New Zealand Forest of Hope

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To say 2020 has been full of disappointments is to put the profound upset of this year mildly. Sure, there is still plenty to be grateful for, but it’s safe to say that most people are ready to put this entire year behind them and look toward the future. And while pandemics and politics don’t necessarily recognize the dividing line of a new year, 2021 still has the capacity to offer the hope we need to get through this uniquely terrible time in history.

New Zealand, as the first country on the planet to kick off 2021, has a plan to set those good vibes in motion. No, it won’t be opening its borders anytime soon, but until that happens, anyone with disappointment to cast out and positivity to call in can participate in growing its Forest of Hope.

Whether you missed out on a milestone birthday, had to cancel a wedding, or even postpone a bucket list vacation, your 2020 woes can now be turned into an actual tree. Every disappointment from this year shared on New Zealand’s website will be converted into the planting of a tree in the country, ultimately turning into an entire new forest of native trees born of disappointment but grown with hope.

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And instead of complaining to loved ones about the ways in which 2020 has been terrible, there is the option to gift a tree to them through New Zealand’s gift registry via Trees That Count. For $7 you can write a message and then follow the tree on its journey when it is planted in New Zealand. With socially distant holidays being a reality this year, a tree can be a delightful gift from afar.

In a year that’s made so many feel so helpless, converting that negative energy into a planted tree is a true act of positivity. Trees are the planet’s first line of defense against climate change, taking in CO2 from the air and turning it into oxygen (and they absorb plenty of other toxins as well). Plus, their roots keep the soil together amid heavy rains and rampaging fires, while wildlife counts on them for shelter.

Trees are good for people, too. Forest bathing, or the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku, has proven to have positive health effects on the body and mind. When trees go up, stress comes down.

Tree planting

Tree planting

“In New Zealand, the Te Reo Māori values of manaaki and tiaki have become incredibly relevant today,” explains Sarah Handley, general manager for the Americas and Europe at Tourism New Zealand. Manaaki refers to the importance of having empathy while tiaki encourages us to care for people and places. “While our borders remain closed to international visitors, we want to extend a little manaaki and encourage a sense of tiaki to those who are in need of some optimism for the new year.” And with trees serving as a natural symbol of life and growth, the Forest of Hope is the perfect way for people to say goodbye to this year’s disappointments.

When New Zealand’s borders do reopen to the world, everyone who participated in growing the Forest of Hope can visit the new native forest they helped create, either in Queenstown or Northland. Head to the Forest of Hope’s website for more information on how to get involved.

Planting a tree may not make up for missing family during the holidays or celebrating your graduation over Zoom, but it does make the world a little healthier and a little more beautiful.