Alan Guillou co-founded the “PlanteursVolontaires” association, and runs a participative planting scheme.
Alan Guillou works for the Planteurs Volontaires association. Co-founded with two of his colleagues, Thierry and Cédric, in France’s Nord département, the association began running a citizen-led, participative planting scheme from the very start. With over 4,500 volunteers, 85,000 trees have been planted since 2013
Can you tell us a bit more about your association?
The way we work is thatas soon as a project crops up, we draw up a map of who’s available. We ask ourselves who’s best-placed to plant a tree in this specific urban area? What about this school? Or this retirement home? Then we ask if they would be interested in planting a tree with us. Our work to protect the environment is driven by this two-pronged approach: living and working together.We also draw on the symbolism attached to trees in the collective consciousness as a way of sparking action. Nature is an emotive subject. It harks back to the world’s beauty, the poetry of life… When people come and help us plant, we turn to them and say: “today, you’re a landscape designer for the day. Let the spade be your brush, and the trees your palette. It’s your job to connect the earth to the sky by planting a tree!”
What we do isn’t about flat screens or hard drives. We’re taking real, tangible action!
Where did your desire to plant trees come from?
Our childhoods hold the key to what inspires us as adults. As a child, I spent a lot of time playing in the forest. The trees were my teachers. Back then, I would never have suspected that I’d one day be planting shrubs!
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
There’s no one thing I’m particularly proud of. Every time we finish a project, all the planters turn around and look at what we’ve accomplished with a great deal of satisfaction. What we do isn’t about flat screens and hard drives. We’re taking real, tangible action! Once, a farmer said to us: “when you plant a tree, half of it is yours, and the other half is for all the other people who get to see and enjoy it.” My pride is tempered by a sense of humility, as the results will last well beyond my own existence.
What does a typical day in the life of a planter look like?
We work in tune with the seasons. When the flowers start budding, we head back to our sites, meeting partners and preparing for the winter. When the leaves begin to fall, we get out our spades. When snow falls across the fields, we plant trees. Our days are pretty jam-packed.
Do you have a favourite tree?
In France’s Finistère region, there’s a forest of beech, oak and yew trees. I miss all of them.