MABEY MEETS: Matt, Co-Founder of Mossy Earth
Nickie: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. To get started, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your background before setting up Mossy Earth?
Matt: I am originally from the UK but after much travelling and living in various countries, I made Portugal my home in 2007. Before starting Mossy Earth, I worked for a long time as an English teacher here in Portugal. My hobbies include surfing, trail running, hiking, gardening and yoga or anything else that gets me out into nature.
Nickie: How did the idea for Mossy Earth originally come about, and what is the concept behind it?
Matt: Wow, how do I make a long story, short? …So, towards the end of my tenure as a teacher I was studying for a teaching qualification that was incredibly time consuming – tough and somewhat dry – yet I was doing very well at it. It was during that time that I thought to myself “imagine if I could put this energy into something I enjoyed”. This thought process coincided with my growing interest in the state of our environment, sustainability and rewilding, which culminated in me wanting to start something that would benefit the planet in some way. Just as I had made this conscious decision, a mutual friend and now Mossy Earth co-founder Duarte, had written a blog piece on carbon offsetting and I was quick to comment “When are we going to start this thing?”. From that throw away comment, the rest is history…
Mossy Earth, which is incidentally three years old today, is a social enterprise on a mission to bring true wilderness back to Europe. Through the framework of rewilding and reforestation, we offer individuals, schools and businesses the possibility to plant native forests and restore key ecosystems while mitigating their carbon footprint.
Nickie: Congratulations on 3 years! Let’s talk about carbon footprints. As earlier this year we hosted a charity ski challenge in support of Protect Our Winters UK, where each challenger swapped carbon-emitting chairlifts for touring skis as they summited four volcanoes in four days. Each challenger’s carbon footprint was also offset by planting 50+ trees at one of your reforestation projects in Ireland. Can you tell us a little more about your carbon offsetting projects?
Matt: We have six reforestation and rewilding projects in Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, Romania and more recently Slovakia. Whether it is restoring areas that have been illegally clear cut, burnt in wildfires or left abandoned where agriculture once thrived, all our projects follow the same principles. We plant a wide variety of native tree species, so no monocultures not invasive species, which can both have detrimental effects on the environment. What’s more, we plant with the overarching goal of rewilding the areas in which we work. This is achieved both through our native tree planting and rewilding interventions. So, to cut yet another long story short, carbon sequestration is just one of the many benefits of the work we do.
Nickie: Nearly everything we do involves emitting carbon and most of the products we buy are made in ways that produce carbon too. What effective changes can we all start making to our lifestyle to have a better impact on our planet?
Matt: We don’t expect everyone to be a saint, but one can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by making simple changes to diet, travel, waste and material goods such as fashion. We have a 50+ open access low impact living guides to help people reduce their carbon footprint as well as our simple carbon footprint calculator to help people calculate their CO2 emissions.
Nickie: What has Mossy Earth got planned for the rest of the year?
Matt: We have just finished planting in Slovakia in the floodplain forests of the Danube, which will be the last reforestation intervention until the autumn (summer is not ideal for planting in Europe). We will resume planting across all our projects in late September or early October. In the meantime, we will be implementing a number of exciting rewilding projects such as the translocation of mountain hares in Scotland and monitoring wolves in Portugal.
By the end of the year, it is also our aim to have our first ocean related project such as kelp or mangrove forest restoration. Watch this space!
Nickie: How do you choose your locations for reforestation projects, and who gets involved with the physical tree planting?
Matt: We choose areas managed by organizations that share the same core goals of native tree planting, ecosystem restoration to enhance biodiversity and rewilding. We invest in local people to carry out the tree planting. It is our belief that rewilding should be as much about reintroducing lost flora and fauna as it is about creating sustainable nature-based economies in rural areas.
Nickie: What has been the most challenging part of running Mossy Earth?
Matt: Getting my work life balance back in check. I went from surfing all day and teaching just four hours of an evening without a worry in the world to setting up and running my own organization. It has been an intense (I have the grey hairs to prove it) yet extremely rewarding three years!
Nickie: And finally, what’s been the biggest high / reward?
Matt: On a day to day basis, hunched over a laptop, it is easy to forget the hugely positive impact Mossy Earth is having. So, these “big highs / rewards” come when we visit our project areas. A clear example of this was revisiting the Southern Carpathians last autumn. We spent two weeks planting several large clear-cut areas that we had seen when planting on the other side of the valley in the previous spring. To stand back and see all these pockets of clear cuts that we have reforested against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains was a very special moment.
Thanks again for chatting with us Matt, it’s been great to learn more about you and the incredible work you and the team at Mossy Earth are doing. We look forward to making some improvements to our own lifestyles and continuing to support your amazing projects.
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Read up on Mabey Ski Founder Nickie Mabey’s journal, when she and 6 challengers swapped carbon-emitting chairlifts for touring skis in the 2020 challenge 4 Volcanoes in 4 Days to raise awareness and funds for Protect Our Winters UK.