How Planting
Trees Offsets Carbon

Meaghan Weeden | July 21, 2020 | 4 min read

Planting Trees Helps to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

IF you’ve been paying attention to the climate crisis, you’re probably aware that humans are at least partially responsible — and that we release massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other Green House Gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere every year - around 40 billion tons. So what can you do to address your impact and flatten the carbon curve? You can begin by bringing more attention to your lifestyle and habits — and how much CO2 those activities release as a result.

What Is Your Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint refers to how much CO2 we produce in our day-to-day lives. The more energy you use, the bigger your carbon footprint — even if you’re far removed from the smoke stacks and power plants that combust fossil fuels and power our lives. So how can you lower your carbon footprint?

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO LOWER YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

Because our lifestyles and access to resources vary, carbon reduction looks different for everybody — but it's likely that if you look around and consider how you can reduce your carbon emissions, something will stand out as a clear next step. 

woman riding a bike

How do Carbon Offsets Work?

One solution that’s poorly understood but gets talked about a lot are carbon offsets, which essentially means paying for a process that is verified to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But how does this work? At the basic level, carbon offsets are a form of trade. You trade your hard earned dollars for the ability to offset any part of your carbon footprint that you can't avoid. Maybe you need to travel often for work, can’t afford to update your home right now, or live rurally and don’t have access to public transportation.

While the most effective action is to reduce your emissions in the first place, carbon offsets can offer a cost-effective way to lower your impact by creating a benefit for the planet and supporting Earth's natural filtration systems. Currently, carbon offsetting projects are based on the conservation of existing forests.

The trees are already in various stages of maturity and their carbon absorption is verified via an auditing process through which trees are checked annually at the start of a project and then again every several years. Auditors typically check some of the same trees every time they come to review the forest, as well as many other random trees in the designated plot of land.

Your payment goes towards ensuring those trees can continue to grow and suck up carbon without the risk of being cut down.

Planting Trees Will Sequester Carbon in the Future

Because trees use carbon dioxide to build their trunks, branches, roots and leaves, they are natural carbon absorbers and help to clean the air. In fact, one mature tree can absorb up to 22lbs per year during their first 20 years of growth! And the benefits don’t stop there: healthy trees hold the soil together, provide a home for wildlife, regulate temperatures, slow the flow of water through landscapes, grow vital foods and medicines, and more. 

But as awesome as tree planting is, any project is only as effective as the planning that goes into it. While it’s always important to prioritize trees that are native to a planting area, different species accumulate carbon at different rates. And while it may be tempting to plant fast growing trees that can absorb more in the short term, the better option is to plant a mix of fast and slow-growing trees to ensure steady and timely carbon sequestration. 

sunlight green forest

Forests and carbon sequestration

Based on our carbon calculation methodology, there's a range between 4.5 and 40.7 tons of Carbon Dioxide removed per year per hectare during the first 20 years of tree growth. The rate of removal depends on the location and type of forest and the statistic is measured on an area basis rather than a tree basis. This is a good approach because, of course, forests are composed of many types of trees. Furthermore, the initial trees planted during a restoration project may not be the same trees present 20 years later - some trees will die naturally, and some trees will regenerate naturally from seed in the soil or brought in by the wind or by animals.

That said, deciduous trees, like oak, are generally better at storing carbon than their coniferous counterparts because their wood is denser — but there are exceptions to this. Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine and Redwoods stand out amongst evergreens, and other species like London Plane, Teak, and Eucalyptus have also proven quite effective. When planting, careful balancing of ecological integrity and carbon sequestration capability is essential to ensure the success of the project — and the effectiveness of your offsets.

So all we need to do is plant more trees, right? Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. While reforestation is an essential part of an effective climate change mitigation strategy, it’s important to note that planting trees alone won’t fix the climate crisis.

Equally as important is forest conservation, reducing our emissions, and prioritizing planetary health. It's all interconnected, and we should be taking all of these actions to reduce our collective global greenhouse gas emissions.

Because of the many factors that go into planting trees for carbon reduction, it’s important to work with reputable organizations to ensure that your dollars don’t go to waste. Want to start helping the planet? Consider planting trees with us today!

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. This project is currently supporting AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Initiative. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Provide jobs to minimize poverty in local communities
  • Improve climate change resilience & mitigation
  • Restore forest cover to improve food security
  • Africa is home to the world's second-largest tropical rainforest. The Congo Basin is home to 60% of the continent's biodiversity. However, unfortunately, Africa is alarmingly at risk due to the current deforestation rate - which is 4 times the global deforestation rate. Not only does this threaten the livelihoods of its local communities, but it also affects the planet as a whole.
    Thanks to AFR100, Africa is on a mission to reverse these trends and restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030. This country-led effort will bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. This initiative aims to accelerate restoration to enhance food security, increase climate change resilience and mitigation and combat rural poverty. This includes 32 participating countries in Africa, along with local communities, national governments, public and private sector partners, and international development programs.
  • Planting trees in Africa reaps multiple benefits! Notably, reforestation here will help to add nutrients to the soil and control erosion, minimize poverty within local communities through the creation of jobs, and improve food security by feeding impoverished families through the planting of fruit trees. Ultimately, added forest cover in this region will diminish pressure on remaining forests, allowing for biodiversity to flourish and ultimately helping with the global climate crisis.
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • We will plant an array of indigenous tree species throughout Africa, such as Senegalia polyacantha, Faidherbia albida, Albizia adianthifolia, Persea americana, Calliandra calothyrsus, Macadamia spp., shea, and mahogany. Fruit trees will also be planted, which include mango, orange, tangerine, avocado, apple, guava, and Brazil nut.

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