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.
As part of our commitment to leave a positive Carbon footprint in the regions we cross, we wanted to offset our Australasia Carbon emission (from our trip in New-Zealand, Australia and India) through projects in that same region.
With Thomas and South Pole Group advices, we picked two projects that are creating sustainable emissions reduction, as well as interesting social impact.
Prony wind farms, New Caledonia
The Pacific islands region, from Australia to Tahiti, faces increasing environmental and socio-economic pressures sharpened by global climate change. The UN recognizes small island developing states as being particularly vulnerable to climate change (like the Micronesian archipelago). Already severely affected by climate variability and extreme tropical weather events, they remain extremely vulnerable to future changes in the regional climate and to rising sea levels. Australia has already committed to welcome some of the very first climate change refugees coming from those small islands, and it’s already happening now !
Rich in wind resources, New Caledonia is reducing its dependency from fossil fuel with sustainable wind power. The two wind farms of Prony and Kafeate are using world first technology to green-up the national grid and provide socio-economic improvements for the communities, with 30 temporary and 28 permanent job creations favoring indigenous Kanak people.
In order to save nature and landscape partly disordered by former deforestation and mining activities, the infrastructure of the wind farms is based on existing roads only to limit erosion.
New Caledonia being located in a hurricane hot spot; the wind turbines used in the project are specifically designed for this type of climate, meaning that the whole wind farm can be tilted down within a few hours in the event of an extreme weather alert. This smart engineering approach makes the project a perfect match for the location and ensures that the nations green power supply can sustain an extreme climate event such as a hurricane.
The project activity lead to 32,000 tons of CO2 annual emissions reduction.
Micro-hydro plant, Indonesia
This micro hydro plant makes use of the natural flow of water to generate sustainable power for the island of Sulawesi, without the need for a retaining dam.
The project is utilizing the natural fall of water between the upper Moaat lake and the lower Iloloy lake to generate low impact sustainable energy. The hydro plant has an installed capacity of 3 MW only.
Beyond the provision of the region with clean energy that replaces fossil fuel fired power, the project is also concerned with saving local landscape and nature. Upstream of the hydro station, trees have been planted to stabilize the river banks and reduce erosion and improve the soil’s water absorption capability, thus securing local water supply.
In addition, the local population benefits from the small hydro plant. During the construction phase, most of the building material was bought in the region. Heavy machinery in this sensitive environment was avoided during construction, generating an over-average level of temporary employment, thus providing about 200 people with safe income. In the operational phase, about 20 locals are employed as technicians. The power plant management is in female hands which makes for a strong signal of gender equality.
This microhydro plant serves as a good example for sustainable development in a remote region, at the same time benefitting global climate and local communities.
The annual CO2 emissions reduction is 8,500 tons.
For more information on those two projects, and want to offset your own Carbon emissions, please check the South Pole Group website.
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!
Following our Beautiful World Tour carbon footprint (emissions) offsetting and COP21 International gathering in Paris last December, we have calculated our day to day carbon footprint and decided about an action plan to reduce it upon our return, and take the path to the ambitious “Factor 4” targets to contain temperature increase below 2°C (which goes further than the 2.5X compensation we have done for this trip).
Being a family of 4, we emit 15.8 t of carbon a year, which is 5.4 t below the national average, thanks to the friendly climate of the south of France, the numerous improvements we did to the house, our “organic and local” food habits, and some “lifestyle” choices we made like going to work by train and bicycle…. But our emissions could be much better if we were travelling less (we are 30% above national average…). And I’m not accounting for the dramatic business travelling I’ve been doing each year, for which the company should do something in the future (e.g. less traveling and carbon compensation that I will challenge upon my return).
Having looked at the details of where we have room for improvement, we decided to apply the following action plan when back home in August 2016 to reduce our yearly emissions by 16% (2.5 tons).
House Energy Efficiency Improvements
This is always the first thing to do before trying to add more renewable energy in the mix. We will do a(nother) complete energy efficiency analysis to confirm the remaining insulation works needed (after having already done most of what we could do).
Probably we will have to do further roof insulation.
Consumption & Emission reduction
We need to finalize our 55 lamps (!) switching process to low-energy ones (80% completed).
Put drastic energy control devices for our electronic devices that now account for 15%+ of the total appliances consumption (more than lighting like for most family): this is the dark side of Digital! We will install automatic switchs with time controler for all equipments!
Decrease warm water temperature, warm water usage (shorter showers and almost no baths) and dishes / clothes washing temperature down to 30°C.
Install a Nest smart thermostat that enables to better manage the house temperature (15% savings expected)…
We might install a solar water boiler or AeroVoltaic solar pannels depending on the analysis results.
Green Energy Switch
We are looking at installing solar panels even if the technology in not fully mature yet with rapid efficiency gains happening. The current best solar panels convert up to 21% of the solar energy, but some technologies under development claim we could reach 40% in a short time-frame. We have a special interest in the brand new AeroVoltaic solar pannels as they convert another 50% of the solar energy into heat. The question is therefore: what is the best time to invest into those rapidly changing technologies (might be worth waiting a little)?
Electric storage has always been the key issue of solar electricity production, but with Tesla’s recent announcement of a battery system (Tesla Wall) proposing incremental storage cost at +0,064 € per kWh (2,5x cheapper than competition), our hopes to be one day “off-the-grid” seems to be more and more realistics.
We have dropped the idea of installing a wind turbine as the instalation process in a semi-urban area is rather complex with uncertain output.
While trying to consume less and become more and more energy self-sufficient, we will switch to a 100% renewable energy provider for the remainder of energy needed.
This is the most difficult part as it accounts for 55% of our total emissions, and there are (yet) few possibilities available as the is the one domain where we can’t / don’t wish to reduce the amount we travel (like many families I guess). Still, we will look at:
replacing the car doing the most distance with a Plug-In Hybrid: i’m still evaluating the potential impact (probably around a ton a year)…
compensating our vacations traveling like we did this year during the world tour through active carbon sequestration: planting trees!
This action plan should reduce of emision by 16%(2.5 tons) down to 13 tons per year in 2016/2017. If we are ambitious and stick to COP21 decision, we should reduce the average emission by a “Factor 4” by 2050 to contain temperature increase by 3°c by the end of the century. Factor 4 means to reduce our emisions by 75 % in 45 years (3% a year until 2050), reaching 5.2 tons for the family…. While we are probably on track, we will need some efforts on Appliances and Transportation.
Clearly, transportation is the #1 challenge to tackle, with 55% of total emissions (8.77 tons), of which 55% is related to vacations traveling in airplanes… This is where we need a revolution for car & air transportation. So until technologies are available, the only real solution is our active Carbon Compensation for which we are looking at planting 50+ trees which under tropical climate sequesters on average 25 kg of Carbon per annum, helping to offset another 5 tons of CO2 a year.
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