So, you want to cut your carbon footprint? Where to start? Drop the plane for the train, cut out the burgers, switch to green energy, swap the light bulbs for LEDs – yup, all the above. But short of becoming the 21st century equivalent of a foraging monk, chances are you’ll still be responsible for the odd tonne or two of CO2.
So, what to do? One answer, of course, is to offset: to ensure your unavoidable emissions are balanced by corresponding cuts elsewhere. There are a host of ways to go about this, but one of the most popular – for sound scientific reasons – is to harness the power of nature’s very own sequestration specialists: trees.
Before you don your wellies and get down and dirty with a spade, you can instead enable others to plant a tree for you. And this year’s Earth Day, 22 April, you can even do so by putting your feet up and watching a video (more on that later).
If that sounds like the ultimate ‘armchair activist’ cop-out, read on. Forestry offsets conjure up a not altogether appealing image of vast plantations spreading across the land, but that’s not the only approach.
A more human-scale one is being championed by Treedom, a social enterprise that offers individuals and companies the chance to offset their carbon impact while also boosting the livelihoods of local farmers across the developing world.
It’s rooted in the fact that trees’ benefit to people isn’t restricted to curbing climate change; they can of course also produce all sorts of other stuff, too – like fruits and berries. These in turn produce a much-needed source of income, helping farmers provide for their families, get their kids a decent education and more besides.
It works like this: you estimate how much carbon you need to offset (Treedom provides a simple calculator on its website), and then choose one of the tree species to have planted on your behalf. Each of them are productive trees, mainly fruiting ones such as orange, lemon, mango and papaya, but they also include cacao, coffee and baobab, as well as fodder crops such as leucaena and calliandra.
Treedom has a team of agricultural and forestry experts who work closely with NGOs in rural communities such as Kenya and Cameroon. There, they help train farmers to switch from destructive slash-and-burn practices, which themselves cause climate change, to more sustainable and productive methods. As part of this programme, the tree you’ve financed will be nurtured in a local sapling nursery and then planted out by one of the farmers.
They are shown how to care for it to maximise its chances of survival, and care of the tree is financed until it starts producing, for example, oranges or coffee beans.