How Many Trees Should You Own?

Many individuals are talking about the benefits of individuals, families or groups growing/planting/managing enough trees to offset their own carbon footprints.

What would this mean in practice? I have at least 34 acres of fairly mature trees on my farm. Does this offset my footprint?

stanley park stump

Here’s what one source (Upson EMC) says.

How much CO2 can a Tree Store?

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that planting one acre of trees on marginal land would sequester 0.6 to 1.6 metric tons of carbon annually in the first five years of growth. Assuming that planting one acre of trees in the Southeast will sequester about 1.0 ton of carbon each year (slightly less than the median of the EPA estimated range), and that 1.0 ton of carbon is contained in 3.67 tons of CO2, then one acre of trees planted on marginal land will sequester (save, reduce, or prevent from escape to the atmosphere) about 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide each year during the first five years.” UPSON EMC is a Membership Corporation.

The amount of CO2 stored is affected by the age and density of the trees of course, but let us assume an average of only 20-year old trees.

Year    Avg. lbs Carbon per acre (cumulative) Avg. lbs CO2 per acre (cumulative)(B x 3.67) Avg tons CO2 per acre (cumulative)(C / 2,000) Avg tons CO2 per acre per year (D /20)
Year 20 74,000 271,580 135.79 6.79

Note the 3.67 ratio. That is, the tree only stores the carbon so that every pound of carbon stored deals with 3.67 pounds of CO2 from the air.

What does the average Canadian use?

Directly.

According to Canada’s One-Tonne Challenge, every Canadian produces at least five tonnes of greenhouse gases directly each year.

Indirectly.

According to Environment Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Canada produces a total of 747 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) annually. This includes those industrial emissions not incorporated into the direct emissions above. If we were to average this number across Canada’s total population, that would mean that each Canadian is responsible for approximately 24 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. Of course a good deal of this is due to the tar sands. ALberta already is responsible for 40% of Canadian CO2 emissions and more that 40% of the tar sands region is not even leased out yet.  I haven’t noticed a lot of bitumen economic benefits passing through Vancouver Island, so let’s work with what we’re directly responsible for. Five tons.

FIVE TONS. That’s a lot of gas per person. Roughly half is for heat and electricity and the other half transportation.

The Calculation.

However, putting these two estimates together.

I have 34 acres and each acre deals with 6.79 tons of CO2. Which means the farm is dealing with 230 tons of CO2 each year. Enough for about 45 people, which is my entire direct family (Dave. Ellen. Rebecca. Herb. Ada. Sam. Pam. Zev. Eviah.) and 36 other individuals.

Another way to express that is to say that every acre of 20 years old trees takes care of the direct annual CO2 production of 1.4 individuals. Or, if you want to be responsible, go out and buy and maintain three quarters of an acre for each member of your family.

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