Can Our Landscapes Help Sequester Carbon from the Atmosphere?
CAN OUR LANDSCAPES HELP SEQUESTER CARBON FROM THE ATMOSPHERE?
We know that plants are magnificently designed to pull carbon from the atmosphere and use it for creating tissue as well as pumping it into the soil through various exudates! So yes, our landscapes ARE part of the solution.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOUR LANDSCAPE DO ITS JOB?
Practically speaking, we do not need an advanced science degree to implement this solution. By installing robust, organic planter beds and focusing on healthy soil-building practices, we are taking a HUGE step in using existing and new landscapes to help draw down carbon. Yes, it’s pretty easy. Set the stage and then get out of the way and let your plants do their thing!
How Much Does it Really Help?
All the specifics of how much we can draw down and sequester, and under what conditions is not yet fully clear., but we do know enough to get moving. Based on credible, existing studies focused on perennial, no-till agriculture, I think it is conservative to estimate that California can sequester 250,000 tons per year from properly managed, urban landscapes alone. I believe this is the bare minimum and I suspect it is an incredibly low estimate.
Will Your Landscape Be a Part of the Solution?
Tips to reduce your carbon footprint in your landscape:
1. Reduce Hardscape Wherever Possible
Hardscapes generally have the highest carbon and overall ecological footprint of any landscape. Reducing hardscape helps reduce emissions as well as leaving more landscape for sequestration. This will also have the added benefit of generating less rainwater runoff and more area for rainwater percolation.
2. Proper Plant Design
By choosing the correct plant, we can avoid the need for excess fertilizers and water. We can also design with the intent to minimize the maintenance needed for 2-cycle engines (i.e. hedges and the like)
3.Fertilizing and Soil Care
By taking care of the soil and minimizing even organic fertilizers, we can minimize the need for high carbon-footprint-manufactured nutrients. Composting in place, proper plant care, and adding fertilizer on a strictly as-needed, plant-by-plant basis, will have dramatic long-term effects.
4. Maintenance Practices
Eliminate 2-cycle engines everywhere! A recent study showed that a backpack blower will pollute approximately 700 x the amount of a full-size truck!!!
(A note from Rick: In doing the most basic digging for this blog, we have discovered how complex it is to truly track the impacts listed in our tips section. Because of this, Elder Creek has decided to build a much-needed system to measure it. I am very excited about this! We will keep you posted on its progress…)
Rick Taylor has spent the last 20 years in Sonoma County studying, practicing, and teaching sustainability in the landscape. From professional trainings, to university students, garden clubs to elementary children, his deep understanding of the industry and ecology allows him to adapt talks for almost any audience. Rick merged a background in both horticulture and agriculture with his passion for the built environment and founded Elder Creek Landscapes, a design/build/maintain firm with a professional and ecological focus. Elder Creek has since transitioned into a Landscape Architecture Construction Project Management firm. In addition to almost two decades in the industry, Rick has also served on the Sebastopol Design Review Board, where he had major design input on the municipal drainage plan for the NEASP project. He also served as a core member to Sonoma State's Sustainable Landscape Professional Certificate program, where he developed the curriculum and taught classes on sustainable and profitable landscape maintenance techniques. Rick has given numerous talks for master gardeners clubs and community organizing groups, and leads hands-on volunteer events for Daily Acts, a non-profit focused on sustainability transformation.