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October 14, 2009

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Smoothing the way for more trees

CUSTOMERS at Element Fresh today can enjoy a smoothie and help the world at the same time.

In cooperation with local charity organization Roots & Shoots, Element Fresh is donating all revenue from its smoothie sales today toward the charity's Million Tree Project.

The project enables individuals to contribute to a tree planting initiative in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which aims to plant 1 million trees by 2014.

The promotion also falls on the annual UN World Disaster Reduction Day, as the oxygen-producing trees help fight China's growing desertification problems as well as mitigate global warming.

"Since we are a Chinese brand we thought this was a great way to give something back and make a difference within China," says Richard Eskinazi, marketing director of Element Fresh.

It costs around 25 yuan (US$3.63) to plant one tree with the Million Tree Project. With some good luck and warm weather, says Eskinazi, Element Fresh hopes to sell up to 1,000 smoothies today from its eight stores in Shanghai and Beijing. This translates to 1,000 trees for the Million Tree Project.

The one-day smoothie donation is occurring against a backdrop of long-term cooperation between Element Fresh and Roots & Shoots.

For the past two years members of the restaurant chain's rewards program have been able to redeem points to support Roots & Shoots' environmental and social programs.

In addition to today's smoothie donations, members can redeem 500 points for one tree in the Million Tree Project in an ongoing initiative as part of the rewards program. Points can also be redeemed to buy glasses for migrant children, or go toward sponsoring a migrant child for one year's schooling.

"Our rewards system provides good value for our customers rather than direct conversion of points to cash equivalents," says Esikinazi. "Being able to support charitable causes is a really nice part of the rewards system for our customers."

In addition to Roots & Shoots, Element Fresh - whose restaurants mostly center in Shanghai - also supports health charity Lifeline Shanghai. Both charitable partners were picked because of their local focus.

The World Disaster Reduction Day aims to draw attention to how scientific knowledge and experience can mitigate the deadly effects of natural disasters. Falling on the second Wednesday of every October, people worldwide engage in essay or photo competitions, community tree planting, conferences and parades to raise awareness.

In China, desertification has become a severe problem with almost 90 percent of natural grassland affected. The rate of desertification is increasing every year, resulting in more and more frequent sandstorms.

In the 1940s there was on average one sandstorm every three years, but by 2001 this had risen to 18 storms per year in northern China.

Inner Mongolia has been particularly affected with its desert expanding due to a combination of the greenhouse effect and unscientific exploitation of the land such as overgrazing and excessive farming.

The Million Tree Project plants trees in Kulunqi, Tongliao areas. The local population is intimately involved with every step of planting, maintaining and monitoring the trees, inspiring real grassroots participation.

Roots & Shoots was founded in 1991 by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. The program?was designed to educate youths about environmental issues and humanitarian values with a special focus on group interaction.

Starting in Tanzania with just 16 students, the group has spread to 100 countries and regions with a global network of 1,000 groups.


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