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Press Release: Reforest the Tropics and New England Biolabs®, Inc. enter into agreement to plant 100 hectares of forest to offset carbon emissions

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

Reforest the Tropics and New England Biolabs®, Inc. enter into agreement to plant 100 hectares of forest to offset carbon emissions

Mystic, CT and Ipswich, MA (August 15, 2019): Reforest The Tropics (RTT), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Mystic, Connecticut and New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB®), a global leader in the production of reagents for the life science industry, announce that they have entered into an agreement to plant 100 hectares (247 acres) of new tropical forest in Costa Rica. This project will offset the emissions generated by NEB’s headquarters, located in Ipswich, MA, which houses over 450 of NEB’s employees.

The reforestation project will conservatively sequester over 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the initial 25-year contract period. The forest carries the potential to capture and store an additional 50,000 metric tons of CO2 in a subsequent 25-year contract term. The project will offset approximately 20% of the current emissions generated by NEB’s operations in Ipswich.

In addition to offsetting a significant portion of NEB’s carbon footprint, the project will create an important habitat for countless animals in Costa Rica, including some threatened and endangered species. Local communities in Costa Rica will benefit from improved water quality, job creation, and other economic opportunities as well.

“At NEB, we continuously advocate for and implement ecologically sound practices and environmental sustainability in order to protect our natural resources, both locally and globally,” states Jim Ellard, CEO of New England Biolabs. “We are excited to partner with Reforest the Tropics in an effort to offset emissions generated by our Ipswich, MA facility, as well as promote reforestation efforts worldwide.”

Tropical reforestation represents one of the most effective, yet underappreciated, strategies for climate change mitigation. Indeed, a July 2019 study in Science identified forestry as “By far…the top climate change solution in terms of carbon storage potential.” Using the RTT mixed-species model, the project will achieve double the carbon capture of most common reforestation approaches, while additionally generating competitive income for participating landowners.

RTT Executive Director, Greg Powell, emphatically welcomes NEB’s participation. “New England BioLabs is a world-class business with an incredible team of scientists who carefully vetted every element of our program. Having satisfied NEB’s scrutiny, we are more confident than ever to engage potential partners armed with positive responses to any foreseeable question about the merits of our approach. We are excited to demonstrate the power of our forestry model to NEB and the world.”

This project, which is only part of NEB’s efforts to minimize its environmental impact, should set a powerful example for other businesses who are seeking an effective, efficient, and safe methods to embrace local and global sustainability.

About New England Biolabs

Established in the mid 1970’s, New England Biolabs, Inc. is the industry leader in the discovery and production of enzymes for molecular biology applications and now offers the largest selection of recombinant and native enzymes for genomic research. NEB continues to expand its product offerings into areas related to PCR, gene expression, library preparation for next generation sequencing, cellular analysis, epigenetics and RNA analysis. Additionally, NEB is focused on strengthening alliances that enable new technologies to reach key market sectors. New England Biolabs is a privately held company, headquartered in Ipswich, MA, and has extensive worldwide distribution through a network of exclusive distributors, agents and eight subsidiaries located in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the UK. For more information about New England Biolabs visit www.neb.com.

NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS® and NEB® are registered trademarks of New England Biolabs, Inc.

About Reforest The Tropics

Reforest The Tropics (RTT) is a 501(c)(3) organization boasting over 50 years of research experience in the development of the world’s most powerful carbon-capturing forests. RTT’s mixed-species forestry program is approved by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has received formal endorsements from the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE). RTT plants mixed-species forests which create important habitat, sequester considerably higher quantities of carbon dioxide equivalent than typical models, and encourage long-term participation with partnering farmers through the generation of a competitive income. RTT complements its forestry program with a comprehensive Climate Change Education Initiative offered to students throughout New England.

Contact information:
Deana D. Martin, Ph.D.
Marketing Communications Manager
New England Biolabs
240 County Road
Ipswich, MA 01938
Tel: 978-380-7464
Email: martin@neb.com

 

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RTT Education Coordinator Hugh Birdsall in The Day

‘Ex-Reducer Hugh Birdsall reaches out to youth with Reforest the Tropics environmental group’

‘When New London pub rockers The Reducers toured Japan in 2004 and guitarist/vocalist Hugh Birdsall looked out from a Tokyo stage at a venue stuffed with screaming young fans, he probably figured it was as close as he’d ever get to living a Beatles/”Hard Day’s Night” mob-adulation moment.

That’s probably still true.

But the satisfaction Birdsall feels today, as an educational consultant for the environmental group Reforest the Tropics, speaking to classrooms full of young students about climate change, is an even more important and resonant experience.

Birdsall says, “The planet is in trouble. We are in trouble. But it’s one thing to alert someone to an external crisis and quite another thing to look inward and find out what our relationship to the planet is. That’s what I try to convey to students and, ultimately, it’s up to them to answer that question. But I can ask, ‘Does the planet belong to us or do we belong to the planet?'”

Reforest the Tropics is a Mystic-based nonprofit organization that works with farmers in Costa Rica to plant trees on their land to help offset carbon dioxide emissions. The group is sanctioned by the United Nations and works to mitigate climate change by sustainable forestry and long term carbon sequestration. Part of their efforts involve conducting programs and workshops with more than two dozen schools across Connecticut including both the New London and Norwich magnet schools. These efforts have resulted in several school- and student-sponsored tree-growing projects in the region.’

Read the full article here.

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Impressive Carbon Capture Verified

Measuring carbon in trees

Measurements of a Klinkii tree are being taken for the carbon verification process.

For decades, Reforest The Tropics has been measuring the productivity of its forest plantations. In June 2017, for the first time, RTT contracted with an accredited third party, EARTH University, to verify its carbon claims under the protocols established by the International Organization of Standards. The results are fantastic news for RTT and anyone with an interest in global sustainability. Verified forests are averaging 23.66 metric tons (MT) of CO2e capture per hectare, per year! To help put this into perspective, most literature on tropical reforestation demonstrates carbon capture of 10-15 MT of CO2e capture under favorable conditions. In other words, RTT is essentially doubling the carbon capacity of current, successful reforestation projects.

One of RTT’s longstanding research goals was to design a mixed-species forest that can capture and store an average of at least 20 MT of CO2e per hectare, per year. Internally, we recognized this target was ambitious, however we have maintained the belief that lofty goals are fundamental to fulfillment of our mission of ‘making a tangible contribution to global sustainability.’ Not only have we met this objective, but we are exceeding it.

The amazing carbon capture of RTT forests is only part of the story however. Two additional pieces distinguish the RTT approach:

  1. RTT’s mixed-species forests are more beneficial to the
    biome than ubiquitous single species monocultures, and
  2. RTT forests are designed to generate perpetual income,
    which allows partnering landowners to participate in the
    project over the long-term.

Essentially, RTT is planting some of the worlds most productive forests…is doing so in more environmentally beneficial manner than typical reforestation models…and is working to ensure they will remain standing indefinitely. Impressive Carbon Capture Verified RTT has focused on forestry research for many years.

Dozens of different planting matrices and mixtures of species have been investigated in order to discover the optimal design to achieve RTT’s three research goals:

  1. Sequester 500 MT CO2e over the initial 25-year
    contract period,
  2. Generate $500 income for the landowner per hectare
    per year, and
  3. Create a ‘permanent’ (read 100+ year) farm forest.
    Carbon verification in the forest

    Carbon verification team from EARTH University joins RTT staff and farm personnel to conduct their field work.

The verification process certified carbon from 8 different designs. The most productive forest was able to capture a phenomenal 34.21 MT CO2e per hectare per year for the Mohegan Sun Casino. Conversely, the least productive design achieved a respectable 11.9 MT CO2e per hectare per year. This design is noteworthy, however because one of the species in this mixture succumbed to a disease and had to be removed. Despite the elimination of hundreds of trees, the 5-year old forest is still productive and will only improve in terms of carbon capture as it matures. This example highlights the importance of RTT’s mixed species orthodoxy and offers a fair warning to advocates of a monoculture approach. Furthermore, if we remove this outlier from our analysis, verification results show that RTT forests are actually storing 25.38 MT CO2e per hectare per year.

The Big Picture: If RTT can plant a forest that doubles or triples CO2 capture of the most common reforestation models per hectare, we only need half the land (or less) to extract a corresponding amount of CO2. We at RTT have long known this is possible and now we have official verification of the RTT model’s potential. We thank you for your support as we spread the word.

Greg Powell
Executive Director,
Reforest The Tropics

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Westerly, RI Middle School Forest Update

This is the 2.5 acre, 5 ½-year old forest established by Reforest The Tropics for the CO2-emissions account of the Westerly, RI Middle School.  In a 25-year contract between RTT and the farmer, this forest is legally dedicated to sequestering and storing CO2 for this school’s account.  So far, it has captured 42 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent at 5 years of age when last measured.  That’s 92,500 lbs of CO2, the equivalent of 4,625 gallons of diesel used in their school buses offset in this forest.

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Categories: Education

It’s Not Too Late…

The scientific world was shaken recently with a report published in Nature, lead-authored by Joeri Rogelj of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, which suggested that that we have already crossed an important global sustainability threshold. The report argues that, “the window for limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius with high probability and without temporarily exceeding that level already seems to have closed.” Under conventional thinking, it is undoubtedly closed, however we can still achieve our sustainability goals through negative-emissions technologies. The report makes the case, as have others, that emissions reduction strategies alone are ineffective. In other words, if we don’t start aggressively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we are in deep trouble.

Yale University Forest Image

An 8-yr old mixed-species forest for Yale University has already captured over 200 metric tons CO2

 

Readers of this newsletter, and followers of Reforest The Tropics in general are already well aware of this reality. We have been showing the math for years. There is simply too much CO2 already present in the atmosphere. We have reminded supporters that the residency rate of atmospheric CO2 is hundreds of years and we have drawn the inescapable conclusion that if we do not pull it out of the atmosphere in large quantities, then all our emissions reductions efforts are futile. We have shared the knowledge that even if we were to reduce our emissions to zero, today, the planet would still experience significant climate change due to the longevity of existing, excessive CO2. Of course, the only reliable, efficient, and safe means of accomplishing large-scale carbon extraction is through massive reforestation efforts in tropical zones. Our friends at the Woods Hole Research Center have consistently reinforced this message. In their latest newsletter, President and Executive Director, Dr. Philip Duffy argues that “it’s too late to control climate change solely by reducing future emissions of greenhouse gases—there’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere already for that to be sufficient.” Dr. Duffy continues that the “time-honored process of photosynthesis” is key to removing excessive atmospheric CO2.

Given this knowledge, it may seem strange that more focus is not given to the tropical reforestation solution. Skeptics of the reforestation approach tend to point to two challenges. First, it is argued that large-scale reforestation may adversely affect our ability to feed the planet, as agricultural land is transitioned to forest. Under conventional reforestation models, this argument has some small validity. The RTT model, however captures and stores CO2 much more efficiently than traditional models. Not only is our rate of capture 3-5 times greater than common models found throughout the literature, but our ceiling is much higher as well. Most forests (including old growth primary rainforests) tend to max out at 250-400 metric tons CO2 per hectare (with limited exceptions). RTT forests reach 500 metric tons within 25 years and some of our older research plots have reached over 2000 metric tons in a single hectare! The implications are clear. We need much less land dedicated to carbon sequestration if we are using the RTT model. Also, skeptics contend that forests are risky due to land-use changes. Again, this is a valid criticism if we look at typical reforestation efforts. The RTT model distinguishes itself in its ability to provide competitive income for a farmer. Our goal is to create a forest that can compete with cattle farming as a viable land-use option. Data from RTT forests shows that a farmer can earn a decent living through forestry and has no economic reason to ever cut the forest down. This income can last for generations, as RTT forests are designed to be productive indefinitely

Home Depot  Forest Image

RTT Forester, Victor Martinez stands in front of a forest planted for Home Depot in 2002. This forest already contains over 400 MT CO2!

It is time that the promise of the RTT model be shared with the world. We need your help. Please join us in our efforts to nudge business leaders and policymakers from their slumber in respect to the potential of tropical reforestation in general and the immense power of the RTT model specifically.

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Categories: Newsletter

Environmental Education Program from the Forest

Using technology from the forestRTT recently launched an exciting new module to its educational program. In photos taken in both Costa Rica and Rhode Island, Greg Powell, the RTT Director, is giving a presentation about RTT forests to students at the Westerly Middle School. Greg, and RTT Forestry Engineer, Victor Martinez were able to make the presentation from Costa Rica using video-conferencing equipment funded by The Rotary Club of Westerly. Students were able to ask RTT staff questions about their forest in real time and learn about the importance of reforestation as well as specific elements of RTT’s reforestation approach. This level of connectivity between a school and their efforts towards sustainability is truly unique. RTT believes this type of engagement will foster a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding global sustainability for students throughout the region, moving forward.

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Categories: Education

Carbon Markets and Climate Change

This past February marked the 10th consecutive month in which the average global temperature set a record for warmth. Scientists are warning that the current rate of warming is unprecedented in the known history of our planet. As our globe continues to warm, it is becoming increasingly clear to even the most entrenched skeptics that we have a responsibility to address the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

When a corporation, institution, individual, or other entity wishes to balance their carbon emissions, they often first turn towards efficiency measures. Light bulbs are changed, insulation is installed, packaging is reduced, transportation is addressed, and other activities are pursued that limit energy use and reduce carbon emissions. Even the most aggressive investments into energy efficiency however will not yield carbon neutrality. The one option to balance remaining carbon emissions is the pursuit of carbon offset projects.

The World Bank has stated that carbon is the world’s fastest growing commodities market, with an annual value approaching $200 billion.  These carbon offsets come in various forms. Most common are credits that are given for renewable energy projects (solar, wind, geothermal, etc), improved forest management (managing forests in a manner that allows them to store more carbon than the norm), credits for avoided deforestation or degradation (the UN’s REDD mechanism allots credits to countries that limit deforestation beyond historical averages) and reforestation.

Fraud in the carbon market

A closer look at the inner workings of these strategies, however, exposes some uncomfortable realities. Horror stories of massive fraud are easy to find on the internet and exist across all sectors of the carbon market.  Due to lax regulations and the difficulties in monitoring, various bad actors have gamed the system to issue millions upon millions of fraudulent carbon credits. An investigation conducted by INTERPOL in 2011 revealed that “up to 90% of all carbon trading in some countries was a result of fraudulent activities. This fraud was estimated to have resulted in the losses to several governments of around 5 billion euros in just over 18 months.”

These examples have soured many individuals, policy makers, corporations, and institutions on the validity and efficacy of carbon trading and have hampered the global effort to combat climate change.  These entities, already facing the burden to invest in sustainability, now face the added and unfortunate challenge to ensure that the carbon they are dealing with is in fact legitimate.

The Reforest The Tropics Difference

Reforest The Tropics recognizes this challenge to buyers, and has committed to provide offsets of the highest quality and of the greatest transparency than any available. RTT has both its methodology and its calculations for its carbon capture audited by an independent forestry consultant every two years. RTT also offers Gold Standard verification of its carbon as required by its partners. Gold Standard carbon undergoes rigorous examination to ensure that it is accurately measured and reported.

RTT enhances transparency by individualizing projects for each forest sponsor.

RTT enhances transparency by individualizing projects for each forest sponsor.

Another mechanism to ensure carbon transparency is the individualized manner in which we operate. RTT tailors each project to a specific sponsor. Rather than the purchase of ‘pooled’ carbon from a large and ambiguous forest, RTT plants specifically for each sponsor. When a new forest is planted, the sponsor receives the GPS coordinates for the forest plot, and a large sign is installed to identify the sponsor and the details of the project. RTT sends photos and reports to each partner with the idea that sustainability initiatives will be most successful if emitters have an intimate connection to their project. Sponsors are even encouraged to visit their plots in order to experience their sustainability efforts firsthand. No other program offers this level of transparency for the carbon it captures.

The explosive growth of the carbon market is testament to the responsibility that buyers feel towards our environment. Although some will continue to seek the cheapest carbon credits available, they are risking an outcome that amounts to little more than empty bragging rights. Buyers that are seeking to make a true difference in the climate change equation are encouraged to seek carbon credits that they can see, measure, and touch with their own hands. RTT is proud to provide this option.

– Greg Powell, RTT Director

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Categories: Newsletter

Excess CO2: The Elephant in the Room

When speaking with various stakeholders, we at Reforest The Tropics, often find ourselves talking about the “quality” of different carbon offsets. We maintain that all sustainability efforts are important and worthwhile, however the carbon offsets generated from tropical reforestation projects carry a special significance. Only carbon credits that are created from NEW forests are taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Offsets that are created through energy efficiency programs (think wind, solar, etc) or conservation programs (i.e. avoided deforestation, improved forest management) are only addressing the small yellow circle seen above. Of course, we need to shrink that circle to the extent that is possible, but we must not do so at the expense of ignoring the centuries of excess CO2 that has accumulated (represented by the checkered arc) in the atmosphere. This distinction is extremely important when we view the proportions of the carbon problem that we must tackle.

THERE ISForNewsletter HOPE… The diagram on the left demonstrates the importance of carbon extraction strategies. The planet shares the collective goal and responsibility to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels to approximately 745 Gt CO2 (or 350 parts per million). Currently, the atmosphere contains approximately 850 Gt (or 400 parts per million). Most climate change strategies are currently focusing on limiting the 10 Gt CO2 that are being emitted each year. Although carbon emissions reduction is very important, this graphic illustrates the relatively small impact these efforts have on the climate equation. Due to the longevity of CO2 in the atmosphere (500-800 years), we will never reach our sustainability goals without technologies that EXTRACT CO2 from the atmosphere. Tropical reforestation is our best hope to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and store it for the long term in trees, soil, and wood products. After 50 years of research, RTT models are extracting an average of 25 metric tons per hectare per year. Careful species selection and underplanting of shade tolerant species allows RTT forests to remain productive as carbon capturing tools for over 100 years. Our data indicates that RTT forests can accumulate over 2500 metric tons per hectare within 100 years. Some models have achieved this in only 50 years. Out of the estimated 185 million hectares of deforested land that is ideal for reforestation, we only need 40 million hectares using the RTT model.

Greg Powell, Director, RTT

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Catching Up With Old Wisdom: Our Enduring Connection to Forests

Reforest The Tropics is proud this month to offer an essay by our friend and fellow tree advocate, Richard Higgins. Mr. Higgins is a writer, editor, and public speaker on Thoreau’s lifelong passion for trees. His book, Thoreau and the Language of Trees is due out next year. He is the editor of five books and the co-author of Portfolio Life. – Greg Powell, RTT Director

 

The discovery of the biochemistry and dynamics of the carbon cycle has made the work of Reforest the Tropics possible. Scientists know how much CO2 new trees absorb from the atmosphere, down to the quantities that different types of trees store in their roots, stems and leaves. While that science is impressive, it is helpful to remember that, long before the facts were in, wise people throughout history intuited the necessity, beneficence and saving qualities of trees.

One was Henry David Thoreau. The decimation of the New England landscape, which peaked about 1850, during his lifetime, angered him. Even the woods around his beloved Walden Pond were ravaged for fire wood during the unusually cold 1850s. “Thank God, they cannot cut down the clouds!” he fumed. Thoreau hated losing woods that he knew, but his anger was the greater because he knew that without trees, nature would wither, and human life would as well. What we now know about trees makes Thoreau look clairvoyant. They were “rivers of sap and woody fiber” flowing “from the atmosphere and emptying into the earth,” he wrote. A century before nurse logs became a concept in forestry, Thoreau called pine trees “nurses” to the oak saplings that take root beneath them. He described trees as “fountains of water” and knew that their decomposition enriched the soil. He knew also knew, from the German botanist Kurt Sprengel, about the transpiration of leaves. “A thin column of smoke curls up from some invisible farmhouse,” Thoreau wrote “as silently and naturally as the vapor exhales from the leaves.” Before the term ecology was coined, Thoreau saw forests as whole landscapes that transcend any public or private boundaries. He urged that they be preserved as such. And despite the deforestation he witnessed, Thoreau had the foresight and faith in nature, to write that “one day they will be planted and nature reinstated to some extent.”

RTT Newsletter, August 2015
Photo: Richard HIggins

Thoreau also knew that trees were essential to the human spirit. “From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind,” he wrote in “Walking.” A town is saved, he said, “not more by the righteous men in it, than by the woods and swamps that surround it.” Every tree “sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild,” and in such wildness “is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau was not only the wise person to see these things. “Forests precede civilizations and deserts follow them,” the French diplomat Chateaubriand wrote in 1820. “What we are doing to the forests of the world,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi, “is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” And a biblical author didn’t need to know about stomatal pores and chloroplasts to write, in Revelations 22.2, “The leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations.” Looked at this way, scientists should see it as an honor to provide the empirical evidence that these people were right. It’s even a greater honor to turn their words into action, which is just what Reforest the Tropics is doing.

-Richard Higgins

Richard may be contacted at: rihiggins@comcast.net

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Categories: EducationHabitat