For nearly 13 years, the non-profit foundation Plant Your Roots in Greece has spearheaded efforts to reforest regions in Greece that have been heavily affected by periodic forest fires in the last decade. To date, the foundation has planted hundreds of thousands of trees in various regions, contributing to the preservation, restoration, and improvement of Greece’s natural environment. “Planting a tree in Greece is like ‘lighting a candle’ in our homeland,” says Theodore G. Spyropoulos, president of the foundation. “Every tree contributes to the regeneration of the environment, acting as our most vital source of oxygen. During Greece’s current difficult financial situation, the funding for tree plantings is of great importance and support to our fellow countrymen.”
“Planting a tree in Greece is like ‘lighting a candle’ in our homeland,” says Theodore G. Spyropoulos, president of the foundation.
Donations come mainly from Greeks abroad, but also from philhellenes around the world. Many companies in the U.S. offer their generous donations and consider tree planting in Greece a perfect gift back to the cradle of Western Civilization, Spyropoulos says. Some of the tree plantings are also made as gifts to honor, celebrate, or remember loved ones. “Without the contribution and support of our donors the work of the Foundation would not have been possible,” Spyropoulos says. “Their donations are living proof of their exceptional interest and awareness for the environment and Greece. We are moved by their contribution, it gives us the strength and courage to continue our efforts.”
During tree-planting activities, the foundation collaborates with student volunteers and athletic, firefighting, environmental, or cultural organizations all over Greece. All volunteers virtually adopt the trees they have planted and pledge to take care of the seedlings. Beyond reforestation, the foundation also helps restore the natural ecology to archaeological sites, and donates firefighting vehicles and other much-needed equipment to various municipalities.
The activities carried out by the foundation also promote environmental awareness and active citizen participation in the protection of the environment, emphasizing the importance of preserving the truly unique terrain and ecosystem found in Greece. In fact, Greece’s natural ecosystem, called “chaparral,” is found only in the Mediterranean, parts of Australia, Southern Chile, and the West Coast of the U.S. There are over six thousand plant and herb species throughout Greece’s diverse bionetworks, many of which are native only to Greece. And, over four hundred mammal species and more than one hundred bird species are heavily dependent on a healthy ecosystem there.
Environmental protection and public participation are also ways through which Greeks abroad can strengthen the ties between their birthplace and honor the values of environmentalism rooted in Hellenism. “It is very important that we care about our roots, and this applies especially to us Greeks, as the roots of our people are traced back in the depths of time,” Spyropoulos says. “Our ancestors were the first to acquire an ecological awareness. They respected nature and the environment and for that reason they sanctified it.”
The vision for “Plant Your Roots in Greece” was initially foreseen by Efi Weinberg, who in 1993 established the foundation with other members of the Greek-American community. Since 2006, the foundation operates under the auspices of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad. President of the Foundation, based in Chicago, is Theodore G. Spyropoulos, former President of the Hellenic – American National Council and SAE U.S.A. Region Coordinator since 2006.
Major Forest Fires in Greece Since 1980
• 1981: Kifisia – 612 hectares • 1982: Dionysos – 1,360 hectares • 1986: Varibombi – 500 hectares • 1992: Avlona – 6,700 hectares • 1993: Pendeli – 5,700 hectares • 2005: Raphina – 1,100 hectares