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WHAT IF YOU COULD BREATHE, EAT AND DRINK YOUR FREQUENT FLYER MILES GUILT FREE?

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When Justin Brothers, one of the Producers of the Envision Festival in Costa Rica, asked me to write an article about what ACCT does,  I wondered what  I could say that would resonate with this jet setting, fun loving, and mantra murmuring crowd.  Non profit Association Community Carbon Trees- Costa Rica has been working with the ENVISION FESTIVAL since it’s inception 5 years ago in an effort to provide a way for people attending the event to offset their carbon dioxide emitted from the airplanes, trains, and automobiles used to travel to the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. Envision’s example of giving back to the local and global community has set the stage for other festivals to be more environmentally aware not just about their footprint for the festival itself, but also for the planet as a whole due to the countless environmental services and sustainable products rainforest trees so generously give us. Trees do so much for us from sucking up excess carbon dioxide to recycling thousands of gallons of rainwater each year, to providing food, medicine and products. With so many amazing qualities, it is hard to focus on just one reason why we love rainforest trees.

Tree Jenny at Envision 2015!
Tree Jenny at Envision 2015!

Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions from people at the festival  is HOW do the trees do their magic? Most people know a little about photosynthesis, that amazing atmospheric chemical exchange occurring in green plants which forms the basis of our symbiotic relationship with them. Humans exhale CO2 constantly, as do land based animals, and many fossil fuel consuming machines and factories. Trees breathe in CO2 and store the carbon molecule while literally recycling our pollution into the oxygen we breathe and the water we drink.

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This mutually reciprocal relationship is nothing short of amazing as it provides for our most fundamental needs. Carbon is not the enemy.  In fact, Paul Hawken, esteemed environmentalist, reminds  us that carbon is an  extraordinary element we need to hold hands with and collaborate.   We need to fall in love with carbon.

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I say we need to fall in love with rainforest trees too. Because they truly do hold hands with carbon and turn it into food for growth. Nevertheless, tree services often go unnoticed and taken for granted.  That old cliche “Save the Rainforest” never really worked and now we have so much carbon in the air that it has become a menace to society and no one really has invented a better way than a tropical tree near the Equator to absorb it and give us so much back in return.

Let’s go deeper. How do we calculate how much carbon dioxide is captured by any tree? It depends on  the growth characteristics of the tree species, the conditions for growth where the tree is planted, and the density of the tree’s wood.  In other words, how big and hard does the tree grow over time? Where is the tree located and how old is it? Carbon offset  is greatest within 10 degrees of the Equator and in the younger stages of tree growth, between 20 to 50 years.  This is why it is so important for every tree we plant to “keep on living and giving” which makes our long term, paid community farmer rainforest management and conservation program critical to real success.

2.5 year old tree! Look how big!
2.5 year old tree! Look how big!

Do you want to go even deeper?  Of course, all trees planted anywhere are wonderful and generous. But when you start calculating the real carbon sequestration of any given tree, those growing within 10 degrees of the Equator out perform all others because they grow 365 days a year with no real dormant cold season. Here is a basic outline of how the calculation works. First, we determine the total (green) weight of the tree by determining   “W” = Above-ground weight of the tree in pounds, “D” = Diameter of the trunk in inches and H = Height of the tree in feet.  Fn3

Then we determine the dry weight of the tree. This is based on extensive publications with  tables for average weights for one cord of wood for different temperate and tropical tree species. Taking all species in the table into account, the average tree is 72.5% dry matter and 27.5% moisture.Therefore, to determine the dry weight of the tree, multiply the weight of the tree by 72.5%.

Next, we determine  the weight of carbon in the tree.  The average carbon content is generally 50% of the tree’s total volume. Therefore, to determine the weight of carbon in the tree, multiply the dry weight of the tree by 50%.

Determine the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree. CO2 is composed of one molecule of Carbon and 2 molecules of Oxygen.

The atomic weight of Carbon is 12.001115.

The atomic weight of Oxygen is 15.9994.

The weight of CO2 is C+2*O=43.999915.

The ratio of CO2 to C is 43.999915/12.001115=3.6663.

Therefore, to determine the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree, multiply the weight of carbon in the tree by 3.6663.6

Finally, determine the weight of CO2 sequestered in the tree per year. To do this, we divide the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree by the age of the tree.

EXAMPLES

Estimated growth rates and sizes of agroforestry trees were taken from the World Agroforestry Centre’s “Agroforestree Database”:

Let’s see how much a Calliandra calothyrsus ( small leguminous tree native to Central America) might sequester in a year. A 10-year-old Calliandra would probably grow about 15 feet tall with a trunk about 8 inches in diameter. Therefore:

W = 0.25D2H = 0.25(82)(15) = 240 lbs. green weight above ground.

240 lbs. * 120% = 288 lbs. green weight (roots included) 288 lbs. * 72.5% = 208.8 lbs. dry weight
208.8 lbs. * 50% = 104.4 lbs. carbon
104.4 lbs * 3.6663 = 382.8 lbs. CO2 sequestered

382.8 lbs / 10 years = 38.3 lbs. CO2 sequestered per year

If nothing else, it becomes very clear that it is not enough to just plant the tree. Every single tree must be lovingly tended, especially the first four years if it is to grow up over the cattle grasses and form a biodiverse forest canopy to give us maximum environmental benefits.  Each one of these diverse trees contributes over 200 pounds of biomass each year to rebuild soils on deforested cattle farms participating in our programs.  Based on the number of trees Envision has sponsored to date, just picture more than 74,600 pounds of fresh new topsoil added from falling branches, leaves and animal droppings where it used to be just hot mess of cattle grass and erosion! But wait. There’s more! Each tree transpires or recycles  over 200  gallons of  rainwater each year.  By the time the trees reach 20 years old, they have formed a canopy which transpires  over 20,000 gallons of water per acre per year. That is a big deal with the ongoing drought and flood conditions plaguing our planet due to deforestation and unusually higher temperatures year after year.

Local Costa Ricans participating with us, both workers and host farm family members, all paid labor, chop cattle grasses and choking vegetation away from the  base of each and every tree and its perimeter 3 to 4 times per year the first two years, 2 times during the 3rd year and 2 times  the 4th year. This means the majority of the money from each ACCT  sponsorship is going out to the community to make sure each and every tree grows to maturity which is at least 25 years for the carbon sequestration numbers to be real.

ACCT work crews of men and women and volunteers!
ACCT work crews of men and women and volunteers!

ACCT distinguishes itself from most other tree planting groups by allocating money and management to the follow up care of every single tree. We even replace any trees that die the first 4 years. What’s more, we plant a huge diversity of trees. And we do not buy the land either, but rather empower local farmers to work on their own land which means less deforestation.  Through local job creation, ACCT cultivates greater chances of long term rainforest regeneration and conservation.  Social justice has a huge role to play in keeping rainforest standing for future generations.

IMG_0515My,  how we have all grown! As of planting season 2015,  just 5 years after our birth, 16 different family farms are participating in our ACCT forestry programs. Over the past 5 years, Envision Festival has grown as well. They have sponsored 373 trees for Future Generations with a projected measurable carbon offset of at least 373 tons of CO2 over a 25 year period.  We could break down these numbers  to yearly calculations, but given the long term nature of our work and commitment and dedication to forest management, the 25 year cycle is a more fair analysis based on a per tree basis.

So if you are traveling to Envision Festival this coming year 2016, or still want to offset your CO2 from previous years, or even other festivals or events, you can safely calculate that 1 tropical tree will absorb approximately 1 ton of CO2 plus give us all of the other benefits mentioned. We really do hold a powerful, socially just solution in the palm of our hands. And ACCT loves to do the dirty work with our community of men and women! Every single tree does makes a difference.   You have an important role to play. If not you, then who? Envision the forest we are planting. It is real and we need your help!

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ACCT thru the carbon offset button on the Envision website EnvisionFestival.com. You can also  post your pic and testimonial and receive a Carbon Certificate through our interactive website www.CommunityCarbonTrees-CostaRica.com. We  are the change we seek. ACCT now!

1 http://www.rcfa-cfan.org/english/issues.13.html

2 The National Computational Science Leadership Program http://www.ncsec.org/cadre2/team18_2/students/purpose.html and The Shodor Education Foundation

3 “Total-Tree Weight, Stem Weight, and Volume Tables for Hardwood Species in the Southeast,” Alexander Clark III, Joseph R. Saucier, and W. Henry McNab, Research Division, Georgia Forestry Commission, January 1986.

Chave J, Muller-Landau H, Baker TR, EasdaleTA, ter Steege H and Webb CO. 2006. Regional and phylogenetic variation of wood density across 2456 neotropical tree species.  Ecological Applications 16:2356-2367.

Vallejo A, Hernadez PC. 2006.  Database of  observations of Central American species and generic models of growth. Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenaza, CATIE, COsta Rica.

4 “Heating With Wood: Producing, Harvesting and Processing Firewood,” Scott DeWald, Scott Josiah, and Becky Erdkamp, University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, March 2005.
http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1554/build/g1554.pdf

Chave J, Muller-Landau H, Baker TR, EasdaleTA, ter Steege H and Webb CO. 2006. Regional and phylogenetic variation of wood density across 2456 neotropical tree species.  Ecological Applications 16:2356-2367.

5.  “Carbon Storage and Accumulation in United States Forest Ecosystems, General Technical Report W0- 59,” Richard A. Birdsey, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA, August 1992.

http://www.ilea.org/birdsey/fcarbon_index.html#toc

http://www.ncsec.org/cadre2/team18_2/students/helpCalcCO2.htm

http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/Sites/TreeDBS/aft.asp

 

Did I change the World? I hope so…

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The little things really do count. And so does every single tree you sponsor. You never know how your contribution, even if you feel it is small, can indeed change the world…and by doing so change yourself.

Let me share the story of Takashi Suzuki with you. At the end of 2014, I awoke to a message from Paypal informing me about a new tree Sponsor. This is always an exciting moment since it is the way we fund our community reforestation work. But this time, the message was different. The Sponsor’s name was in a foreign language and a foreign alphabet!

“Hello …

I received your tree sponsorship this am. I must say it was most exciting to see the totally different written alphabet that represents the language of your name… may I ask where are you from? You will be the first person from your country I do believe to sponsor a tree! This gives me hope that what we are doing is getting out into the world. It has been very hard to create a carbon consciousness movement but all of a sudden, I see more and more people waking up and actually doing something to reduce and offset their carbon footprints. One way to do that is by sponsoring a tree. Thank you ever so much. Your tree is already planted in Finca Asdrual Planting Season 2014. We are updating our website this weekend and I am glad to say that new photos will be posted in the planting gallery. This way you can see all of the growth of your tree and the Costa Rican workers who are tending it. We depend on our Sponsors to help us keep paying our workers to plant and care for the trees… it is a global communal effort and YOU are now a part of it. THANK YOU.  Sincerely, JENNY P.S. PLEASE Share us with your friends!!! We have Facebook too!”

Just hours later, I received the following reply…

“I’m from Japan. I’m surprised that I’m the first japanese person who sponsor a tree. Global environmental problems have been getting worth. If nothing is done, this world is doomed to distraction…..maybe it’s too late. I’d like to see the world where humanity and nature coexist harmoniously. That’s why I decided to sponsor a tree. I want to plant more trees, so I will donate my money to your organization soon.”

Oh wow, I exclaimed,  “now we have a person in Japan who has sponsored a tree. And says he will sponsor more…” My heart swelled as I wrote back.

“Thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes, many people are shocked to learn that we are not receiving a lot of tree sponsorships each day. IN fact, quite the opposite, we are still struggling to get the word out about our work and how much it helps the planet, animals and people on so many multiple levels. It is about way more than just absorbing extra CO2. In emerging economies, especially those near the Equator, like Costa Rica, we have to find reasons to convince people living near vulnerable rainforest not to cut it down. Experience has taught us that creating dignified tree planting jobs can transform lifetime cattle farmers into conservationists with sustainable rainforest business opportunities. It is good. We do see progress as we plant more trees with more participating families.

And we also see progress because YOU, Takashi Suzuki, found us. And YOU Takashi took that extra step and reviewed our work, believed in us and gave us $25 of your hard earned money. Yes! First person from Japan. It only takes a spark to get a fire going…Thank you again…Jenny”

I thought that was the end of my correspondence with Takashi. But the next morning, I awoke and found the next email from Takashi.

“I’ve just realized that I made a mistake in my previous message. Global environmental problems have been getting worse. Not “getting worth.” I’m sorry for a stupid mistake.  I made another donation. I hope it can help you and your community. By the way, Jenny is an energetic woman. Why do I know? Because I watched her YouTube channel. I wish I could be like that. I’m a weak person. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I wish that I can make difference. Thank you. Takashi”

I was humbled by Takashi’s second donation and inspired to work ever harder to always deserve the trust of special people like Takashi… so I wrote back again…

“Hello Takashi,

This is Jenny again! Thank You. Believe me, YOU are making a difference Takashi. Your two trees will grow and capture over 2 tons of CO2 just for starters. Your two trees add up with the trees of so many other Sponsors from around the globe to grow new biodiverse forests on dead deforested land owned by Costa Rican cattle farmers struggling to survive. I think you are strong and compassionate for being able to donate money because not everyone can or will do that. I believe we all have our very special role to play… our own mission in life. It does not have to be a huge one. We are lucky if we can find something important to us that serves others. I feel lucky that I get to do what I do. Not everyone can or even wants to do the “jumping around” and getting dirty and sweaty Jenny part! So, feel good about what YOU do and let’s both keep doing our unique parts. We need each other. All of us are in this together. You are wonderful TAKASHI. YOU MADE MY DAY! THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!Have an awesome day! JENNYWE LOVE TREES!”

All this letter writing happened on Friday. After a long weekend of continued website update and revisions, I awoke Monday morning to another encouraging Takashi tree sponsorship and message!

“Hello! I donated my money again. I think this time was the third time for me to a sponsor tree. I noticed that my name was disappeared from Sponsors Gallery. What happened? Is there a problem in my transaction? I checked my paypal account. It said that my transaction was completed. I hope there’s no problem. Or…maybe you don’t like me. That’s fine. Thank you. Takashi”

Now it was my turn again.

“Hey Takashi!!

Thank you so much tree friend! I woke up about 30 minutes ago and saw your third donation! Thank you!! Yes, Takashi we love you! In fact, we love your Sponsor Gallery postings! Yes, you are changing the world one tree at a time. Not sure if you noticed but we are updating our website to Mobile friendly! We also noticed that between Friday and today, the online Sponsor Gallery dropped whoever donated at the end of week. We contacted our web wizard and he is repairing this today! It should all be back up by tonight. IN the meantime, YOU, Takashi are my favorite sponsor on the planet right now! I cannot believe you sponsored another tree!! First time this has ever happened!

I would love to write my very first new blog article about our experience back and forth? Is that ok?? Would you mind a picture of yourself? If not I put some other picture! You are so special! Blessings from Costa Rica on a sunny morning! Jenny”

So Takashi writes back one more time…

“I know that you changed your webpage design, so I assumed that your website had some problems when my name was disappeared from Sponsors Gallery. I hope your website will be fixed soon.  To tell you the truth, I’m happy to be able to make donation to your organization. I do not care if my name was disappeared or not. What I was worried is that you could receive my donation. That’s why I sent a message to you. It seems that our transaction are fine. Please take care of trees. Thank you! Takashi”

My turn: “Yes Takashi, Our transactions are fine! We received all three sponsorships… And I loved your testimonial in the Sponsor Gallery. We will make sure all the comments are posted. Yesterday, I went to see your trees on Finca Asdrual with the workers who recently cleaned them. These trees were planted in July and have been tended twice this year. So far we only found 5 dead trees out of 750 planted and we already replaced them.  I’ll be posting all these pictures in the planting gallery this week. So go check it out!! Yipppeee we love trees! Pura vida, Jenny”

And Takashi replies…

“I’m really looking forward to see pictures!! What kind of tree are you going to plant in July? I don’t know about tree…so even if you tell me tree’s name, I can’t understand. Maybe I should study about botany.

I respect your job because planting tree looks very difficult. Have a nice day!”

This kind of interchange with our tree Sponsors is a wonderful occurrence. It means so much to us that someone in Japan found us and took the time to write us! When we see how much people actually care that their trees are being maintained and loved long-term,  it also lightens the load. It feels good  when people thank us and congratulate us and recognize how hard our work is. Three donations almost in five days from someone clear across the planet who we do not even know is such a strong stroke of encouragement for our entire hard-working team.  Thank you Takashi, You are changing the world with your example of how much the little things count!

Until next time… Reap what you sow. We love trees!