Offsetting our Guests Stays with Tree Planting

A couple of weeks ago we went to Heiðmörk to do our annual tree planting. The 480 little saplings we planted will grow into tall Icelandic birch trees and carbon offset the stays of everyone who stayed at our Reykjavík hostels this past year, but they also serve another important purpose- reforesting Iceland.

Why does Iceland have no trees?

You may have noticed on your travels around Iceland that there are barely any trees. Many people assume this is because of the volcanic landscape, but this isn’t actually the case. When the Vikings first landed here over a thousand years ago, it is estimated that 25% to 40% of the land was covered in forest- however, by the mid 20th century this number was down to less than 1%.

Huge areas of forest were cleared by the settlers to graze their animals and harvest timber which they used to make their boats and buildings. Nowadays, Iceland has the smallest number of trees in Europe, and is the 10th least forested country in the world.

Why is this an issue?

Like most deforested areas, Iceland suffers bad soil erosion. This is made even worse by the volcanic activity here, which exposes the soil to ash and gas- the topsoil of the land is also blown away in harsh weathers, making it impossible for the land to grow anything. You may not expect deserts in cold, rainy Iceland, but the soil erosion has even caused sandstorms to happen, causing damage to herds of sheep and even buildings.

Iceland also feels the affects of global climate change, just like everyone else. Trees absorb the carbon dioxide in the air, replacing it with oxygen. This is significant as glaciers serve as a traditional resource for carbon capture, and they are sadly retreating.

Why is it taking so long?

The reforesting effort started off small in the 50s and became popular in the 90s- an estimated 2% is covered in forest now. Icelandic plants grow incredibly slowly due to the harsh winters and the nitrous soil found here, so doubling the amount of trees is quite impressive.

How can I help?

By staying with us in our Reykjavík hostels, you are contributing to your very own tree growing in Iceland! You can also donate to plant your own trees here.

Make sure you travel responsibly- all our hostels are committed to sustainability, and you can read our policies here.

Do you want to visit an Icelandic forest? See this link for a list of a map of National Forests.