Don’t just plant 1 tree, plant 9 | An interview with 9Trees CEO and Director Michael Cunningham

“The future depends on what we do in the present”- Mahatma Gandhi

There are many ways in which individuals can make a difference in turning the tide against the biodiversity and climate crisis, from becoming politically active to eating less meat and with the seasons, riding a bike to work or staying local for holidays (why not check out our blog ‘How to live more sustainably: A comprehensive guide’). These examples can sometimes take time to implement but what if there is an even simpler start?

What about trees????

It’s simple: by safeguarding and planting a tree you can make a massive impact. Trees are our natural allies, they absorb carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, they provide wildlife with homes and food sources, and trees even shape the planet’s weather patterns, so isn’t it only natural we should restore woodlands and conserve natural habitats.

Michael Cunningham representing his company 9Trees CIC. © Andrew Lloyd.

Well, how about if we planted 9 trees per person per year instead? This is the idea of Michael Cunningham the CEO and Director of 9Trees CIC (Community Interest Company).

Michael, like many of us, has felt “Eco-Anxiety”; this term means as humans we can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of ecological and climate crises, and for a lot of the time feel powerless or as if our individual actions won’t be enough. This is why 9Trees was formed, in a woodland whilst coppicing with Co-founder Ash Kent.

Michael formed 9Trees to help individuals. By coming together in a holistic approach 9Trees can balance your carbon footprint; by simply planting 9 trees per person per year; 1 Tree will balance 1 Tonne of C02 in its first 60 years, and the average UK citizen’s carbon footprint is 9 Tonnes per annum. 9Trees creates biodiverse woodlands across the uk to encourage habitats to regenerate and to link woodlands with habitat ‘corridors’ for wildlife to move through

How can one tree make a difference?

Trees are spectacular!

  • In just one season it’s been estimated that broadleaf tree can produce enough oxygen to allow 10 people to breathe for a whole year.
  • One mature tree has the same cooling effect as 10 room sized air conditioners.
  • One mature tree can absorb up to 450 Litres of water through its roots every day.
  • One oak tree can provide habitats for more than 257 species of invertebrates, mammals, birds, fungi and lichens.
  • Being in nature can significantly reduce blood pressure and reduce mental fatigue.
  • That’s what just one tree can do, so by planting 9 trees annually it will make a dramatic change to the climate, environment, wildlife and human society.

You can read more at Why we need more trees.

Michael relaxing under a tree canopy, taking time out in nature from his busy schedule.

Interviewing Michael, you instantly understand his passion for the natural world and why he wants to protect it. Growing up on the banks of the Wye Valley SSSI in Radnorshire Wales, his love of the natural world evolved when he gained in depth knowledge studying Wildlife and Countryside Conservation in Yorkshire gaining his BSc (Hons) from the University of Hull.

Michael over the years has gained practical conservation experience in maintaining and preserving habitats as well as roles in the tourism, arts and business. In his current role, he has found he has a key skill in creating and designing new habitats.

“Conservation gives me peace of mind and there is always something new to see” _ Michael Cunningham

Michael is now building a team of volunteers and paid positions that can help shape 9Trees as a company to be at the forefront of tackling the biggest issues of our time. Michael manages the team and is also the main source of fundraising activity, networking at festivals and business events, enthusing both businesses and individuals to contribute.

“We are lucky to have a great team who manage all kinds of aspects from ecological surveying to website creation as well as social media and our office manager who works tirelessly” _ Michael Cunningham

9Tree volunteers on a planting day.

What’s the best and worst part about your role? 

The best part of my job is just after tree planting season when I can look back with my team and appreciate the thousands of trees we have planted in many different areas of the UK. This is amplified when we set foot in the woodlands annually for team building days, monitoring and eco-matting events, as we see the changes with biodiversity flooding in. I feel it in my soul, the gratitude for everyone’s input, whether it was financial, practical or even through thank you emails!

The worst part of my role is when we find a gap in skills or experience which we need to fill. Although we have been lucky to find the right people, we continue to expand and require more skilled employees and volunteers to create the roles as we move forward and grow. As a grass root organisation, we cannot yet afford to pay many full-time roles, but with bigger businesses backing us we will be well-placed to create the conservation roles of the future.

What’s your advice for future conservationists

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps to become a conservationist or build their own environmental company then I would suggest getting experience with multiple conservation organisations. It’s essential you decide how you would like the world to look when you pass it on to the next generation and think about how you would like the future to be created. Wipe aside any feelings of grandeur or monetary value. These simply provide barriers to your dreams.

What are your hopes for the future

My hope for the future in terms of the climate and ecological crisis is that we all come together in the restoration of the ecological world. I hope we can push aside profit over wildlife and people, and move into a more holistic approach to sustainability and community where we are all equal, including all creatures and the earth which is our home.

What can you do next?

If you feel inspired to make a difference and to have one or even 9 trees planted to carbon balance your activities then head over to the 9Trees website:

If you want to volunteer or have a skill that would be useful and would like to work for 9Trees, then please contact Michael and the team through the channels below.




Happy planting 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳


Author Profile | Ryan Eddowes

Ryan Eddowes is a Qualified Zoologist, Herpetologist, Animal Carer, Climate Change educator and UK Ambassador for Steps Charity Worldwide, a charity that supports everyone with lower limb conditions. Ryan hopes to use his experience and passion for the natural world to promote inclusivity in conservation, as Ryan was born with bilateral clubfoot, a condition that causes mobility issues. He was told working animals would be difficult due to the condition, but yet he just recently celebrated a decade long career in the wildlife industry.

“I truly believe that even if you have a hidden or physical disability and have a passion for the natural world, you can still achieve your dreams and make a difference to our planet”. You can follow Ryan on FacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.


Interviews, Organisational Manager, Restoration & Rewilding