Money can grow on trees

Estonia (Tallin)

Nature is the new gold! Save your local forest and earn money with this new stock exchange for biodiversity.


We all know that there’s no Planet B. We’re losing nature around us at an alarming rate and our survival depends on our biodiverse ecosystems. Unfortunately, money makes the world go round. 

Luckily, an Estonian cleantech startup is on the case. Convinced that there is more to forests than just timber, in 2019 Merit Valdsalu was inspired to create a unique platform for carbon and biodiversity offsetting after winning the Future of Wood hackathon in Estonia. She launched a platform that uses the blockchain to create real impact in January 2021.

Single Earth is an unusual marketplace connecting forests and wetlands to buyers, but it’s not cutting down the trees or starting farms…it’s monetising nature by selling carbon offsets with an online platform that ‘tokenises’ land, forests, swamps, wetlands and wildlife in order to save them. Merit firmly believes that life can be beautiful again, that the trees can keep growing and the animals can roam freely – with your help. 

The world of carbon and biodiversity offsetting is huge, and growing, but this world is not usually so accessible to most. Single.Earth opens things up so anyone can invest in the “bank of nature”. “Single.Earth combines my two passions – fixing the environmental crisis with scalable game-changing technologies,” Merit explains. 

With the simple trading app, property owners “get paid for doing nothing”. Landowners are rewarded for NOT cutting down trees in their forests, not digging up their wetlands, not putting in a mine, not draining the wetlands or selling their land’s natural resources and raw materials … but instead, for preserving the ecosystems that keep all of us alive. 

“We realised that if we just focused on carbon, we are missing all the biodiversity that forests carry,” Merit explains. “We also realised that there is not an easy way for small forest owners to create alternative revenue other than from harvesting timber. We are providing a solution to both of these problems.”

Meanwhile, companies, organisations and individuals can then purchase those tokens to own small amounts of those lands and natural resources, getting carbon offsets in return for protecting them, potentially also ongoing ownership rights. The returns from offset projects could generate 5% annual returns for landowner investors. It’s a green win-win.

To the people who say that Single.Earth is just trying to become the single largest landowner in the world, Merit answers that they are simply “trying to provide the technology that people who own the land would be able to create profit out of it without having to sell it as raw material.”

As a forest owner, it’s difficult to know how much carbon is sequestered and therefore its exact biodiversity value. “First calculate the ecological value of a forest, and then we tokenise this value,” Merit adds. “And we can emit a new token for every CO2 tonne sequestered in a specific forest. And that’s how technology helps us to bring this ecological value to the world, to make it tradable.”

Single.Earth also connects landowners with sustainable companies and private investors to ensure that the natural resources remain intact and the land is now safe, and even monitors the land using satellite and sensor data. Today it operates globally, always dedicated to connecting forest owners and companies locally.

“In 2020, we built the first global models to estimate the carbon and biodiversity values for any place on the planet,” Merit says. “Though these are just the first models that we will continue to improve forever, having the first global models ready has already made a massive contribution to raising the awareness of the ecological value of nature.”

Their second most important achievement in 2020 was building the winning team. Single.Earth consists of people who have been building Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Pipedrive and the Estonian e-government. “These are the people who have the skills, knowledge and experience to save the natural world through innovative technology.”

Founders of local software firm Pipedrive have already committed to invest $3.9 million in forests which will be chosen based on their data. A $10 million fund is the next Single.Earth milestone.

“Forests are one of the most important ecosystems on this planet. We all depend on biodiverse forests and we all must step up to protect them,” says Ragnar Sass, the co-Founder of Pipedrive and Salto. “Single.Earth is by far the easiest and most reliable way of doing it.”

Single-Earth’s long-term goal is to make sustainable land use the new norm. “By rewarding landowners for preserving biodiverse and healthy ecosystems, we can finance the switch to sustainability and create the systematic change in our relationship with nature that we need to survive.”

The Single.Earth platform demonstrates that preserving the environment can have a financial value and that profit can be generated by just saying NO – and leaving raw materials alone.

AtlasAction: Join the movement to save the forestsJust browse the map to discover the ecological value of different areas, putting hearts on places that need urgent protection to help convince businesses to become climate-neutral.

Written by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor-in-Chief, Atlas of the Future (19 February 2021)

Project leader

Merit Valdsalu, & Andrus Aaslaid, founders

Support the Atlas

We want the Atlas of the Future media platform and our event to be available to everybody, everywhere for free – always. Fancy helping us spread stories of hope and optimism to create a better tomorrow? For those able, we'd be grateful for any donation.

Creative Commons License



Take me somewhere
Take me somewhere
Data Protection Act: LOPD.
In compliance with Organic Law 15/1999, of 13 of December, on Personal Data Protection, and the development of Rules of Procedure, approved by Royal Decree 1720/2007, of 21 of December, Atlas of the Future subscribers may be required to provide Personal Data, which will be included in a file owned by Democratising The Future Society SL. Such file is duly incorporated in the Spanish Data Protection Agency and protected in compliance with the security measures established in the applicable legislation. Subscribers may exercise, at any time, their rights of access, rectification, cancellation and/or opposition regarding their Personal Data. The subscriber shall notice their will, either under written form addressed to Democratising The Future Society SL, Ref. LOPD, Calabria, 10 6-3 08015 - Barcelona (Spain) and/or by e-mail, clicking here. Also, the subscriber shall communicate Atlas of the Future any modifications of their Personal Data stored, so that the information stored by Atlas of the Future remains at all times updated and error-free.
Get World-changing projects and news in your inbox weekly.