Carbon Footprint Shrinks, Trees Grow with Green Air Project


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gap-forest-20-yrs

By Debra Atlas
July 14, 2012

Our carbon footprint is definitely cause for concern, especially given the news that global warming has already permanently altered our world. If you do not have the time or space to plant your own tree (or even if you do), why not sponsor a responsibly-managed forest?

The Green Air Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping both individuals and businesses reduce their carbon footprint by creating forests. This unique organization reclaims abandoned farmland that was previously clear-cut, and plants trees on it. It intentionally keeps overhead costs low so that the majority of funds can go straight to planting and maintaining a beautiful habitat for plants and wildlife. In fact, individuals can offset their carbon footprints for as little as $10 a month. This simple act helps the environment in numerous ways.

Carbon Footprint Getting Heavy?

In the United States, every person generates around 2.3 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That comes from driving our cars, running our appliances, and countless other daily personal and business activities.

Maybe you have heard of carbon capture technologies that “trap” and store carbon dioxide (C02) emitted from large power sources such as coal and power plants? It sounds like a great idea, but we have to admit that Mother Nature beat us to the punch.

A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually. A mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, according to Clean Air Gardening’s Web site. That translates to enough oxygen to sustain two human beings for a year!

Removing Carbon, the Right Way

Green Air Project, which was founded twenty years ago by Don Langmo, has planted over 221,000 trees to date. That means the organization has removed over 86,000,000 pounds of CO2 from the air!

The Green Air Project (GAP) leases and plants trees on over 400 acres of land near Kingstree, South Carolina. The organization plants trees according to forest industry standards on former farmland that was clear-cut and then abandoned. Forester Dwight Stewart spearheads the planting. Stewart is certified by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), which manages 26 million acres of forestland and is the largest and oldest sustainable family woodland system in America.

Green Air Project plants Loblolly pine trees, a drought-tolerant, North American native that is one of the fastest-growing pines in the South. The organization does not use pesticides or fertilizer. These pine forests are managed responsibly, allowing room for wildlife, creeks, and fire lines.

The trees have an expected lifetime of twenty-five years, so by the time a tree is cut down (strictly as a fire prevention measure), it has absorbed approximately half its weight in carbon. By proper forest management, once trees are felled, GAP must then replant them so that the balance is maintained.

“Our forester wants to leave a better environment,” says Meg Weathersby, GAP Marketing Coordinator.

GAP anticipates it will plant 30,000 trees this year, which would take 11,700,000 pounds of carbon out of the air. The average person can plant one tree each month to offset her carbon footprint, according to Weathersby. One tree planting costs $10. GAP does its best to keep its running costs low; the organization uses social media instead of advertising, and leases the land it plants on instead of buying it.

Carbon Offset for Businesses

There are various ways for companies to participate in the Green Air Project. They include planting a tree for each employee or, if you own an online business, including GAP in your online checkout process.

For example, one of GAP’s partners is a staffing company. For every placement the company makes, GAP plants a tree on its behalf. The company has now “planted” over 700 trees since January, according to Weathersby. Another fan of GAP, an online organic store, donates part of each sale’s shipping fee towards planting trees.

“It all makes a difference,” Weathersby says.

If your business decides to sponsor GAP’s activities, it offers an online verification program that allows customers and clients to see your donation’s positive impact. This can be an important addition to a company’s defined sustainability program. It should be noted that the organization focuses on companies with existing sustainability departments.

“We can offset a certain project, but we like long-term partners,” says Weathersby.

Green Air Project for One

Green Air Project is perhaps one of the easiest, most affordable ways to help the environment. It does not require government action, and it reduces your carbon footprint while also promoting forests, wildlife habitat, and natural beauty. What is more, the organization keeps you in the loop and gives you ways to show your dedication.

Transparency is important to the folks at Green Air Project. They give a corresponding validation code for each tree purchased, so you can check the Web site and monitor the tree’s growth over time. After purchasing a tree, GAP provides a “CO2 Certified” Web site medallion that can be incorporated into a personal website, blog, or social media profile. It is both a point of pride and a visual environmental statement.

There are even volunteer opportunities with GAP via its internships on college campuses. Student interns have the opportunity to educate classmates about environmental issues and promote the project.

Sierra Club Green Home is pleased to see organizations like Green Air Project making it easy for us to offset some of our harmful carbon emissions. To learn more or get involved, visit GreenAirProject.org.

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

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