One-way various industries – large and small – are looking to tackle climate change and, in particular, Co2 emissions (Co2e) is through Carbon offsetting.
What is it?
Carbon offsetting is the action or process of compensating for Co2e arising from industrial or other human activity by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.
For example, one of the biggest companies involved in carbon offsetting is British Airways (BA). BA have pledged to offset all UK domestic flights from January 1,2020. It is doing this by spending in global projects that invest in renewable energy, rainforest protection and reforestation – therefore offsetting the co2e that its flights release. According to one source, “It is estimated that each acre of rainforest that is protected can offset up to 260 tonnes of Co2e”.
Although almost everything in the media about carbon offsetting focusses on trees, there is little mention of wildflower meadows and the incredible offsetting benefits that can be derived, even from a small garden meadow.
An argument in favour of using meadows to store carbon is from Miles King, Director of Conservation at The Grasslands Trust. According to Mr King, grassland locks in up to a fifth of all soil carbon in the UK, which is considerably more than woodland cover. The reason, he says, is that “carbon absorbed into the soil by becoming organic matter is more likely to stay ‘locked up’, rather than being released when a tree dies or is chopped down”.
He continued, “Meadows that are cut every year for hay carry on absorbing Co2 each time there is new growth, creating a rich soil full of carbon – and, by not ploughing the land dead roots that are full of carbon can build up and create a humus”.
Furthermore, while it has been suggested British Woodland stores up to 1.4 tonnes of carbon per year per hectare, grasslands and meadows can store up to 3 tonnes per hectare. In addition, there are numerous wildlife benefits associated with meadows, such as providing food for pollinators, other invertebrates and farmland birds.
Utilised, Enhanced, Revived
Carbon offsetting through both woodland and wildflower meadows can be beneficial to the countryside, workers and landowners. The clear and obvious benefit to all is that less Carbon is being released into the atmosphere.
When looking at offsetting via woodland, this can be particularly useful for landowners with areas of land that is of no use to them. Chris Bright, Bright Seeds managing director, said:
“Now, farmers and landowners can make money by renting out areas of woodland to big businesses who are looking to participate in carbon offsetting. The previously useless woodland will have deadwood cut out and sold for woodchip, whilst new trees are planted which take up more carbon than older trees. Rather than woodland being left to ruin, it is being utilised, enhanced and revived”.
The same goes for wildflower meadows. New wildflower meadows are being sown, and current meadows enhanced by businesses participating in carbon offsetting. And, with the destruction of over 90% of the nations’ wildflower meadows since WWII, this is a welcome initiative. Wildflower mixes also tick lots of stewardship boxes which can help landowners receive government payments – particularly with the new payment system stated in The New Agriculture Bill.
Woodland, Wildflowers, or Both?
Put simply, whether it is big businesses or small that are offsetting their carbon through woodland or meadows: key is that they are making the effort and neutralising their Co2e.
Despite woodland being an attractive option, it is worth noting that wildflower meadows uptake higher levels of Co2, are considerably quicker to establish and hold greater wildlife benefits.
If you are a landowner, farmer or landscaper, follow the link to see our full range of colourful wildflower mixtures which are available in both commercial and smaller quantities.