Words by Mathias Winterberg.
It’s spring time and everything is growing: not only our Midgard Adventure Sustainability Week but also our environmental and sustainability policies (that you find here). The seeds have been planted long ago, so it was about time to put the sustainability trees into the breeding ground. That’s exactly how we did with our little birches that were provided by the Icelandic Soil Conservation. We let our Midgard Adventure Sustainability Forest grow with care – and we help to reforest our country.
Midgard Forest in the Making
Did you spot the tiny little birch in the picture above? It is just one copy out of the 540 little trees that we planted – little 3 year old birches raised by the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland. “The birch is a native plant from Iceland, this is why we headed out with them” explains Helga Lucie Andrée Káradóttir, the Soil Conservation District Officer. Helga was just the perfect instructor that day – not only because it was her birthday (yaaay!) but also because she used to work for Midgard Adventure for more than 5 years. And of course, she also chose the perfect spot for our tree babies.
“Here is a place where Midgard Adventure drives by often on its tours. So we all have a special connection to this area – and we can easily check on how the trees are growing. The tree planting deepens our connection to this land, we stay in our micro-environment and just let it grow.” Normally the tree planting comes not only with this environmental awareness in mind, but also as a fun group activity with different people doing different jobs. As you can see in the picture below, there is “a holder”, “a planter” and “a fertilizer” (from right to left).
Unless you are as skilled as our very own professional tree planter Stebbi. He can do all on his own – what a fine specimen of a man!
Three Questions to …
Stefan “Stebbi” Michel, Midgard co-owner and passionate tree planter
The rumor has it that you are a professional tree planter. How come?
True, back in 2008 I spent a summer in Heiðarvatn planting trees with a friend from university. It was a magical summer, the weather (at least in my memory) was great and we spent the mornings planting trees out in that stunning nature and in the afternoon we took roadtrips or went on hikes, discovering the island. Planting the trees felt like a job with a purpose, leaving a mark (a forest) and creating something that will always be fun to come back to and visit again. I ended up with 15.000 little birch trees after these 3 or 4 months.
Tell us more about your passion– how do you achieve to plant so many trees in such a short time?
In the 15 years from my first to my most recent planting mission, the way to do it seems not to have changed. There is probably professional terms, but basically the equipment consists of:
– a pipe with a pointed end
– an elaborate fanny pack with lots of pockets that can hold up 100 little birch trees and has more pouches for fertilizers, etc.
With this equipment you can plant a lot of trees in a rather short time. No bending over or digging a hole manually is needed. The distance between the trees should be about 1.5 meter from each other. Doing this, you will automatically get into a flow and time will fly by!
Have you visited your forest since then?
Yes, on many occasions. While planting the trees we were imagining going back to build tree houses, etc. The first time visiting the “forest” was 7 years later. Having told my friends that came along on that visit a lot about all these trees, the disappointment was big noticing that the trees are still not any taller than the gras surrounding it. Since then the trees have been growing and they are definitely recognizable. But trees grow on a slower pace in Iceland due to the rough climate – so the tree house will have to wait for quite some years.
Same excitement I have now for the “Midgard Forest” – however my expectations will be more realistic. 🙂
Get to know the Icelandic Soil Conservation
The Icelandic Soil Conservation has put considerable efforts into reversing the ecosystem degradation – since 1907. Back in the days, it has been the very first institute of such kind in the world. Yaay! Since Soil Conservation’s headquarters are just a stone’s throw away from our Midgard Base Camp, it was high time to have our neighbors from Gunnarsholt over for a lecture about their work to preserve our playground.
Magnus Jóhannsson is working for Soil Conservation for more than 25 years and loves his job: “My sense of environmental awareness has always been my driver why I get up in the morning: to do good and sustainable things – to bring back live to these deserted areas” says Magnus. “We often talk about how nothing changes. But if you think back, things have changed so much and so fast. The environment is changing as well and I just want to help that it goes into the right direction, that we can restore our eco-system.”
Magnus made sure that we see the unique landscape in Iceland through different lenses. And we can’t wait to share his knowledge and perspective with our guests.
“I think it is very important that we guides know about our soil and our environment. I will love to distribute the information from Magnus on our tours. For our future generations, I am also happy to hear that Soil Conservation pushes towards having more organic fertilizers in Iceland.”
Jon Gisli with his son, from Hvolsvöllur, Midgard Adventure Guide for 13 years
“It was interesting to see how the approach of Soil Conservation has changed over the years. I can take away for my tours that we had the first Soil Conservation Institute in the world. It is stunning how early we have started to think about the environment in our country.”
Sveinn “Sven” Snorri Sighvatsson from Hofn, Midgard Adventure Guide since January
“It was my interest in environmental protection that made me coming to this event. I knew some things before, but I learned a lot of new aspects and perspectives. I can tell how intensively the wind blows out here and how he can transform whole areas into deserts. So the work of Soil Conservation can’t be valued enough.”
Julius Steinarsson from Reykjavik
Midgard & The Environment
We aim to practice regenerative tourism: to leave our beautiful nature in a better place than it was before we visited and to have positive impacts on our nature and society.
We are committed to decreasing our impact on the environment and making environmental consideration a priority throughout our operation.
We will continue this journey by educating ourselves and sharing what we learn with our guests.
We are committed to our environmental and sustainability policy. Go check it out here.
About the Author
Mathias came a long way from Switzerland and joined with his family the Midgard family for a month, giving space to a project of his heart: while he is normally commenting on cross-country skiing and athletics for national television, he put all his efforts in the organization of the first Midgard Sustainability Week.
“I would have never thought how time flies by while planting trees – the feeling of creating something, of letting life grow, of helping the nature to flourish in all variety again has put me in a state of flow. I would love to see tree planting as a part of a Midgard Adventure tour, since it is really a unique experience. Yes I’m really wondering: would you as a guest in your holidays be up to go tree planting? Well, when you’ve read the words of Stebbi above how easy it is, you can’t really say no – can you 😉 A big ‘Takk fyrir’ goes out to Magnus and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland for coming by and sharing his perspective on the Icelandic environment with the tour guides. They will be the ones sharing the awareness out in the field with the tourists. “