If you are going from Boston or Cambridge to the People's Climate March in Washington, DC, on April 29, and would like to offset the CO2 emissions of your bus trip, this project offers a visible, local, long-lasting way to bury carbon that will improve the soil to benefit trees, plants and climate in other ways. It involves biochar, a form of pure carbon made from partially burning plant matter and other biomass under controlled conditions.
The goal of the project is to purchase 2 cubic yards of biochar, put it on public display in Cambridge and then donate it for use in local gardens and yards. This amount of biochar contains 400 pounds of organic carbon and and is approximately equivalent to 36 passengers' share of the carbon emitted on average by a diesel bus in the form of CO2 traveling 876 miles. (These calculations are shown in detail, below.)
About Biochar (from the International Biochar Initiative)
The 2,000 year-old practice of making biochar converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and increase soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.
Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon (terra preta), has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.
It’s possible to literally put the carbon (CO2) back in the ground. (from NextChar)
It’s not complicated. As a negative emissions technology, biochar production directly addresses climate change (also known the greenhouse-effect) by trapping carbon in a chemical (pyrolysis) process, thus reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Furthermore, biochar addresses global food security challenges, desertification, and drought by reducing agricultural water requirements and improving soil productivity, particularly in damaged or contaminated soils. The NextChar technology stores three tons of CO2 permanently (thousands of years) for every five tons of dry biomass (wood, leaves, etc.) it processes. These metrics can be precisely measured and are generally accepted by the scientific community.
We know we can do this. We've done something similar before! Last fall John Pitkin, a climate activist and vice president of Green Cambridge, bought, displayed (below) and donated (see photo above) 2 cubic yards of biochar as an offset for air travel to and from Europe.
We will buy biochar, which is made by NextChar in New Hampshire, create a "carbon column" display of the Community Carbon March Offset this summer before distributing the biochar (in biodegradable bags) for burial.
1.5 cubic feet of biochar, which costs $13.50, will offset the CO2 emissions for one seat on the bus to the Climate March. Donate now to offset your trip to DC. We will invite you to see the display and, if you want, take your share of the biochar to put back in the ground in your yard or garden!