoias, knowing they will be around for anything up to 3,000 years. It is a slightly surreal feeling planting a tree that will be standing further into the future than the Roman Empire is to us now in the past!
Tea break…. what’s your guilty pleasure?
Who or what inspires you?
Coaches and mentors who can really improve people’s lives and mental health, such as Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle – their work is very powerful. I’m generally inspired by people who are brave in their ambition and authenticity, and put themselves out there despite the risks of failure or rejection. Seeing someone do what they were born to do is a great pleasure in life.
Have things changed in your line of work since you first started?
Yes, businesses are now becoming increasingly focused on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) policies, and are coming to the table much more readily to talk about what they can do to show the world they can be a force for positive climate action.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your line of work?
Start small, simple, and low cost. Find an idea that is running at you and not away from you, and then hold on for the ride and put your everything into it. Don’t put everything into things that are running away from you, those ideas or businesses rarely end well, however good you might think they are at the time.
Name any books, films, blogs, podcasts or other resources that you would recommend?
The Hidden Life Of Trees – Peter Wohlleben, The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle, The Untethered Soul – Michael Singer, Tony Robbins Podcast, Mindvalley Podcast, Start.Fail.Repeat Podcast – Katie Briefel, Fingerprints of the Gods – Graham Hancock.
Heading home… After work, what do you do to relax and unwind?
Fire up the wood-burner, open a bottle of red wine, cook a meal while dancing in my kitchen to good house music, watch a movie or play a game of bar billiards.
What’s on your bucket list?
Go surfing in Sri Lanka, visit the ancient sites in South America, meet Graham Hancock, and plant a million Giant Sequoias!
Have you thought about what you’d like for your own funeral?
Scatter my ashes under a Sequoia Tree as it's being planted, and save the rest for the ocean.
What would you like your epitaph to be?
Keep planting trees.
At the end of the day… what’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
Try to stop thinking about all the things keeping me awake.
A big thank you to Henry for his interview. You can find out more about planting a Giant Sequoia tree as a sustainable memorial at www.onelifeonetree.com.
One Life One Tree are offering our readers a £5 off discount code on their One Payment option (normally £395). Simply enter code V8AVHBT at the checkout on their website here.