One of the goal of the Beautiful World Tour was to visit the World without leaving a trace.
To do so, we had to offset our Global Carbon footprint, calculating our emissions in each region, considering transportation, accommodation, etc… which accounted for a total of 61.45 tons, then supporting Carbon emission compensation and future emission prevention projects in each of the region we crossed.
We decided to compensate 2.5x times our total emissions because westerners like have a “debt” compared to the emerging countries we visited, so this calculation accounts for their right to support their growth through emissions on their side.
We also decided to compensate the Carbon emissions of the family for the next 5 years to reach the COP21 goals, after considering the reduction we can already achieve by changing our lifestyle a bit, our consumption patterns, and using energy saving and production technologies.
Here are all the official certificates from the projects we carefully selected, showing this is not bullshit Green-washing, even if some people might challenge the actual impact of such personal initiative…
Of course, if we are the only one doing this, it has no impact, but anyone can now easily compensate its emissions of travelling, starting with airplane flights compensation which generally cost 2-3% of tickets costs. More and more airlines and travelling sites provide this Carbon compensation option in the check-out when you purchase online, so just click on it, pay attention to the Carbon compensation measures they propose (as some really are borderline): this is already a great first step that will fuel many sustainability initiatives around the world, and raise attention on the issue.
Then each of us can also calculate its own yearly emissions, and start shaping a simple action plan: driving slower and smoother, using more public transportation, cycling to work, buying energy efficient technology, eating local seasonal food and less meat, recycling as much as you can, etc… It’s not that complicated, and the education of people around you is as important as the reduction itself.
As St Exupery said:
“We don’t inherit planet Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our kids“.
Each small individual action will have an important cumulative effect, so it is important that each of us start this journey.
Our second stay in Costa Rica was definitely the best, probably because we escaped the surf beaches to focus on the natural reserves. From Arenal volcanoes in the north, to Platanillo’s forests in the center, and Corcovado Natural Reserve beautiful hikes and dives deep south, you will find the whole “Wild Costa Rica” experience in this video!
Costa Rica is one of the few countries on Earth that has a real policy regarding nature protection, like the ability for any citizen to take defense for endangered ecosystems. After more than 6 weeks in the country, we could tell that this attention towards nature is most of the time true and visible, even if in some cases it gets close to « green-washing » or fake « eco-friendly » businesses…
Costa Rica has numerous natural reserves and parks, more wildlife than most countries have, lots of forests now fairly well protected, close to 95% sustainable energy production for electricity (making it the first country in the world to become « carbon neutral » in the next few years), and a progressive « Earth University » that is looking at the many challenges of ecosystems’ preservation and sustainable development, including carbon sequestration.
Still, many ecological corridors are broken, some areas are suffering some « el Nino » drought that revealed the scale of the too many forest cuttings in the 70’s to favor cattle breeding (sponsored by the government at that time), and the whole country seems « for sale » with lots of semi-controlled « ocean view » real estate programs that are for sure challenging the nature’s protection laws (with apparently a lot of corruption of the authorities by the large land owners and promoters). Furthermore, in many “eco” places, especially along the coast, recycling is an hoax (no recycling capabilities beyond the trash containers), people dump trash all over the place, while Gringos (USA and other western countries’ tourists) turn the aircon at full power the windows opened in their hotels rooms or 4WD, all under the “eco-friendly” label… Costa Rica and visitors can improve to really live-up to the “eco” promise!
Looking for true Carbon Sequestration… in Costa Rica!
Those were interesting facts and thoughts as we were looking to go further with our Carbon Footprint reduction program, and through our research we found that Costa Rica was probably the right place to live the experience with different public and private initiatives.
As we explained in a previous post, having already compensated 2,5x times our world tour emissions, we were looking at compensating 5 tons of CO2 a year for the next 10 years to get closer to COP21 objectives ahead of time…
We therefore looked for a grass root NGO that would help us to do real Carbon Sequestration. Not just preventing future emissions (like we did with other programs), but really taking C02 from the atmosphere in the form of… trees!
Trees are indeed the only real Carbon Sequestration system that is working for now (even some industrial projects are starting to show some efficiency like CO2 injection into former geologic pockets of oil and gaz). That’s why it’s so important to protect forests wherever possible, but also plant trees and rebuild an ecosystem where it has been destroyed.
As we wanted to do and understand by ourselves, we contacted Jenny from AssociationCommunity Carbon Trees (ACCT) here in Costa Rica.
Jenny has been working in non-profit in Costa Rica for 15 years, and launched ACCT in 2008 with the triple ambition to :
1) Help companies and individuals sequestrate Carbon based on their emissions
2) Restore natural ecosystems and corridors through carefully selected tree species (not monoculture) and locations
3) Provide a positive social impact by employing locals and supporting sustainable economic development of rural areas.
We spent 2 days with the kids going through the whole process. Here is the story.
From ecosystem destruction to ecosystem restauration
Jenny took us to one of the association base-camps in a small village. On the way, we crossed several landscape that went from original Rain Forest, fairly humid and fresh, to completely dry and almost desertic pasture that did not retain any water and barely fed the skinny cattle.
Rain forest turned…
Rain forest turned…
…into red desert!
The contrast was shocking, but some restored parcels also showed us that what had been destroyed in a few years can also be restored in a few years. Nature is extremely resilient, but it needs the help of humans to return from desert to rain forest.
Reforesting means planting small species first to cast shadow on the ground, bring the temperature down, allow for the soil to regenerate a bit, and then only start replanting carefully selected species that can survive, play a specific role (like holding the ground), and bring back diversity that is needed to grow healthy forest that can sustain and host the wildlife.
Education and local sustainable economy
In this small village, the Association organized a game to let adults and kids learn about the different tree species of the region, the same ones that are being replanted. It was wonderful to see how knowledgeable the kids were !
It was also great to see locals trading products that come from the ecosystem restauration, like certain foods…
Planting trees with kids
and teaching them to know the trees!
OK, should we plant trees ?
Well before doing so, Jenny wanted us to understand the whole process.
At her place, we had a passionate debate about the true efficiency of Carbon Sequestration through trees.
How do you mesure it ?
How do you assess the real impact of each species ?
What is the methodology to get to 100% reliable certification (not green washing) ?
How do you mesure the whole impact beyond carbon sequestration, like ecosystem rehabilitation (something you can not do through monoculture plantations) and positive social impact ?
Many questions that have partial answers for now due to our current state of knowledge, but Jenny had a clear roadmap to get those questions answered with the help of the Earth University (where she got trained) and a certification program robust enough (e.g. statistically significant and accurate) to assess the actual CO2 sequestration of the different reforestation programs.
For now, Community Carbon Trees (ACCT) guarantees 1 ton of CO2 per tree after a guaranteed lifetime of 25 years, the optimal time to reach maximum sequestration potential under the tropics. Which is certainly largely underestimated as it’s a « lower average » not accounting for all the CO2 sequestered in the soil for instance…
First things first : the seeds
Restoring diversity goes through collecting diverse seeds. Jenny did show us a bunch of different seeds that each required a different treatment to imitate the way Nature would do. We had fun breaking dozens of Guava shells that contained « marshmallow like » sweet texture that monkeys love, and of course the precious seeds (that’s why the monkeys swallow those seeds, offering them free transportation across the jungle). To imitate monkeys contribution, we had to soak the seeds overnight…
The Guava shell
Collecting the Guava seeds
The magic of seeds, each completely different
Once the different kinds of seeds were extracted and prepared, we had to plant them in the nursery in humid and fertilized dirt.
Collecting the baby plants
The next step was to collet the baby trees that were a few weeks old and replant them into plastic containers that had also fertilized dirt and enough space to grow for at least a year. The kids were super-active filling the bags with dirt and compost, digging a hole and replanting the baby tree, organizing the space, and watering it all. In the nursery, we could see several generations of trees, and after lots of efforts and love (with some mortality though), trees reached the good age of 3 years old, ready for some action.
Collecting the baby trees
Dream team in action
and watering (that was fun)!
The real thing : replanting the trees into the wild!
This is the part we could not do ourselves as we were still in the dry season. But this is where the real job starts as it needs science and efforts !
Indeed, as explained earlier, you don’t just plant 3 yo trees randomly in nature, or you are guaranteed to reach 100% mortality within a year.
You need to walk long distance in the jungle (or the « desert »), prepare the ground by planting small species first to bring the temperature down and allow the soil to regenerate, start replanting the selected tree species that can survive, do some control testing a year after together with some cleaning of the lianas to avoid the teenager trees to die…
After 3 years, only then do you know the survival rate of the trees, and that the survivors will grow adult and do their job of sucking CO2 from the air to make beautiful organic construction that retain water, welcome the animals, and makes the air much fresher and breathable for humans…
We committed to « sponsor » 50 of those trees, and some of the seeds we planted will make their way to the mountain in the hands of the volunteers and workers of the villages. Hopefully, they will help to restore an ecological corridor and sequestrate those 50 tons that we want to offset, or even more;-)
The 2 days with ACCT and Jenny were a wonderful experience. Challenging for the mind and the bodies, but delighting for the soul.
We met several likeminded people sharing the same aspiration to think and act differently in our everyday lives, hopefully giving a positive contribution for what it slowly but surely becoming mankind’s biggest collective challenge: Global Warming.
A big thank to Jenny for her contagious energy and for pioneering the « sustainable carbon sequestration » adventure as it will become increasingly important in a near future. We will all need it !
We will follow-up to see how our “Beautiful World Tour” trees are doing!
We wanted to visit a school in Nicaragua to learn about the way they teach kids.
As we (Delphine and I) are teachers during this year traveling around the world, we thought it might be a source of inspiration for us and the kids who sometimes have a hard time coping with the non-stop traveling to concentrate on their lessons. It’s also a way to make them understand how lucky they are to benefit from pretty good French education system.
So we went to this small school 30′ away from the Pan-americana road crossing the country. The “Concepcion de Maria” school is located in the small “Las Messas” village at the end of the dirt road, that just got connected to the electrical network.
All the teachers took some time to let us visit their classrooms (from 5 to 12 years old kids), engage with the kids, learn about their day to day challenges (small salaries, lack of supplies, very poor families with kids not always eating what they should…), and of course about the joys of teaching.
Teachers were interested about how we parents were teaching the kids while on the road. So we discussed Mathematics, French, pedagogy and how the kids learned best… The Nicaraguan way of teaching is clearly interactive and based on fun – much more relaxed than the western countries style.
So we and the kids made some demonstrations of learning methods for basic Maths and Geometry… that was fun!
It was delightful to see how close the kids were from the teachers. The classrooms looked like big families gathered to learn the things of life!
The government is supplying most of the books, supporting the food, but the school was lacking many essential items such as pencils, writing books, paper boards, drawing pencils, etc…
So we went to the largest library we found and returned a few days after with some of those essential supplies to make sure the kids have everything they need to learn efficiently and play, hopefully for a year!
El professor Yoconda
And some supplies
Overall, it was a wonderful experience to share a bit the life of this kids and teachers, and we where fortunate to be given nice songs that we will remember;-)
One of the classrooms
Ulysses doing a Maths competition against a teach (he lost;-)
The older kids classroom
Thanks to Marfisa and Yoconda Bonilla for their time with us!
A boat is a fantastic laboratory to observe the impact you have on nature and understand how much resources and energy you consume.
As a family, we were expecting to learn a lot from our day to day consumption and reflect on it. And we did!
Waste management on a boat is a challenge. We started to clearly separate plastics / metal / glass / paper / organic waste, like we do on land, to finally understand that very few islands have recycling capabilities (actually, we could only do selective recycling in Martinique).
On most islands, trash is dumped in a few locations, and burned at best, with many islands having close to zero trash management and simply burying them…
We were expecting those small islands to have adopted intense recycling ahead of some countries because of the sustainability challenges they have, but they have not (yet). We were even surprised to witness little ecological consciousness with older locals throwing trash anywhere… But you clearly see the younger generation being educated and now paying attention to those issues, which should start to improve the pollution problems.
In the end, we try to pay attention to the stuff we purchase to minimize waste, and try to pack the trash to drop it onto the bigger islands that have more treatment capabilities.
Because of bad trash management and challenging cultural habits, some of the islands do get dirty. On the large ones, the trash is of course located around the populated areas, but it also impacts the less populated areas and even some small and inhabited islands…
On one of the most beautiful islands, Mayreau, the most beautiful mooring of the island was quite polluted with diverse waste, from glasses to metal and plastics, lots of plastics, both on the beach, in the mangrove and under-water. The waste was clearly a mix of local dumping, remote populated islands pollution, but also sailors own waste !
With the Kids, we went for a large Beach & Underwater Cleaning initiative to clean the place and leave it in a better shape than how we found it.
In the process, it raised many questions from the locals and (some) help.
Here is the video of our cleaning to restore Mayreau bay back to the post card picture everybody loves;-)
Another challenge as we took our bad habits from the land on board…
With solar panels as the sole source of energy, we had to change the way we consume energy… and use electronic devices !
After minimum computer and cell phone recharge, energy is spent to power the fridge first, then the water circulation system within strict shower time, and of course the navigation instruments.
Electric power is also generated from the petrol engine running, but we tried to minimize the use of the two diesel engines to the bare minimum while not moving fast enough in light winds (even if we have used the engines too much in my opinion). Still, we sometimes had to turn the engines on to produce and stock a bit of electricity.
This was maybe the toughest challenge. With 600 liters on board, we had to implement tight water usage rules on board. 30 seconds showers to rinse after having done the largest cleaning in salt water, salt water washing up with little clean water rising, etc…
Some of our guests had a hard time coping with those rules, and we suspect some pirate consumption of the ladies while everybody was snorkeling;-)
We did run out of water for a few days twice, which created some interesting tensions, the guys clearly accommodating better than the girls who apparently needed more personal care…
Some boats have salt water filtration systems, but they have intense energy consumption and require to run the engines. The best solution would certainly to have better rain water collection systems on board as mother nature is providing all that is needed from the sky…
Drinking water involved some regular islands expedition to refill and supply the minimum of 1.5 liters per person a day needed to keep the bodies hydrated.
In the end, living one month on our boat “Calebasse” was a fantastic experience to better understand the energy and resources we consume everyday without any limits while on land.
Consuming less is possible as long as you become aware of how much you consume and what you truly need without wastage. Same goes for waste management. Lots of packaging is not really needed, and plastics bags are a worldwide plague as they kill many animals (turtles in the first place) and create long lasting and visible pollution underwater and on land.
We have another 45 days on “Calebasse” to improve the way we use our resources onboard and will certainly bring back some good practices back on land!
While we travel, we try to be aware of our environmental impact, but also try to see if we can contribute to some positive actions in the zone we travel in.
While traveling in South-America (Brazil), we have therefore targeted 2 initiatives in the Americas zone.
Efficient cooking stoves in Honduras
The project is located in northwest of Honduras. The country contains the second largest area of rainforest in the Americas. Unfortunately, mainly because of deforestation (more than 37% of its natural forests have disappeared since 1990), Honduras is a significant contributor to global climate change.
In Honduras 65 percent of the consumed energy comes from fuelwood, primarily used for cooking purposes. Given this, reducing the need to harvest trees for fuelwood will make the forests more sustainable. Traditional cooking stoves that use fuelwood are being replaced with energy-efficient cooking stoves at reduced prices. This makes them affordable for every family, and the cost of a cooking stove is typically paid back through fuel savings within two months. The new stoves are 50 percent more efficient than the traditional open fire system, and they require less cooking time because of their thermal design.
In addition to being more energy efficient, the modern cooking stoves emit less smoke, leading to a healthier cooking environment, which reduces respiratory and eye diseases and improves general hygiene.
The project should build up to 2,000 stoves per month and reach 200 rural villages within a year.
In the end, the project reduces wood demand by 50 percent in participating households, which is estimated to avoid 38 000 tons of CO2 emission a year. This reduces deforestation and leads to better soil, air and water conditions.
There are also interesting Socio-economic impacts as the project benefits local families by disburdening them of time intensive wood collecting (mostly conducted by women) and/or permanently reducing their fuel spending, itimproves significantly hygiene as well as indoor and outdoor air quality, leading to less respiratory and eye diseases. Finally, the projectcreates about 100 jobs in 11 participating small stove production companies. In addition, trainers are employed to teach efficient stove use, which further improves the overall employment situation in the region.
The Amazon provides 20% of the planet’s oxygen, 10% of our global biodiversity, and one of our best defense against climate change. It’s also home to unique indigenous peoples who live in total harmony with nature in a very sustainable way.
There have been decades of down-cutting at the pace of 16 football fields a minute under the pressure and intense lobbying of the agriculture and illegal gold mines.
There is a project to create the world’s first international corridor thatwould be twice the size of *France*.
The Colombian government supports it but there is a lot of resistance from Brazil, and Avaaz and some other organizations are now raising funds to organize a lobbying campaign with important media impact to put pressure on President Dilma who’s popularity is at the lowest right now: Brazilians love the Amazon, so insiders say she could go for such an international corridor!
Offsetting our Carbon Footprint in each region we cross
Our family objective is to offset our Carbon Footprint in each region we cross, only in emerging countries where there is also a positive social impact. The idea is to support both Carbon Sequestration project (planting trees), as well as Carbon Emissions Reduction with different types of Renewable Energy initiatives.
We have calculated our total Beautiful World Tour Carbon Emissions to 61.45 tons, accounting for traveling by airplane, car, camping car, accommodation, etc…
We extend our commitment to offseting the emissions of the tour by 2.5 X to “commit to the 2°C Path”, because to avoid extreme climate change beyond +2°C global temperature increase by the end of the century, it’s not about compensating what we emit to Zero, it’s about compensating for our “western country lifestyle debt” (see below for details).
While selecting the projects, we apply the following criteria:
Offset our total Beautiful World Tour emissions x 2.5
Invest in projects in each of the regions we cross
Invest in emerging countries
Look and environnemental and social impact
Cooking stoves in Honduras (Proyecto Mirador)
The Honduran cooking stove project significantly reduces demand for wood on a multi-household level, lowers fuel cost for families and has a positive impact on the global climate via forest recovery and reduction in carbon emissions.
This forest conservation project is aimed at providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for poor communities in Northern Zimbabwe, a region now suffering heavily from deforestation, poverty, and drought.
Our governments are struggling to define binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The current pledges made in the Copenhagen Accord are far from reaching the global goal of limiting the average global warming to 2°C which is considered as a scenario which is just about endurable. Even if the pledges are fulfilled, we are still facing a probability of more than 50% of a global warming higher than 3° by end of this century (Meinshausen, 2010) leading to disastrous consequences (IPCC, working group 2).
As the international negotiations are taking way longer than reasonable, we are now facing a situation where climate neutrality is no longer enough. Due to the historical emission track record of the OECD and developing countries, it is the industrialized world’s job to bring the world on track. But with economic development picking up quickly in the developing world, the 2°C goal can no longer be achieved even by reducing OECD emissions to zero or going climate neutral. Therefore South Pole is offering the option to compensate our emissions in a way that would achieve the 2°C goal if adopted by all industrialized countries.
We calculated the amount of emission reductions needed in developing countries on top of climate neutrality in the industrialized world based on IEA and World Bank data and found that they are equivalent to 2.5 times the amount of the emissions of industrialized countries.
“We commit to a 2° path, we therefore offset 2.5 times our total Beautiful World Tour emissions.”
Sources: Malte Meinshausen, Joeri Rogelj et al, “Copenhagen Accord pledges are paltry”, Nature, 2010 The World Bank, World Development Report, 2010 IEA, Energy Technology Perspective 2008: Scenarios and Strategies to 2050, 2008
The Rosier Family Carbon Positive World Tour in Search of Beauty