We want to help more businesses achieve climate positive outcomes and have full transparency on their Scope 3 emissions. Reducing carbon output is always preferable to purchasing offsets - which are often a distraction from a lack of action on carbon reduction. Whilst reforestation is a commendable endeavour, no amount of tree planting is going to offset the amount of carbon we currently produce. We should also be sceptical of businesses hiding their lack of action on climate change with PR friendly tree planting campaigns.
We're in the furniture industry so let’s take the Orangebox Kirn Chair as an example. Each chair contains 37.5kg of embodied carbon. Over 10 years a newly planted tree only removes a total of 22kg of carbon (less than a single chair) – and that is if it survives!
“Forests must survive and grow for many decades to achieve substantial carbon sequestration and there will always be an
element of uncertainty.”
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change
The largest environmental gain comes when trees mature, sometimes decades after they’re planted. There’s a carbon cost to planting trees so they have to survive years to even offset that.
“A newly-planted tree can take as many as 20 years to capture the amount of CO2 that a carbon-offset scheme promises. We would have to plant and protect a massive number of trees for decades to offset even a fraction of global emissions. Even then, there is always the risk that these efforts will be wiped out by droughts, wildfires, tree diseases and deforestation”
Numerous examples exist of ambitious tree planting projects which have failed.
In November 2019 the Turkish government announced a plan to plant a record breaking 11 million trees. Sources reported that 90% of the 11 million saplings planted died within a few months. Saplings were planted by volunteers in 2000 locations, with a lack of expert care and maintenance. Little consideration was given to the season or access to water.
Reforestation vs. Plantation
Plantations are a common way for companies to support ‘tree planting’. These often consist of a single, fast growing species of tree and is incomparable to a natural, diverse forest. Reforestation is the restoration, intentionally or naturally, of degraded existing forest. This protects and conserves fragile eco-systems and the needs of the local community.
The importance of biodiversity is often overlooked. Large scale tree planting strategies focusing on a limited number of species do not support a wide range of habitats. They may also encourage habitation by non-native species. Regenerating natural forests and supporting regrowth of naturally occurring species is more beneficial to the environment.
Plantation and Deforestation
A $3.4 billion tree-planting campaign launched by the Mexican government in 2018 unintentionally led to deforestation. Farmers were financially incentivised to plant trees on their land which resulted in some clearing forest to make room for new seedlings. One analysis suggests that this caused 73,000 hectares of forest loss.
Stanford University carried out research on one of the longest running tree afforestation programmes in Chile. Government subsidies supported tree planting and ongoing management of plantations. Due to poor regulation, native forest was removed to make way for profitable plantations. Over time the removal of natural forest cover also resulted in a decline of natural forest regeneration. The heavily subsidised project expanded the area of tree cover but reduced the area of native forest. Replacing carbon dense, bidoverse native forest with plantations failed to increase carbon storage and increased biodiversity loss.
The reality is that a monoculture forest is no replacement for the biodiversity of the rain forests that we are losing. Conserving and restoring naturally occurring forests should take precedence. And any carbon offsetting projects we participate in must be well planned and well researched programmes.
Ultimately the complex problem of carbon reduction is not solved by offsetting increasing carbon emissions with trees. Carbon positive outcomes are only possible with circular solutions.
Reduce Furniture Waste
"Planting trees in the northern hemisphere is easier and cheaper than reforming a complex supply chain to protect forests. It can be quantified to investors and marketed to consumers as a quick ecological win."
So where does this leave those of us in the furniture industry looking to reduce carbon emissions? The answer is, reducing waste. The linear model of manufacture, consume, dispose, and buy new is not sustainable. Even when products are made from renewable materials there is often no plan for them at end of life.
Bureamove promotes circularity and carbon-responsibility within commercial office moves and disposal processes.
Talk to us about restoration, redistribution or recycling of your existing furniture and a plan for maintaining and extending the life of all your assets.