Toasted Earth

Digital Humani: Tim Davenport

September 01, 2021 Michelle Cunningham Season 1 Episode 14
Toasted Earth
Digital Humani: Tim Davenport
Show Notes Transcript

This episode features Tim Davenport, one of the early team members and a Solutions Architect at Digital Humani. Digital Humani is a non-profit organization that provides a simple and easy to use API to help connect websites and mobile apps to trusted reforestation organizations to have trees planted.

Tim was looking for a way to use his skills to help the environment when he came across the organization and joined founder Jonathan Villiard during the early days. Since then their distributed team has grown into the double digits, spanning several countries and has enabled the planting of over 50 thousand trees with Digital Humani.

Michelle and Tim discuss why trees are important for the planet and how e-commerce and other companies can use the Digital Humani API to make it easy to plant trees when their customers take an action online.

Relevant links:
https://www.digitalhumani.com

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/toastedearth)

Michelle Cunningham:

Hello and welcome to the Toasted Earth podcast, a show about founders, visionaries and environmentalists pursuing novel ideas in sustainability to, ultimately, save the earth. Im your host, Michelle Cunningham and for todays episode, we have Tim Davenport, one of the early team members and a Solutions Architect at Digital Humani. Digital Humani is a non-profit organization that provides a simple and easy to use API to help connect websites and mobile apps to trusted reforestation organizations to have trees planted. Tim was looking for a way to use his skills to help the environment when he came across the organization and joined founder Jonathan Villiard during the early days. Since then their distributed team has grown into the double digits, spanning several countries and has enabled the planting of over 50,000 trees with Digital Humani.

Tim Davenport:

About two years ago, I started getting more interested in sustainability and climate change and I wanted to find a way of using my skills towards helping in those areas. And then kind of last summer, I came across a slack group called climateaction.tech. And I joined it. And I introduced myself and then Jonathan Villiard, who's the founder of Digital Humani, he saw my intro, and he sent me a message if asking me if I was interested in joining, and I was and here we are kind of thing. So yeah, that's, that's, that's how I got into it really.

Michelle Cunningham:

What were you doing professionally before that?

Tim Davenport:

I've worked in like IT roles for the last 20 years. So at the moment, I'm a solutions architect, but I have I've worked in software engineering as well and stuff. So yeah, that's, that's kind of my background. So I do similar. That's the kind of thing I do Digital Humani as well. So that's the kind of area I work in.

Michelle Cunningham:

When you first learned about Digital Humani, what were you hoping you could contribute to the team?

Tim Davenport:

I just wanted to use my my skills in terms of because of all the other roles I've had in the past, like professionally, they've been kind of, I mean, I have worked for, like, charities before and stuff. So I just wanted to bring some technical capability on the table, because like, I just feel like usually, nonprofits and charities, they don't get the cream of the cut sort of thing. So I mean, I'm not saying I'm outstanding engineer or anything like that, I just, you know, I just felt that they probably need a helping hand. And that's kind of like what I wanted to do.

Michelle Cunningham:

And what does Digital Humani do, what were they doing at the time when you joined?

Tim Davenport:

So Digital Humani we pretty much focus on reforestation at the moment. So we have a service called reforestation, while Raz, which is reforestation, as a service. And that's an API that allows basically connects businesses to reforestation organizations around the world, and different projects. So since I joined this, we've kind of worked on the service a little bit more a little bit more features. So yeah, it's kind of like grown from from there. It was quite simple when I first started, and we've just built on it, really. So it's, it's nice to see it come come to life, as it were.

Michelle Cunningham:

So your service provides an API, which gives, like software developers an opportunity to go through you to get to these reforestation abilities. So they can basically say something like, hey, something happened in my app, I want to plant a tree, they go through your API and are able to connect to some reforestation group that will actually plant a tree. Right?

Tim Davenport:

Correct. Yeah, that's it. That's exactly right. Yeah. Yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

Why is planting trees so important? It sounds like a dumb question. But let's get into it. Like, why? Why do we need these trees?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah. So I mean, I think I think trees are, I mean, the obvious thing here is, trees are very good at capturing carbon, and storing it. and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere obviously, helps us fight global warming. But then trees also have some other benefits, like they can prevent flooding, and they can help reduce temperatures in city areas and things like that. But then also, there's other benefits as well, like, obviously, they when we plant trees, we're creating jobs for people when people have to plant trees on the ground that creates jobs, and, and happiness as well. So I don't know if you if you're aware that, for example, in Japan, they do do something called tree bathing, which is called they call it shinrin. Yoku, but just by being around trees, it can help de stress and boost the well being and all that just by being around tree. So trees are amazing things, you know, really awesome on all on all fronts, really. So yeah, there's a few things that you look forward to when you plant trees.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, I didn't know that about Japan. That's cool that they do that. When you were looking for something to join to be able to give your skills back to some cause was trees in particular something you were interested in? Or did you just kind of like happen upon that and then realize, like, that was a cool idea.

Tim Davenport:

I To be honest, I wasn't really specifically looking for reforestation. I mean, I, I would gladly have taken like any any kind of sustainability or climate change related project on board sort of thing. But, you know, the more I've worked with reforestation, the more I kind of, the more I've learned about it, you know, the market relate to, I think it's, you know, it's a really, it's really interesting, actually, really interesting practice to do.

Michelle Cunningham:

What role does it play in the fight against climate change, like, compared to the other things that we could be doing to fight climate change?

Tim Davenport:

I think that, like, reforestation is one of the, I guess, it's like a quite cost effective way of fighting climate change, because it's trees captured carbon naturally, you know, it's nature's own way of capturing carbon, that kind of thing. So there's, there's not a lot of science behind it. So it's quite simple from that point of view. And, you know, it's, it's, it's a simple concept as well. So, yeah, I think I think that's probably what why reforestation is is as important as what it is.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah. It's kind of one of the, like, most basic, just natural things. Like the earth just gave it to us, right? You guys breathe out carbon dioxide. We have these other things over here that just take it right in. Like, the way the, like the environment creates this symbiotic relationship between things. It's very cool. Well, I'd love to jump in a little bit to the tech behind Digital Humani. Explain an API for everyone out there. What does that even mean?

Tim Davenport:

Right, well, okay. So API itself stands for application programming interface, which probably doesn't mean much more to most listeners over and above what API means. But you can think of, you can think of an API as a contract that tells you how you can use a service, the functionality that it gives, and the data that's involved. So that's kind of like the it's the Yeah, it's a contract between the users and the consumers and the service.

Michelle Cunningham:

If a developer comes in and they want to use your API, what do they do?

Tim Davenport:

So in our case, it's quite simple. So first thing you do is you sign up to our website, and you create an account. And then as part of that, we will give you your own private API keys. And it's those API keys that give you access to the contract that I kind of, you know, the API, what you do then is there's like just a few lines of code that you have to drop into your own site, or the point at which you want to request trees to be planted for your chosen project. And from a technical point of view, that's really as simple as it is. There's there's not much more to it than that. And then kind of like every month, you'll get a an email or notification from us saying that you have requested X amount of trees, Is this correct? And if you say yes, then we will send that amount to your reforestation organization that you're working with. And then they will bill you directly. So Oh, yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

Oh, yeah. I was always kind of wondering how you guys did the payment part of it.

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, we don't Yeah, we just we just, we just take the request for trees. And we we pass that information on to the reforestation organisations. So we don't, at least at the moment, we don't handle any kind of money as it were also, transparent from that point of view.

Michelle Cunningham:

But that is probably maybe it doesn't matter. I was just thinking like, from a tax standpoint, it is good for people to be able to donate directly to like a nonprofit, right? So that they can get a tax deduction, at least here in the US. But you guys are also a nonprofit. Correct. So maybe it wouldn't matter if you actually went through you.

Tim Davenport:

We became an official nonprofit just earlier this year. So yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

Oh, very cool. What are some examples of ways that people have used your API to plant trees?

Tim Davenport:

I think the most common situation is an e commerce site, where the merchant will sell up sorry, request X number of trees to be planted for every every order or every other order either assured or that kind of thing. And we've actually been discussing discussing like integrations for some platforms recently for things like Shopify and Squarespace. Oh, cool. So that's kind of like something that we're kind of working at the moment. One of our customers actually built a integration for Magento as well, which is quite cool. Magento i think is another ecommerce platform. And but then we have some other use cases as well. So usually, it's something like we'll plant a tree for every referral of that feedback form that you submit. And then we have some more specialist ones as well, for example, where a customer will offset carbon produced from charging electric vehicles through our API, that kind of thing. So there's, there's there's a few different things. But usually it's an e commerce site or something similar to that where we get involved with it.

Michelle Cunningham:

That's awesome. It's always neat to hear, like, how people use these things because API's are so like, they're just like a powerful tool. Right? But it's really whoever is the person integrating with it is turning it into a use case that's actually used.

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, absolutely. And like the API as well, like, because there's, it's like a back end function. So it gives you as the customer the freedom to come up with however, whichever way you can think of using it to plant trees in different innovative ways. And you're just making it work for you really.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So when the trees are planted like that, those are done by a different group of some reforestation organization, how are you choosing which organizations to work with?

Tim Davenport:

So currently, we work with seven different reforestation organizations. So that's like, it's one tree planted, we work with them, Chase Africa, test, sustainable harvest international conserve National Forest, hunting ondemand.org, and community forests International. These are all either nonprofits or you know, charities, etc. And, and one of the primary reasons we work with these guys is because of basically fairness, transparency, and a simple process, they all kind of have this pricing model of $1 per tree. So it just makes it a little bit easier, a little more transparent, like I say, to kind of offer the service. I think it puts like all the organizations or at least reforestation organizations on like a level playing field when it comes to the service. And yeah, like I said, but they're also like, either nonprofits or charities, and that just, you know, aligns with our own ethics and values in terms of, you know, put in the greater good of a sustainable planet before profit, really. So yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

Does the user or developer do they get to choose which organization their I guess requests go to? Or is it kind of just random, you guys are picking?

Tim Davenport:

No, no, the customer or the developer has complete control over that. We can also do like a, something, what we call wherever it's needed the most type thing where we'll plant trees on request, wherever they needed the most at the time. But you have complete control over where you want to plant your trees. Yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

And wherever they're needed the most. Is that based on location, that's, like, how do you know where where that is?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah. So we get that information from the reforestation organizations, they'll basically tell us, yeah, that just goes wherever it's needed at that time.

Michelle Cunningham:

So you, you guys, like like you mentioned earlier, you became a nonprofit. Everyone who's working on Digital Humani is a volunteer, I believe. How did you all come together? How did you get this group together to volunteer and build this service that can help people plant trees and make a difference?

Tim Davenport:

Yes, good question. Interesting, really, because, like most of us, I've got scooped up by Jonathan, the founder on the climate action dot tech slack group. So he's a, he's an excellent recruiter. He keeps his eyes open there. And but I think from a contribution point of view, the idea behind digital humanity and rise is rasterized is quite simple, it's effective. And at least for me, it was quite easy, very easy to get into and sort of buy into. And I'd imagine some other volunteers working on the project would probably agree along the same lines as well. And, like, one thing to add to that thing as well is that I think it's quite cool. It's amazing that we have volunteers from all over the globe pulling together. Like we've got volunteers from Canada, US, UK, Germany, Holland, New Zealand. We just had somebody start recently from Singapore. And for me, it's just a, you know, nice showcase of how, you know, people who managed to come can come together at times of need. team meetings are a bit of a challenge when you have so many time zones to tackle but yeah, we enjoy it's, it's quite cool.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, that's great that people are volunteering their time, because they care about the environment and actually being able to make a difference and like, like you are, contribute their expertise to doing that. What, what does it mean to be a volunteer? I imagine this isn't quite the same as having a full time job. What what are you guys each contributing in terms of time in terms of, I guess what you do?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah. So I mean, it's on a case by case basis. Everybody has their own personal, you know, It's situations and, you know, most of us are in full time, full time employment as well. So it's a case of, you know, finding an hour or half an hour, or whatever it is, on an evening or a weekend, I usually chip away on an evening after work whenever I can. But I think it's it's kind of also nice as well, from the point of view that there is no, you know, strings attached as it were. So it's like, if you don't feel like doing it one evening, or whatever, if you got other things on, you know, there's no pressure at all. And I mean, in some ways, I think that kind of, in a weird way, when you don't have that pressure, it kind of encourages, encourages you more to get involved, and kind of, because, you know, you can just do whatever you can, and you know, people will appreciate it. So, yes, it's quite nice from that point of view as well. It works both ways.

Michelle Cunningham:

I'd love to hear a little bit about what you guys are going to do next, what, what's like on the roadmap for Digital Humani?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, so in the short term, our plans will include further improvements to the to the REST API. So we'll be working on things like making billing a little bit more straightforward. We're looking to make some integrations a little bit easier as well, for example, those ecommerce platforms that I kind of mentioned already, Shopify and things like that, in the short term as well, because we're kind of masters of our own destiny, we have a lot of kind of, there's a lot of incentive to kind of do some refactoring work as well, that's where we go back to the code and you know, just fix some things that we kind of might have left a little bit half done previous, then just go back and fix things around things like that, that's usually quite hard to achieve in a in a normal environment. And another thing that we're working on recently started working on is like data insights. So that's where we kind of look at the data that we've captured about resource tree planting requests, and things like that, and see if we can get some insights out of the data that will help us kind of steer us in the right direction with using like data as the as the as the guide and the measure, and that kind of thing. And then like, personally, I think longer term, I think we'll end up extending into other sustainability areas, which could include some of the ones outlined by the United Nations. So the United Nations sustainability goals. You know, reforestation is just one of the ways we can support those goals. But we have like recently, well, in the past, we have talked about, you know, it wouldn't be great if we could make my own vaccinations for kids, or food for the hungry or mosquito nets or something like that. Take that and make it as easy as what we have made, you know, planting trees as easy as that kind of thing. And do it through technology. And I think that's kind of, you know, fits with the with the label, you know, digital humanity. So, you know, Techno, yeah, digital humanity. So yeah, that's, it's kind of in the name as well. So,

Michelle Cunningham:

Well, I imagine the way your systems built, it doesn't really seem like that big of a stretch to go into other areas. Because I mean, you probably have to get other organizations on board to do the actual thing that it would do.

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think I think you've hit the nail on the head. Yeah, we would have to definitely kind of find organizations that would be interested in that kind of thing. And, and sort of take it from there. But the concepts is, as you said, very similar to what it is with, with RaaS.

Michelle Cunningham:

Well, you mentioned data. What is your impact so far? Is that something you can measure? Do you have any idea of like, how many trees have been planted? Like, how you guys have actually contributed to helping climate change?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, we do know that. Yeah, we. So just a few months ago, we hit 50,000 trees planted since the service went into production. I think we're currently something at something like 58,000 trees planted. The outlook for the rest of the year is is positive, potentially going, you know, moving moving at a steady pace towards 100,000 trees planted? So yeah, we've kind of it's kind of exponential as well. So it was trickling in for a while, and then it kind of started get a bit bigger. And, and, and now Yeah, we're coming in steady now. So the tree planting requests, so it's really good to see that it's kind of you know, taking off as it were.

Michelle Cunningham:

That's amazing. That's 10s of 1000s of trees. That's awesome. Yeah, like, you know, a big impact. And yeah, like you said, it probably will continue to grow exponentially, just based on each new developer you get isn't like just one tree being planted. It's whatever service they're providing, and like all their customers now having like this ability to plant trees through whatever action that happens in their site, or app. Yeah. Are there other API's out there like this? Or you guys like the one to do it?

Tim Davenport:

I think there are other API's that are very similar to ours. I don't know much about them. If I'm on But I do know that there's like others out there that are doing either the same thing or a similar thing. But you know, it's, you know, it's it's we take in our stride kind of thing. It's, you know, it's great that, you know, there's others out there that are thinking along the same lines. It's completely cool. You know? So it's, it's great to see, actually.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, I mean, I guess it all contributes to the same goal. Right? Absolutely. Yeah. More trees being planted in the environment. Yeah. Awesome. You laid out some some plans for where you guys would like to go next? What do you think are the biggest challenges to making those plans happen?

Tim Davenport:

Yeah, for us, I think there's potentially quite a few. But I mean, I think one of the biggest challenges, which isn't unique to us, to be fair, I think it's time. So obviously, you know, according to the, to the scientists, and the, you know, especially the, the recent report as well, you know, the kind of running out of time, when it comes to climate change and sustainability. And in our case, obviously, because most of us are volunteers, including me, you know, when we're full time employment can be hard to find the time to, and the self discipline to commit that time, say, an hour, or whatever it is, on an evening or a weekend. Because, you know, you know, unfortunately, we still have to have our own bills paid and stuff like that. Digital Humani not kind of making the money to, to at least yet to hir people on a full time bas s. So I think we'll, we'll end it will continue being con trained on that front, but you know, I'm sure will, you wil get over that challenge.

Michelle Cunningham:

Are you looking to bring on more volunteers to help?

Tim Davenport:

We're always looking for volunteers. Yeah, we welcome anybody who wants to join technical or non technical? Yeah.

Michelle Cunningham:

What are th skill sets that you need?

Tim Davenport:

So if you want to be technical, you know, obviously, API's understanding of API's, cloud technology, programming, language wise, we got JavaScript, a little bit of Python, that kind of thing, non technical wise, you know, digital creators or marketing, analysis skills. So it's like the whole whole spectrum of really like, you know, information technology. And like I said, we will always welcome people to come on board and take part. It's never, there's never really a problem for us. Or, you know, hasn't been so far. Anyway.

Michelle Cunningham:

Awesome. And you mentioned before that you guys aren't quite at the point where you could pay someone to, like full time be on the team, but are you making money? Is there a way that Digital Humani is able to bring n funds to help, I guess, li e, keep the server's up, but a so potentially someday have full time team members?

Tim Davenport:

Yes, at the moment, all the money that we get is, is goes towards running, keeping this service running, we get, because we're a nonprofit, we get certain benefits, like, you know, credits or free accounts to certain services and things like that. But yeah, it all goes, it's currently all funded through donations, or credits that we get through being a nonprofit,

Michelle Cunningham:

Well, how can our listeners help? What can what can they do to make these challenges that you're facing, whether it's in terms of time r anything else, how can they ake that easier for you guys?

Tim Davenport:

Tell the world about us. If you know, like if somebody knows if someone who runs an ecommerce site, or something like that little bit sustainably minded, then perhaps they'd like to sign up to the service. So, you know, I've looked on the website and sign up. Or, you know, if somebody knows if somebody who's a dab hand that with technology, or works in it or something like that, and wants to take part then, you know, again, give us a shout, we're always looking at, like I said, we're always on the lookout for passionate, skillful folk to kind of help us out. And then the final thing, obviously, is, is donation. So if anybody out there can can help us financially by giving a donation, then yeah, we'll accept those as well. And there's information on the website on all these points. So yeah, have a look on digital umani.com and, and see if you ca , you know, if there's an thing you can do for us th

Michelle Cunningham:

Well, bef re we sign off, we like to end every episode with a toast to th earth. What do you hope for ou planet's future

Tim Davenport:

May it live long nd prosper. I hope I hope m re people will make a connect on with Earth, and all he wonderful things we find he e. And I hope we all learn to l ve in harmony with the earth nd give it the rightful resp ct that it deserv

Michelle Cunningham:

Thanks for listening to the show today. If you love this show, please leave us a review wherever you listen o podcasts. You can learn more about Digital Humani by v siting digitalhumani.com that d-i-g-i-t-a-l-h-u-m-a-n-i dot c m or visit our show notes t toastedearth.com for more link and details about this epi ode. If youre currently wo king on an idea, company, n n-profit or movement to benefit he environment, send us an mail at hello@toastedearth.c m, we would love to hear from you. Raise a glass to the eart everyone, its the only one weve got.