How Much Does It Cost to Plant 1 Million Trees?

Last Updated on September 12, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

The topic of tree planting, particularly on a large scale such as 1 million trees, is an increasingly important conversation in today’s world. Trees are not just symbols of nature’s beauty, but they play a critical role in our environment. They help in cooling the planet by absorbing harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Trees also contribute to their environment by improving air quality, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. Furthermore, they can help in fighting climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in their bodies and soil. Plus, by strategically adding native species, tree planting can enhance biodiversity by creating wildlife corridors to link disconnected habitat areas.

Yet, planting a million trees is no small feat and involves significant planning, resources, and costs. This article aims to break down the various factors that contribute to the cost of planting 1 million trees.

The Cost of Tree Planting

planting trees

Planting a tree might seem like a simple task, but when it comes to large-scale projects, the costs can add up quickly. The expenses associated with planting 1 million trees can vary significantly depending on several factors. These include the type of trees being planted, the location and condition of the planting site, labor costs, and ongoing maintenance and care.

Factors that Influence the Cost of Tree Planting

  1. Type of Trees: Different species of trees come with different price tags. Native species are usually less expensive than exotic ones. Plus, the size of the tree at the time of planting can also impact the cost. Seedlings are cheaper than mature trees, but they require more time and care to establish.
  2. Location and Condition of the Planting Site: The cost of tree planting can vary based on the location. Urban areas might have higher costs due to space constraints, need for specialized equipment, and potentially higher labor costs. The condition of the site also matters. If the land needs significant preparation or if the area is hard to reach, costs will increase.
  3. Labor Costs: This includes the cost of the workforce needed to plant the trees and the time taken to complete the task. Labor costs can differ based on the region, the complexity of the project, and the expertise required.
  4. Maintenance and Care: After planting, trees require care to ensure their survival. This includes watering, fertilizing, pruning, and pest control. The cost of these activities over the tree’s life should be factored into the total cost.

Average Cost Per Tree: Purchase, Planting, and Maintenance

The average cost of a tree can range from a few dollars for a seedling to several hundred dollars for a larger, mature tree. Planting costs can range from $20 to $150 per tree depending on the size of the tree and the complexity of the planting process.

Maintenance costs can also vary widely, but on average, expect to spend between $25 and $50 annually per tree for regular upkeep such as watering, pruning, and disease management.

So, if we take an average cost of $50 for a tree (including purchase, planting, and first-year maintenance), planting 1 million trees would cost approximately $50 million.

Breaking Down the Costs

Tree Saplings: Types, Costs, and Where to Source Them

The type of tree saplings you choose will significantly impact the overall cost of your project. Different tree species not only have different costs, but they also have varied survival rates, growth rates, and maintenance needs.

For instance, bulk tree seedlings can be sourced for as low as $79 per 50 seedlings. Some specific types such as the Hybrid Willow Trees, which are among the fastest-growing trees in the world, are available on platforms like Amazon.

Prices can fluctuate based on the type and size of the tree. For instance, a small 2-3 feet tall sapling may cost as little as $100, while a larger tree about 20 feet tall may cost $3,335 or more.

Some sources to buy tree saplings include Arbor Day Foundation, Amazon, local nurseries, and state forestry services.

Labor Costs: Hiring Professionals vs. Volunteer Work

Labor is another substantial cost factor when it comes to planting trees. Professional tree planting services can charge between $60 to $300 to plant a tree, depending on the tree’s size. However, volunteer labor can significantly reduce these costs. Many tree planting initiatives rely heavily on volunteer work, especially for large-scale projects.

Equipment and Supplies: Tools, Protective Gear, Etc.

Planting trees requires various tools and supplies, including shovels, gardening gloves, watering cans or hoses, mulch, stakes, and tree guards. The cost of these supplies can add up, especially when planting a large number of trees.

Maintenance Costs: Watering, Pruning, Protecting from Pests/Diseases

After the trees are in the ground, they require regular care to ensure their survival. This includes watering, which can be a significant cost, especially in drier climates. Pruning helps the trees grow properly and is typically needed annually for the first few years.

Additionally, trees may need protection from pests and diseases, which can involve the use of pesticides or other treatments. These maintenance activities can cost between $25 and $50 annually per tree.

Case Studies

Review of Large-Scale Tree Planting Initiatives and Their Costs

Several large-scale tree planting initiatives have been undertaken around the world, each with varying costs and outcomes.

  1. Vietnam’s Smallholder Tree Planting: This initiative focused on the social benefits of tree planting. While detailed cost data was not readily available, the program emphasized the need for regular evaluation of the costs of tree planting programs.
  2. Large-Scale Forest Restoration in the Tropics: This study found that direct seeding and planting tree islands were less costly methods of restoration. However, it highlighted that both native and non-native tree species had their pros and cons.
  3. Urban Forest Management: A study from 2023 looked at the motivations and practices related to a large-scale tree planting initiative in an urban setting. It noted that the future costs of managing public trees can be a significant burden.
  4. Agroforestry Practices in Africa and Asia: This review discussed the role of policy in large-scale agroforestry initiatives. It noted that some programs provided support and extension to farmers on a cost per tree basis.
  5. Mangrove Rehabilitation in the Philippines: This study reviewed various mangrove rehabilitation initiatives, noting that planting costs varied based on the specific program.

Lessons Learned from These Initiatives

A few key lessons can be drawn from these case studies:

  1. Cost Evaluation: Regular evaluation of the costs of tree planting programs is essential for effective planning and resource allocation.
  2. Method Selection: Choosing the right method of tree planting can significantly impact costs.
  3. Future Management Costs: Consideration of future management costs is crucial, especially in urban settings.
  4. Policy Support: Policy plays a critical role in supporting large-scale tree planting initiatives, including providing cost support to farmers.
  5. Variation in Costs: Planting costs can vary significantly based on the specific type of program and tree species chosen.

Economies of Scale in Tree Planting

Economies of scale refer to the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation, with cost per unit of output generally decreasing with increasing scale as fixed costs are spread out over more units of output. This concept is also applicable to tree planting initiatives.

How Costs Change When Planting Trees on a Large Scale

When tree planting operations scale up, several cost dynamics come into play:

  1. Decreased Unit Costs: As the number of trees planted increases, the cost per tree can decrease. This is because certain fixed costs, like the purchase of equipment or the hiring of a project manager, can be spread across a larger number of trees.
  2. Bulk Purchasing Benefits: Buying tree saplings in bulk often allows for discounts, further reducing the cost per tree.
  3. Efficient Use of Resources: Large-scale operations can more efficiently utilize resources like labor and machinery. For example, a tree planting machine can plant trees more quickly and efficiently than individual planters, reducing the cost per tree as the number of trees planted increases.

Benefits of Bulk Purchases and Large-Scale Operations

Large-scale tree planting initiatives offer several benefits:

  1. Economic Stimulus: Large-scale tree planting initiatives can stimulate local economies by providing jobs and supporting local businesses.
  2. Environmental Impact: On a large scale, tree planting can have a significant impact on carbon sequestration, helping to mitigate climate change.
  3. Social Benefits: Tree planting initiatives can also provide social benefits, such as improved community spaces, increased property values, and health benefits from cleaner air.

Potential Funding and Support

Government Grants and Subsidies for Reforestation

There are numerous government grants and subsidies available for reforestation and tree planting projects. Here are a few examples:

  1. US Forest Service Grants & Agreements: The Forest Service awards grants and agreements to individuals, organizations, institutions, businesses, tribes, state, local government agencies, and others.
  2. Regenerate New York Forestry Cost Share Grant Program: Through this program, landowners can apply for financial assistance for projects on their land that support the establishment and renewal of healthy forests.
  3. New Jersey Urban and Community Forestry Grants: The New Jersey Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants to counties.
  4. Urban and Community Forestry Grants | CAL FIRE: This grant program strives to increase the long-term benefits trees provide, improve the public’s understanding and appreciation.
  5. Forest Health grants | CAL FIRE: These grants fund restoration and reforestation activities. Activities can include fuels reduction, prescribed fire, pest management, and biomass.
  6. Florida Urban and Community Forestry Grants: Awards are made as 50-50 matching grants (50 percent federal, 50 percent applicant) to local governments, educational institutions, Native-American tribal governments.

Corporate Sponsorship and Partnerships

Many corporations are willing to sponsor or partner with environmental initiatives, including tree planting projects. These partnerships can provide significant funding and resources, and often form part of the corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Crowdfunding and Donations

Crowdfunding platforms and donations also offer potential sources of funding for tree planting initiatives. Platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo have been used successfully to raise funds for environmental projects. Additionally, many individuals and organizations are willing to donate to tree planting initiatives, especially if they align with their values or interests.

The Long-term Value of Planting Trees

Environmental Benefits

Planting trees offers numerous long-term environmental benefits:

  1. Carbon Sequestration: Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change. A mature tree can absorb roughly 48 pounds of CO2 per year.
  2. Biodiversity: Trees provide habitat for a wide range of species, contributing to biodiversity.
  3. Soil Conservation: Tree roots help prevent soil erosion and contribute to soil health.

Economic Benefits

There are also several economic benefits associated with tree planting:

  1. Job Creation: Large-scale tree planting initiatives can create jobs, stimulating local economies.
  2. Potential Income from Mature Trees: Mature trees can provide income through timber or non-timber forest products.
  3. Business Growth: A new report showed that businesses are making money from planting trees, with sales growing as rapidly as ten times per year.

Social Benefits

Finally, tree planting can offer significant social benefits:

  1. Community Involvement: Tree planting initiatives often involve community members, fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility for the environment.
  2. Mental Health Benefits: Spending time among trees and green spaces has been shown to reduce stress.
  3. Longevity: A recent study found that people living in neighborhoods with more trees tend to live longer.


Planting a million trees is a large undertaking, both in terms of the resources required and the potential benefits it can yield. The costs associated with such an endeavor can be significant, involving the purchase of saplings, labor, land preparation, maintenance, and more. However, economies of scale and various funding sources can help to offset these costs.

When planting on a large scale, costs per tree can decrease due to decreased unit costs, bulk purchasing benefits, and efficient use of resources. Funding and support can come from a variety of sources, including government grants and subsidies, corporate sponsorship and partnerships, and crowdfunding and donations.

The long-term value of planting trees is immense. Environmentally, trees contribute to carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and soil conservation. Economically, they stimulate job creation and potential income from mature trees. Socially, tree planting initiatives foster community involvement and offer mental health benefits.

In conclusion, while the initial costs of planting a million trees may be high, the long-term environmental, economic, and social benefits make it a worthwhile investment. It’s not just about planting trees, but about creating healthier ecosystems, stronger communities, and a more sustainable future. As such, the endeavor to plant a million trees is not merely an expense; it’s an investment in our planet and future generations.