AIGA Carbon Offsets

Carbon Credits For You, Carbon Credits For Me

AIGA is now offering to sell designers carbon credits to offset their power use. You can look at their scam scheme here. They are pushing folks towards This is all well and good except Carbon Fund calculates that my family uses twice as much carbon as the EPA estimator predicts and their trees haven’t all been planted so it’s more of a promise to get around to designating my personal carbon sink. Did I mention that they are the ones selling me the offsets. Hmmm.

The cost per ton of CO2 offset is about ten bucks. I thought, perhaps, I should just plant some trees in the yard for the same money. Our home uses about 10,000kg (10 metric tons) of CO2 per year per person. We would need to plant about 3000 trees to offset our CO2. I hope they all fit on a half acre lot.

Here’s the calculation:

To begin offsetting your energy useage you must first determine it. You can go to the EPA website to do so.

Here’s the invasive weed tree that grows most easily in our yard:

Ulmus Pumila

It’s called Ulmus pumila, or Siberian Elm. It needs no special treatment or extra water to grow. Did I mention it’s invasive? Its carbon absorption is between 2 and 4kg per year and topping out at about 100kg in 30 years. A Poplar can accumulate eight times as much. The science for this assertion can be found here: Annual Carbon Accumulations in Agroforestry Plantations

Purchasing Offsets

If you are seriously interested in carbon offsets here is some basic info: One metric ton of carbon is emitted by burning up a thousand gallons of gasoline, or 5,000 KW of electricity. Eco-Business Links offers a survey of various companies offering offsets. There are ton of them. (Har-Har) Credit cost is minimal. My family will incur a cost of about $300. per year if we purchase credits.

Planting Trees

If you wish to plant your own trees make sure that they are not burned. This releases all the accumulated CO2. The bonus of planting your own trees is that most live for several decades making their expense more of a recurring capital outlay. The innitial number of trees per acre can total roughly 40000 seedlings at 1′ intervals but these must be culled as they mature down to about 300 per acre at 12′ intervals. (data source is here) Be sure to plant an additional 15% acreage to account for dead trees, access trails and other slop. Also, recall that seedings absorb less carbon than adult trees. Essentially, you must plant enough acres with seedlings to trim down to your final needed adult tree count. A rough calculation puts this cost for my family at $9000.00 per year for 30 years or about $270,000. initial outlay for Poplar seeds alone.

Reduce Your Impact

The discrepancy between what folks are charging for credits and the cost of doing it myself is too great to be merely a matter of planting in the third world v. first world. This is why I do not trust carbon credits. Ultimately, we need to reduce our energy consumption. Though I write this sentiment on a carbon guzzling computer, under a lamp with the radio on in the background, please excuse the hypocrisy.


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