NativeEnergy is our primary partner in these calculations. They are a reputable NGO that we selected after doing a lot of research; we think that the Sierra Club made a persuasive case for why NativeEnergy is legit, so you can take it from them. In addition, we sometimes make carbon offset purchases through NativeEnergy to balance out extracurricular things like the flights of distillery visitors who travel from far away. Through them, we support projects like the Seneca Meadows Landfill in upstate New York, which transforms landfill methane gases into electricity.
The calculations for the carbon absorbtions of our existing and developing forests and cane plantation are more complex. According to Dr. Sílvia Ziller’s survey of the forested areas on our property, she states that:
“These forest remnants are secondary growth, which means at some point in the past these areas were cleared, then the forest grew back. The forest structure varies very little and is mostly composed of two tree stories, the highest trees reaching about 18 meters in some areas, and only 10-12 meters in other areas. The mature Atlantic Forest has four stories and reaches up to 35 meters. Despite their young age, these forest remnants are in good condition and are well-developed. The undergrowth is not dense and is easy to walk through, as the shade is dense. There are many palmito juçara plants (Euterpe edulis) and a high diversity of life forms. This is the ideal environment to receive the seedlings the Un-Endangered Forest project is going to produce, as these are the species that will develop into the mature forest. From a carbon offset standpoint, these forests will be capturing carbon for a long time and may contribute to the carbon neutral goal of Novo Fogo.”
We also depend on the calculations done by a local NGO named Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem (Society for Research on Wildlife, or SVPS). The folks at SVPS in Curitiba have calculated that secondary growth Atlantic Forests in our area sequester between 0.2 and 0.64 tons of carbon per acre per year, depending on the plant density and other factors. If we apply that to the 75 acres of forest on our land, we arrive at a conservative estimate of between 15 and 48 tons of carbon per year absorbed by our growing forests.
Our organic sugarcane fields don’t contribute much to offsetting our carbon footprint, but they offer some important considerations for how an agricultural business like ours can reduce its carbon emissions through its farming practices. First, we farm organically, which means that we don’t buy chemical herbicides or pesticides that caused carbon emissions in their manufacture. Second, we don’t burn our sugarcane fields before harvesting. While standard practice in many sugarcane-harvesting operations in order to remove the leaves and underbrush around the cane stalks, burning sugarcane phytomass emits C02 into the atmosphere. Third, we don’t use diesel harvesting machines; we rely on the talent and hard work of our machete-wielding field team.
As our understanding of the diverse and complex botanical science on our property grows, we will continue to refine our calculations. Even in the absence of exact numbers, we nonetheless think that it’s worth calling attention to the fact that landowners can make a positive impact on the environment by preserving forests in addition to reducing emissions.