Environmental Hero: Natalia Sali | One Earth
Environmental Hero: Natalia Sali

Natalia Sali's family and volunteers planting mangroves. Image credit- Courtesy of One Child, One Tree


Environmental Hero: Natalia Sali

Growing up in the Philippines, Natalia Sali’s first experiences with nature was joining  her father as he cultivated the plants and trees on their land. This ignited her love of the trees and environment which she spent climbing trees and basking in green fields. She was raised with the belief that any idea is possible and even small ideas are the root of all big changes. She wanted to pass this belief on in her work, so she created, along with her family, the program One Child, One Tree  (OCOT) in order to empower and inspire children to realize their potential in being partners to protect the environment.

Four-thousand first graders in 25 different schools were part of her first project where she trained 20 volunteers who in turn trained the children to plant trees that they would be responsible for nurturing until they graduated from school. From there, OCOT has expanded to include a full restoration of mangrove forests which she and her team are planting across various towns in Hagonoy in the Philippines.

Mangroves are important carbon sinks that help sequester greenhouse gases and maintain global temperatures. Mangroves have a particularly good sequestration rate due to their environment — the stems and branches that fall accumulate the necessary sediment to reduce oxygen levels which slows their decomposition. Buried carbon can remain stored for centuries if undisturbed.

Mangroves also serve as a coastal defense from sea level rise, surges, and waves, making coastal communities more resilient to storms and natural disasters. They are vital to mitigating the worst effects of sea level rise.

Sali coordinated with her local government, partnering with Fostering Education for Environment and Development (FEED). Together, they have more funds to train people, conduct research and purchase more mangroves to plant. The volunteers come from different schools to regularly clean-up the coast in order to prevent the plastic waste from destroying the mangroves. They also are trained on the research about mangroves so they understand the science behind reforestation. So far, they have planted hundreds of thousands mangroves. 

Natalia’s goal is to inspire people so they have the same passion she does for mitigating climate change. She has won awards for her work, including the Energy Global Award, which she hopes amplifies OCOT’s work to attract even more volunteers. Sali does not want to impose on people, rather listeLn to them and make the necessary changes. OCOT has broadened to include coastal clean ups and solid waste management. 

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