How much carbon does planting a tree offset?

How much carbon does planting a tree offset?

The first thing to understand is that when people talk about carbon offsetting, they are really talking about carbon dioxide, since carbon offsetting programs aim to reduce the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rather than just the carbon component (which is approximately a quarter of the weight of a carbon dioxide molecule, the rest being oxygen).

Next, no two trees are alike, so it would be misleading to give an absolute value. The species of tree, its location and the type of care it receives all affect its capacity to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

While there is a widely accepted figure of 21kg carbon dioxide absorption per tree, it is important to understand that this is an average figure. What’s more, it refers to the carbon dioxide absorbed by a mature tree. Since we’re actually asking, ‘How much carbon does planting a tree offset?’ it would be more accurate to take the average figure from young, growing trees. This is a much lower 6kg to 9kg every year.

This is why planting new trees to replace established mature trees is a controversial issue when it comes to carbon offsetting (not to mention the wider environmental implications in terms of biodiversity, air and water protection, soil structure, etc.)

How much carbon does planting a tree offset during its lifetime? Again, we can only give very rough average figures, but it is widely accepted that the average tree, over an average 100y lifespan, in optimal growing conditions, will take around one tonne of carbon from the air.

How much carbon does planting a tree offset? A summary

  • Per year (while growing) = An average of 6-9 kg CO2
  • Per year (when mature) = An average of 21kg CO2
  • Over an average (100y) lifespan = About 1 tonne CO2

How much COdo humans generate?

On the other side of the equation, we have the CO2 that is being pumped into the atmosphere day in, day out via fossil fuel burning (oil, coal, etc.) and industrial activity. Our World in Data put that figure at nearly 40 billion tonnes in 2021, back to pre-COVID levels (2020 emissions dropped to just over 35 billion tonnes).

It is important to understand that this figure does not include land use change, such as deforestation. Felled trees release stored carbon dioxide as they rot or are burned, and this is a double blow to global carbon offsetting since those trees are no longer able to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Planting more trees, while not a complete solution, is still an important way to combat deforestation and contribute to COreduction. Although individuals can only do so much planting themselves, there are many businesses who invest in the planting of trees and offer this as an incentive to customers.

More tips for reducing CO2

In addition to planting trees, or supporting tree planting initiatives, here are some more ways you can help reduce our collective impact on the planet:

  • Buy second hand products where possible. Manufacturing and transporting new products produces a lot of CO2
  • Hang your washing out to dry on windy days rather than use your energy-intensive tumble dryer.
  • Turn lights out when they’re not needed.
  • Consider using solar panels for some or all of your energy needs.
  • Turn down your thermostat by one degree. This would reduce the average household’s carbon dioxide emissions by 320kg per year. Even better, manually control your heating, turning it on only when needed.

Let Kneebone help you do your bit for the planet

As tree specialists, we can source and plant the best tree species for CO2 absorption, taking into account your location, available space and soil conditions.

We would be happy to help you join the race to offset carbon emissions in the UK. Please visit our dedicated Tree Planting page for more information or contact us today.

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