Reforest The Tropics’ forests are the most powerful carbon absorbing forest models ever developed. This came as a result of over 50 years of tropical forest research experience and refined under the development of a United Nations carbon sequestration program, the only one of its kind known to us in the Americas.
One of the biggest advantages to our program is that it is NOT a typical forestry offset project. Unlike other offset programs, RTT generates NEW CARBON CAPTURES with newly planted forests, not preservation of existing forests and not the sale of carbon that has already been captured. Only with newly planted tropical forests do we have a chance of absorbing pre -existing atmospheric CO2 that will continue to heat up the Earth even if today we stopped emitting all CO2 from all current sources.
These forests not only absorb 10 times more carbon dioxide than the temperate zone forests, but actually 4 times more than the average rainforest itself…even after thinning the forest to provide income for the farmer.
The enhanced productivity of these forest plantations has resulted in a financial model that makes this land use competitive with other land uses. Our models are demonstrating that a farmer can make as much money, or more, planting trees as he can raising cattle on the same land. This can ensure the sustainability of tropical forests. Increasingly, scientists are pointing to replanting our tropical lands as the most important aspect of our survival as a human population.
One the most important developments at Reforest The Tropics recently was a collaboration with the City of Gloucester, MA, to offset the carbon emissions of the entire school system using trees planted in Costa Rican forests. That’s six schools with 3000 students representing 44.2% of the municipality’s CO2 emissions.
The program really gained traction when RTT offered to provide guidance to implement a revolutionary educational initiative to use the school’s forest as a teaching platform for a climate change curriculum in grades K thru 12.
The classroom will be interactively connected to RTT foresters and the supporting community eco-culture in Costa Rica. So in three years, there will be enough trees planted to offset the entire school system’s carbon emissions. An advisory panel to the City came to the conclusion that using the RTT forest model was the most cost effective way to supplement it’s long term carbon neutrality goals. RTT has installed at least 14 pilot programs in southern Connecticut schools in the past 15 years, but the City of Gloucester is the first school system in the United States to bring this dual planting/teaching initiative to scale in a community’s goal to become carbon neutral.
The ultimate objective of the program is to instill emissions ownership responsibility in the children by having the schools teach by example. Psychologists tell us that our children almost certainly will follow our example, rather than us telling them what to do and how to behave.
So we can’t expect our children to be carbon balanced in their lives if we don’t set the example ourselves. That’s why the schools setting a goal to be 100% carbon balanced is so critical to the way our children will look at their own responsibility to address the huge sustainability decisions that will face them when they join the workplace as adults.
This combined rainforest offset/teaching program has the power to be the most influential movement on this planet to create a sea-change in the way our youth will feel and act to benefit global sustainability.
RTT Board Chair
Climate change will be the defining issue faced by the next generation of leaders. Having failed to adequately address centuries of accelerating CO2 emissions, we now share the collective responsibility to equip the next generation with the tools they will need to confront this massive challenge.
For many years, Reforest The Tropics has been delivering environmental education programs to students of all ages both in the United States and Costa Rica. Programs and lectures have included primary schools, middle schools, high schools, universities, and technical schools. In Costa Rica, RTT’s mixed species forests serve as living classrooms in which students, teachers and professionals of forestry and other earth sciences have learned about RTTs’ unique reforestation model. Due to the generosity of our partnering farmers, thousands of visitors from a number of different countries have benefited from these programs.
In the United States, education programs are typically based in the classroom, focusing on issues surrounding climate change and the science of forestry. Lessons are enriched with many photos and videos of RTT forests. RTT is now developing an even more interactive program in which students will have the opportunity to virtually tour their own forests via a web-link. Students will be able to ask questions directly to RTT foresters in Costa Rica in real time!
To date, RTT has planted carbon balancing forests for thirteen schools. These forests serve as a source of pride to schools, offer a unique learning opportunity, and foster a sense of responsibility and ownership of carbon emissions among the student body.
Moving forward, RTT intends to plant enough new forests to fully balance the emissions of participating schools and even entire school districts. RTT will work with administrators to calculate the emissions for the schools. Schools will then sign a vision statement which voices their commitment to eventually achieve 100% carbon neutrality. We will begin planting forests that will capture enough carbon dioxide each year to completely offset their emissions.
Photo Above: FUNDED BY A WAL-MART EDUCATIONAL GRANT, MS. DESIREE DERIX, A SCIENCE TEACHER FROM WESTERLY MIDDLE SCHOOL MEASURES A TREE IN A CARBON-OFFSET FOREST IN COSTA RICA.
Ms. Derix is the Head of the Science Department in the Westerly, RI Middle School. In order to expand the school’s capacity to teach about climate change, Reforest The Tropics and a major donor, The Superior Nut Co., have teamed together with the local Wal-Mart store and the Westerly Rotary Club to develop a school program that involves teacher training in the field. Ms. Derix spent a week in Costa Rica, training in forests, meeting farmers and understanding the importance and opportunity offered by reforesting farm pastures in the tropics. This environmental education program lasts for an initial 3 years and includes not only teacher training, but also sessions of student teaching by RTT staff, an annual CO2-emissions inventory of their school done by students, and the establishment of a 2 ½- acre carbon-offset forest for the school. Also in this photo, left, is Lauren Hintlian, RTT co-director and director of sustainability for The Superior Nut Co. In the blue hat is an independent forest consultant from Interforest who periodically reviews the RTT program and its measurements. Photo: March 21, 2013 in the Las Delicias Farm in Costa Rica. This is a UNFCCC-AIJ sanctioned program approved by the US and Costa Rican governments in 1995.
RTT believes that through active participation in a realworld solution, students will be left with a sense of empowerment and hopefulness in order to effectively confront this issue throughout their lives. Indeed, the world is counting on them to do so.
One of the research goals of Reforest the Tropics is to develop forests with a 100+ year capacity for CO2 capture and storage. Research began in the 1960s by our staff who tested 99 tree species for farm forests. One of the more interesting species was Araucaria hunsteinii, or the “Klinkii Pine” from Papua New Guinea. This species has proven to be an ideal candidate for inclusion in mixed-species plantations. It is noninvasive, grows to tremendous sizes, produces high quality timber, shows promise as a shade tolerant species that can be planted beneath existing canopies, and it coexists well with other species in RTT mixtures. The tallest Klinkii ever formally measured was 273 feet in height and over 6 feet in diameter. This gives the tree a special potential, namely of being able to store CO2 in the form of wood in a live forest stand for a very long time.
Klinkii is now included in virtually all of RTT’s mixed-species designs. RTT’s approach is to develop and test mixed-species models, which reduce the risks of disease and pest attacks associated with traditional monocultures. They also enhance biodiversity, create habitat for a variety of fauna, and have been shown to be more productive than monocultures in their ability to fix CO2.
– Dr. Herster Barres, RTT Director of Research
Reforest The Tropics is proud to announce the hiring of a new full-time forester in Costa Rica. Victor Martinez, a recent graduate from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, completed his coursework in forestry science in the spring of 2014 and later volunteered with RTT to complete his thesis work. Victor’s thesis will provide valuable insight into the accumulation of carbon in the forest stand and soil as degraded lands are converted to RTT forests. Victor comes highly recommended from his forestry professors. After he impressed RTT staff with both his general forestry knowledge and his understanding of our program goals, RTT decided to hire him to assist our longtime forester, Rolando Comacho. Victor and Rolando will continue to diligently manage RTT forests, train the staff of our local partners, monitor and measure forest Victor (center) celebrates the defense of his thesis growth, and respond to any needs in our Costa Rica operations. Victor is excited to lend his expertise to help balance CO2 accounts for emitters throughout the world.
– Greg Powell, RTT Director
A historical challenge with reforestation has been convincing
local landowners to participate. Since most degraded land is
held in private hands, programs must incentivize the owners of
that land to reforest. RTT has generated landowner interest by
working towards making forestry economically competitive
with other land-use options. RTT mixtures are configured to
capture large quantities of CO2, however, more importantly,
the forests are also designed to keep that CO2 stored away
for the long term by paying attention to local needs.
RTT has experimented with the inclusion of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in its mixtures
for decades. Although mahogany does not grow as fast as some other species in the RTT
matrix, it offers a unique advantage by adding to the overall sustainability of the program. The
presence of mahogany, a coveted species after centuries of exploitation, inherently increases
the value of the program to landowners. The increased value of the program is translated into
more attention and management by the landowners, which leads to a more sustainable program.
Mahogany is rarely incorporated into forest plantations due to its susceptibility to attack from
the shootborer (Hypsipyla grandella), a pest that damages the growth and form of the species.
Through trial and error, RTT developed a treatment protocol that protects the trees from attack
and allows for their inclusion as a complementary species to the other trees that excel at carbon
capture and storage. Our research continues…
Herster Barres, Director of Research
So what makes the RTT program really UNIQUE?
One of the biggest advantages to our program is that RTT is NOT a
typical forestry carbon offset project. Unlike other offset programs,
RTT generates NEW CARBON CAPTURES with newly planted forests,
not preservation of existing forests and not the sale of carbon
that has already been captured. Only with newly planted tropical
forests do we have a chance of absorbing pre-existing atmospheric
CO2 gas that will continue to heat up the Earth even if today we
stopped emitting all CO2 from all current sources.
RTT forests also offer a unique level of engagement for a participant.
RTT does not issue tradable carbon offsets that simply appear on a
donor’s balance sheet, rather they are born from individualized forests
and are directly accountable to a donor’s emissions. Unlike
some market offsets with questionable origins, the CO2 captured by
RTT forests is tangible and identifiable.
We will need to use all the tools in the toolbox…including wind, solar
and other green energy sources plus the elimination of fossil fuels by
late this century to enable us to live in a habitable planet. But in order
to avoid the most dreadful effects of climate change, we’ll need massive
reforestation of our tropical zones. This single initiative has
now become perhaps the most important instrument for our
On a scientific level, we are continually provided evidence to
the importance of our tropical forests for our very existence as
a human population on Earth.
So in the end, tropical reforestation is not just a bridge to mitigate
climate change until we eliminate fossil fuels….it’s also the
most powerful tool we have on Earth to help us survive in a
vast matrix of counterproductive human activity. Indeed, it’s a
powerful social mission in its own right.
Harry Hintlian, Board Chair,
Reforest The Tropics is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization. Donations
are tax deductible to the full extent
of the law.
Reforest The Tropics is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Woods Hole Research Center. The Woods Hole Research Center is one of the world’s preeminent climate change research organizations. The Center supports tropical reforestation as an essential climate change mitigation strategy and is collaborating with Reforest The Tropics to advance the RTT reforestation model as a policy prescription for corporations that are looking to engage in responsible sustainability initiatives. RTT is proud to partner with the Woods Hole Research Center and is excited about the possibilities for building on one another’s important work through this relationship.
RTT has named Greg Powell Director of the organization on June 18, 2014. Greg has been working with Reforest The Tropics since August 2013. Greg is excited to begin his new role and looks forward to continuing the development of RTT to become a global leader in carbon sequestration through forestry.
THE SAVE THE EARTH CLUB FROM THE REGIONAL MULTICULTURAL MAGNET SCHOOL, NEW LONDON, CT. MAY 6, 2014. Working with staff of Reforest The Tropics, and the teachers, Hugh Birdsall and Susan Hafler, these children have participated in developing a CO2-emissions inventory of their school. Next, they have begun to raise funding for a 2 ½-acre forest in Costa Rica in the RTT program, capable of capturing about 20 metric tonnes of CO2 each year from the atmosphere towards balancing their school emissions. RTT has presented and discussed information about climate change and its mitigation through the use of sponsored forests in 6 lessons during 2014. This is an excellent example of project-based experiential learning on a topic that is becoming more important every day. This environmental education program is part of the UN Climate Change Program managed by RTT.