Journal 03: Being Carbon Neutral

Being Carbon Neutral

The question is how many trees do I need to plant to be carbon neutral. Can I do this myself without paying a third party
to do this on my behalf?  If I can do it myself how much land do I need?

Instantly I find out that the area of the house is
essential to working out your carbon impact. So building a smaller house per household member is important to keeping your carbon output low. The
house we are building for ourselves will have an area that is heated –
including general living areas, bathrooms, bedrooms.  There will also be an area that doesn’t need
to be heated such as a garage space and a studio space. The studio space will
contain a ceiling fan for summer and a wood fireplace for winter. The wood
fireplace was purchased for our previous house but we decided it wasn’t
appropriate. We think it will suit our new studio space. This will require a
separate carbon offset compensation.

The area of the house that will need to be heated with a
form of mechanical heating (most likely air water heat pump hydronic heating)
is 194m2 – which is nominally less than 50m2 per person – this is under the
current 89m2 average size of building. The studio space is 26m2.

Doing this research there are a number of alternative
European systems that offer energy efficiency. There is the German Passive
House. There is also the French Effinergie and Swiss Minergie that are all
certifiable systems based on thermal tightness and passive solar design for low
energy consumption buildings. Passive House, Effinergie and Minergie rely on a
mechanical ventilation system for moving air around a building to push
naturally warm air into cold areas in winter and naturally cool air in warm
areas in summer.

In order to stop climate change the
maximum amount of CO2 produced by each person per annum is 0.600 tonne (600 kg
of CO2 per year) according to “My Climate” (Swiss). An Australian website
“Particle” says that in Australia we need to reduce our carbon to below 2 tonne (2000kg of CO2 per
year) (this seems a lot compared to the Swiss prediction).

Carbon Neutrality is the ability
to produce the same amount of carbon saving as carbon usage.

Therefore, the question is how
much carbon is captured with the planting of one tree? The question is complex
as the older the tree, the more carbon is captured. So in theory if your energy
use is static, then the trees that are planted will each year absorb more
carbon. The amount of trees that are then planted are then reduced until the
equilibrium for that household is achieved. If more trees are planted then in
theory you go into a climate positive position. An idea / theory then is to
produce a landscaping schedule that works out the carbon absorption of the
trees for that site, and the large trees are balanced with the smaller tress to
produce a climate positive property. This is a theory to understand in real terms
what it means to be climate positive, trees can keep being planted to greatly
exceed requirements.

Some various quotes from the
internet of interest:

Tree species that “grow quickly
and live long are ideal carbon sinks”

“A carbon planting is a deliberate
planting of vegetation for the purpose of sequestering carbon”

“A young tree is still small and
converts less, but as the tree grows bigger it
also absorbs more CO2. A young tree absorbs about 5900
gram CO2 per year, while a 10 year old tree absorbs almost
22.000 gram per year. By taking these numbers we can calculate the
average CO2 that is absorbed by a tree during his lifetime”

“We used to find
how many tonnes of CO2 each trip would generate. Trees for Life
calculates 6 trees offset 1 tonne of CO2. So 1 Tree
0.16 tonnes CO2. We then divided carbon figure by 0.16 to
get the total number of trees.”

“A sweeping study of forests around the world
finds that the older the tree, the greater its
potential to store carbon and slow climate change. The 38 researchers from 15
countries found that 97 percent of trees from more than 400
species studied grew more quickly as they aged, thus absorbing
more carbon.”

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