For many of us, a passion for planting trees comes only once a year, on Arbor Day (which, by the way, is coming up next month). But for others, like German teenager Felix Finkbeiner, planting trees is a calling. You wouldn’t think that this 19-year-old has been fighting to save the planet for ten years, but his passion for creating a better future emerged early in life.

According to Collective Evolution, Finkbeiner first learned one person can spark a movement for the greater good after a fourth-grade assignment about how polar bears (his favorite animal) are being impacted by climate change. During his assignment research, he learned about Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who planted 30 million trees in Africa in 30 years. Finkbeiner decided to write his report on trees and how they are the key to combating climate change and expressed his dream to plant one million trees in Germany.

In 2007, Klaus Töpfer, former German Federal Minister of the Environment and executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), planted the first tree in Finkbeiner’s Plant-for-the-Planet movement. Shortly after, Finkbeiner became a Junior Board Member, delivering speeches about the importance of acting to protect the planet and inspiring children across the world, known as “climate change ambassadors,” to join Plant-for-the-Planet. Most of the children in the movement are between ages 9-12. In a 2011 speech to the United Nations, Finkbeiner stated: “We children know adults know the challenges and they know the solutions. We don’t know why there is so little action.”

According to his vision, “children could plant one million trees in every country on earth and thereby offset carbon dioxide emissions all on their own.” Today, in partnership with the UN’s Billion Tree campaign, Finkbeiner’s movement has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations and they have pushed for a goal to plant one trillion trees by the year 2100. They also have other big goals in store, such as making the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2050 and fighting global poverty.

It took just three years for Plant-for-the-Planet to reach its original goal of planting one million trees in Germany. Like Wangari Maathai, Finkbeiner has shown that just one person has the power to inspire a larger movement. We have no doubt that he and his climate change ambassadors will play an influential role in a brighter future.

To learn more about Plant-for-the-Planet, visit their official website.

Image source: Plant-For-The-Planet/Facebook