‘Swamp’ goes green with help of carbon neutral plan

Published: November 20th, 2007

Category: Environment, Florida, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Screaming fans, marching bands, hulking linebackers — and offsetting a carbon footprint.

Which one doesn’t belong? Actually, starting at this Saturday’s annual football match-up between the University of Florida and Florida State University, they all go together. That’s because UF on Saturday will become the first university in the nation to attempt to counteract the greenhouse gases created by a college football game.

To do it, UF and its partners, the Florida Forestry Association and Environmental Defense, are arranging for approximately 18 acres of rural North Florida land to be set aside and managed as a pine plantation forest for 10 years. UF calculates that this is an acreage and period of time sufficient to absorb all the carbon emissions from the game.

Dedee DeLongpré-Johnston, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability, is coordinating the effort on behalf of the university.

“This is a way for us to highlight the fact that even routine college events like football games generate large amounts of greenhouse gases,” she said. “We also want to show that we can help to counteract these emissions, and that Florida’s forests have value beyond their usefulness for paper products.”

The land is part of a 100-acre tract being set aside by UF supporters Jim and Winston Bailey. The remainder may be used for future carbon offset projects.

Carbon dioxide, which results from the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and vehicles, is the leading human contributor to global warming. As a result, governments and scientists are seeking ways to offset human carbon emissions through tree growth or other methods that sequester, or store, carbon.

One method already being pursued worldwide involves trading carbon emissions from one source for carbon uptake or storage by another mechanism. The UF initiative falls into this class of efforts, although, unlike others, it seeks to achieve the trade in the same geographic region so that it is more readily verifiable.

DeLongpré-Johnston said that with an anticipated 88,000 fans, this year’s game is expected to generate more than 1,750 metric tons of carbon dioxide. One metric ton, the standard measure of carbon dioxide, equals about 2,204 pounds. Carbon sources include fans and the FSU team traveling to Gainesville, lighting and operating the stadium, and lodging.

“We worked with the International Carbon Bank & Exchange to calculate the emissions,” DeLongpré-Johnston said. “Individual cars carrying fans to the game will have the greatest impact, producing 63 percent of the game’s carbon. Operating the stadium will generate 15 percent, with hotel and private air travel making up 10 percent of emissions.”

More details on the calculations are available at the UF Office of Sustainability Web site, www.sustainable.ufl.edu.

To counter that carbon output, scientists in the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation calculated the amount of carbon stored in a managed pine plantation tract. Forests sequester carbon because trees take up carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of normal growth. The scientists determined that 18 acres of managed forest, or about 14 football fields worth, were sufficient to take up and store the game’s carbon.

“Private forest landowners own more than 60 percent of Florida’s forests, and well-managed forests play a vital role in combating climate change, says Jeff Doran, executive vice president, Florida Forestry Association. “The faster a tree grows, the more carbon dioxide it removes. Since Florida’s climate provides optimal growing conditions, our forests can be very efficient scrubbers of greenhouse gases.”

To compensate the Baileys for preserving the forest, Environmental Defense, an environmental advocacy group, will pay the family to manage the plot for the next decade. Environmental Defense is now completing a technical review of the project, and will acquire additional offsets as needed to store the game’s carbon permanently.

“Florida’s 1,300 miles of coastline mean we’re the state that is most vulnerable to climate change, so it’s especially fitting that this is the first NCAA game to help tackle the problem,” said Jerry Karnas, Florida Climate Project Director for Environmental Defense.

DeLongpré-Johnston said an important goal is to raise awareness about the amount of carbon generated on college campuses and the challenges associated with dealing with it.

“At 18 acres for one game, some quick calculations reveal that we would need 126 acres to be managed for 10 years just to offset our football program for one year,” she said.

Credits

Writer
Aaron Hoover, ahoover@ufl.edu, 352-392-0186
Source
Dedee DeLongpré-Johnston, dedee@ufl.edu, 352-392-7578

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