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Trees—even off college campuses—cut carbon footprints

Higher ed is encouraged to buy carbon credits that fund large-scale replanting of deforested areas around the world
University Business, May 2017
Some local agencies across the country help colleges plant trees where the campus community can enjoy them, even if it’s not on campus. (Photo courtesy of Arbor Day Foundation).
Some local agencies across the country help colleges plant trees where the campus community can enjoy them, even if it’s not on campus. (Photo courtesy of Arbor Day Foundation).

Besides reducing emissions, higher ed institutions can reduce the impact of their carbon footprint in other ways, including getting credit for trees planted.

The idea is this: Buy carbon credits that fund large-scale replanting of deforested areas around the world. The money generated also pays to educate indigenous communities about the environmental and economic importance of trees.

Planting enough trees on campus to offset the institution’s carbon footprint can be cost prohibitive, and audits by offset agencies are expensive. Also, universities typically do not have enough land for sufficient plantings, says Jared Carlson, director of innovation and business development with the Arbor Day Foundation.

The organization encourages institutions to buy into reforestation efforts along the Mississippi River and in the Amazon Basin, Indonesia and other locations.

Some local agencies across the country help universities plant trees where the campus community can enjoy them, even if it’s not on campus. The nonprofit TreesCharlotte, for example, partners with Urban Offsets, a company that develops planting projects. Institutions in the North Carolina city can buy local carbon credits through this collaboration.

Charlotte needs 500,000 plantings to reach its goal of 50 percent tree cover by 2050 in a continued effort to reduce air pollution, improve water quality and enhance property values through urban forestation efforts.

Participating planting universities include Davidson College, Duke University and Elon University.

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