The story of the man who planted 20 million trees – Peepal Baba

“When you plant a Peepal tree or a Banyan tree, you have done something which will outlast you; it will be there for a thousand years.” 

Swami Prem Parivartan, popularly known as Peepal Baba, started his education in a Gurukul and went on to complete his post-graduation in English literature. He has been a Yoga teacher and practitioner during his college years, and his upbringing in ashrams and spiritual organizations gave him the name Swami Prem Parivartan.

But his best-known moniker, and the one he loves the most, is the one he earned in 1984:  ‘Peepal Baba’ because of his work centred around Peepal trees.  

“The survival of the human race is totally dependent on the survival of its ecosystem.” 

His inspiration for planting trees began in 1975 when his teacher Mrs Williams encouraged him and his classmates to support any issue related to the environment, but she would particularly highlight the importance of trees. 

Trees are not just oxygen providers, but the range of services they provide is vast. They regulate the surrounding temperature, bring rain, prevent soil erosion, control floods, form habitats for birds and insects, cut strong winds and noise, provide food and medicines, reduce stress, along with the aesthetic and social benefits – the list is endless! However, he noticed that developmental projects would lead to the chopping of old trees, with which the ecosystem services that the trees provided were also lost. 

With a feeling of helplessness and worry about the future, he asked Mrs Williams what he, as a young boy of 10, could do to help. His teacher’s response to this question stuck with him for life, saying, “Pedon se kahani shuru hoti hai, pedon se khatam hoti hai, toh pedon ki sankhya ko badhao”. This means our story starts and ends with trees, so we must work towards populating our earth with more trees. 

Filled with excitement, along with his grandmother and gardener, he planted his first 9 saplings along the Range Hills Road in Pune. “It is very heartening to say that even after 44-45 years, each time I go there, I see all of them. None of them have been chopped down because the location was perfect”, he says. 

While it is important to plant trees, equally important, if not more, is caring for them and ensuring that these trees reach adulthood. It is imperative that the location is kept in mind while planting. Road widening, presence of high-tension wires above, or pipelines below, walls and buildings, all need to be accounted for to ensure that your tree does not interfere with any developmental activities and thus gives no reason to be chopped.  

Peepal Baba began planting trees at the age of 10 and has not looked back since. His passion led to him starting ‘Give Me Trees Trust’, through which he has worked with over 55 corporates and thousands of volunteers to carry out plantation activities all over the country. 

Today, 45 years later, the Give Me Trees initiative has planted over 20 million trees! He carries out training sessions for students and volunteers to teach them the correct way of planting and caring for the trees they plant. He also educates his huge online audience using short videos through YouTube and social media. His videos are extremely inspiring and thought-provoking, making you look at everything around you with a fresher, eco-friendlier perspective. He reminds us that none of god’s creations is billed to us; it is all free and given with love. Therefore, it is our duty to give back to the environment in any way possible. Our survival fully depends on air, water, and soil – all of which come from our environment.  

So, what can we do? 

“Every single person has the potential to contribute towards ecosystem restoration in their own beautiful, loving way.” 

He encourages people to surround themselves with plants, be it in their lawn, garden, terrace or even a small corner of their house. Green birthdays, hariyali diwas, etc., are other small yet beautiful ways of celebrating your special days! 

Another effective gesture which can majorly add to the green cover of our country is simple – plant local trees in your balcony and terrace spaces, and when they reach 1.5-2 ft height, give it to your gardener and ask them to plant it in a suitable and safe spot outside. 

Give Me Trees Trust has also started a few very engaging initiatives  

  1. Volunteer work: Everyone is free to get in touch with their team to take part in their plantation activities on the ground. 
  2. Seed collection: People can collect, wash, and dry their fruit seeds and send them to the given address, which the trust then forwards to be planted at suitable locations. You can send them your Mango, Jamun or any other seeds, rather than throwing them away, and help contribute to greening our planet in such a simple way! 
  3. Milk packet collection: You would have noticed, saplings at nurseries come wrapped in small plastic bags, which hold soil essential to keep the plant alive. Give Me Trees Trust reuses milk packets for this purpose, which would otherwise go into the trash. You can rinse and dry your milk packets and ship them to their address and support the cause indirectly! 
  4. Hariyali Homes is an initiative by Give Me Trees Trust which provides guidance and information about gardening, plants, soil, etc. and the resources needed for anyone wishing to green their spaces. 
  5. People are free to donate any amount and pick up plants from Give Me Trees’ nursery. 
  6. Greening of offices, apartments, and buildings can be planned, executed and maintained by the team. 

No act is big or small. Taking a step towards making our planet greener is what matters, be it directly or indirectly. 

Watch the man himself share his journey here.