Talking Trees with Davey Tree

What You Should Know About Carbon Credits

May 04, 2023 The Davey Tree Expert Company Season 3 Episode 18
What You Should Know About Carbon Credits
Talking Trees with Davey Tree
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Talking Trees with Davey Tree
What You Should Know About Carbon Credits
May 04, 2023 Season 3 Episode 18
The Davey Tree Expert Company

Joe Gregory, regional operations manager for the Davey Resource Group (DRG), shares some in-depth information on what carbon credits are, how businesses use them and Davey's pilot project getting familiar with them. 

In this episode we cover:  

  • What are carbon credits and how do they work? (0:45) 
  • How trees relate to carbon credits (5:40) 
  • Ways that big companies try to be carbon neutral (9:18) 
  • What is i-Tree and what does it do? (12:20) 
  • What Davey is doing in relation to carbon credits (15:40) 
  • Advice for business owners that want to reduce their carbon footprint (18:45) 
  • Joe’s feelings about the work he does (21:28)  

To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.  

To learn more about carbon credits, read our blog, Answering Four Common Carbon Questions.

To learn more about i-Tree, visit www.itreetools.org, or read our blog, i-Tree: Just as Important as a Shovel and Almost as Easy to Use. 

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company 

Connect with Doug Oster at www.dougoster.com

Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at podcasts@davey.com. We want to hear from you!    

 

Show Notes Transcript

Joe Gregory, regional operations manager for the Davey Resource Group (DRG), shares some in-depth information on what carbon credits are, how businesses use them and Davey's pilot project getting familiar with them. 

In this episode we cover:  

  • What are carbon credits and how do they work? (0:45) 
  • How trees relate to carbon credits (5:40) 
  • Ways that big companies try to be carbon neutral (9:18) 
  • What is i-Tree and what does it do? (12:20) 
  • What Davey is doing in relation to carbon credits (15:40) 
  • Advice for business owners that want to reduce their carbon footprint (18:45) 
  • Joe’s feelings about the work he does (21:28)  

To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.  

To learn more about carbon credits, read our blog, Answering Four Common Carbon Questions.

To learn more about i-Tree, visit www.itreetools.org, or read our blog, i-Tree: Just as Important as a Shovel and Almost as Easy to Use. 

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company 

Connect with Doug Oster at www.dougoster.com

Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at podcasts@davey.com. We want to hear from you!    

 

[music]

Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each week, our expert arborists share advice on seasonal tree care, how to make your trees thrive, arborists' favorite trees, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more, because here at The Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer.

This week we have a very special episode. Joe Gregory, Regional Operations Manager for the Davey Resource Group in Kent, Ohio, is going to school us on something called carbon credits. Joe, I've talked about it with some other guests on the podcast, and I've done some reading about carbon credits. What is the first thing we should know about what carbon credits actually are and how they work?

Joe Gregory: First off, Doug, thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here, happy to participate and get the word out. The opportunities for the Davey Company and our clients in the carbon market are really exciting right now. There's a lot of interest from our clients and our customers out there in what a carbon credit is, how does it work. At Davey Resource Group, the consulting arm of the Davey Tree Expert Company, we've really had an opportunity in the last year or so to explore that and get up to speed. Yes, I'm excited to talk to you about it today.

A carbon credit is essentially equivalent to a metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions, right? That's what it represents. There are different markets out there revolving around carbon. There's a compliance market in Europe and in California and an emerging one in Washington where certain industry giants have regulations on how much greenhouse gas, or carbon, or CO2 emissions, if you will, can be emitted. The government regulates that, and anything above that has to be mitigated for.

One way to do that is to purchase credits from other operators, or organizations, or entities that are sequestering or pulling out greenhouse gases and carbon from the atmosphere. There's progress happening with industry and development that results in emissions, and then there's also these really great environmental projects that result in carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reductions. There are markets out in Europe and in the US in some places where there's those regulations.

Then there's another bigger market, which is a voluntary market where there's no regulatory driver, but still, companies and individuals and organizations that want to reduce their carbon footprint can purchase credits or invest in these projects that help offset the emissions of their organization or their lifestyle. It's a big topic, right? It's at all different scales, it can be tricky to talk about. There's opportunities for individuals to offset their carbon footprint with their vacation travel, right?

The airline industries offer ways to pay more to offset the carbon emissions of their travel. You can do that with certain rental car companies, and that's at an individual level. Where individuals can calculate their lifestyle and what the carbon footprint is, and then invest in projects that might offset that footprint so that they can live more sustainably or feel like they are contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle.

It scales all the way up, Doug, to big corporations who either want to impact their sustainability or their clients are demanding that they operate sustainably, or the government is regulating that you operate sustainably. In today's heightened awareness of climate change and the impacts of climate change, the primary driver for that, Doug, is greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming, right?

In order to slow that down, these markets exist to create opportunities for projects like tree planting projects, tree preservation projects, or any other type of sustainable energy project. Whether it be solar, or wind, or water-powered projects that reduce carbon from the atmosphere, generate credits for these companies to invest in those technologies and also bridge the gap between today and the future where they might want to operate more sustainably.

Doug: Let's talk specifically then about trees. Would someone save an area of trees and say, "Okay, we're not going to touch these trees and this is going to be part of a carbon credit that someone can buy?" How would it work if it was just trees? I know Davey's involved in this and has some areas set aside. Talk a little bit about that.

Joe: That sounds good. Yes. Narrowing it down to trees is that's my wheelhouse, because the carbon market is big and complex, right? It can be confusing. There's a lot of ways to generate credits and a lot of ways to impact climate change, but one of the most straightforward and simple ways that most people can understand is to plant and protect trees, right? As trees grow, they photosynthesize sunlight and carbon dioxide, they keep that carbon to put on tree growth, and they release the oxygen.

Essentially as trees do their thing and grow, they're sequestering carbon and tying that up, they're taking it actively out of the atmosphere and putting it into their wood. As we plant more trees or protect trees from being cut down, then we're contributing positively to the carbon budget, I should say. Just the simple act of planting a tree can be a really powerful act of climate action. Yes. The way it works in the climate market is there are opportunities to do reforestation and afforestation on large scales.

Plant lots of trees to create credits that otherwise wouldn't have happened without the carbon market. If there's buyers out there that are interested in credits, they're essentially saying, "Hey, I'm interested in investing in a more sustainable world, and one of the things I can invest in is more tree planting or more activities that result in tree protection." Those happen globally at a big scale.

What Davey's been looking at recently are the smaller-scale urban applications of carbon credits to take the carbon market and make it a little bit more meaningful to the average US citizen who's living in a city feeling the effects of climate change. Understanding all the benefits of trees, one of them is that they sequester carbon. Now, are there ways that we can get more trees planted in the name of climate change, more trees protected? So far, we found that there's a registry in the United States called City Forest Credits.

There's great nonprofit organization who have been looking at the carbon markets and essentially modifying them to work in the US in urban areas for cities, and nonprofits, and watershed groups that are planting and preserving trees as part of their mission. They should get credit for that activity that carbon credit buyers want to invest in.

Doug: I guess there must be a formula for this, right? I'm just going to put an example out and tell me if I'm in the right direction. I'm a big company, I want to be carbon neutral, I'm going to buy some carbon credits by supporting a project that plants a lot of trees somewhere. Is that one way for me to get my carbon credits?

Joe: That's one way to do it. You got it. Yes. Just to add a little bit more detail there, if you're a big company and you're interested in being carbon neutral, it's probably really difficult to get to carbon neutral today just by making decisions about electrifying your fleet, changing out your light bulbs, making more energy-efficient decisions about your operation. The technology is there to invest in, and we need to be doing those things but in order to truly be carbon-neutral today, there's a gap in how a company can get there. The gap is solved by being able to invest in carbon credit-generating projects.

Like I mentioned before, Doug, there's all sorts of ways to generate carbon credits. They're essentially regulated and governed by carbon registries. These are organizations that set rules about how to generate carbon credits and then they verify and authenticate those so that you can trust it. That's where the science comes in.

They establish the science of behind how to quantify the amount of carbon that this project has an impact on, and then we'll release those credits to be bought that a company can then use to credit against their emissions. There are many different ways. Globally, there are innovative ways to impact cooking stoves in countries that are still using open fires to do their primary cooking. There's large-scale reforestation in the equatorial regions of the US.

There are investments in green energy like wind and solar and water, but all of those are really big and intimidating for a lot of companies and individuals to interact with. What City Forest Credits and Davey are interested in is how does that concept work at a smaller urban scale? If we are planting and maintaining trees in the city, can we get credit for that? Can we monitor that carbon sequestration rate in such a way where we can get credit for it? It turns out that we can. Davey is a major contributor to this suite of scientific tools called i-Tree. You ever heard of those, Doug?

Doug: I've heard it mentioned, but I don't know what it is.

Joe: What's interesting is i-Tree is this public-private partnership between the US Forest Service, Davey, and many other urban forestry non-profits that provide leadership in our industry. It's a suite of software tools that you can use to calculate the benefits of trees, not only just carbon, but all the air quality improvements, the stormwater benefits of trees, the aesthetic benefits of trees, and how that applies to land values and things like that, the psychological and public health benefits.

i-Tree has these different tools that we can use to quantify these benefits, and it's one of the things that Davey's been really involved in over the years trying to disseminate and develop and grow the use of these tools. Now that carbon is a commodity that applies to the work we do, we can also use, i-Tree to quantify it. If you tell me how many trees you want to plant or how many acres of woodlands you want to preserve, we could use our i-Tree tools to quantify the amount of credits that we will get and then be able to evaluate if that's enough.

Doug: Would i-Tree be something that a consumer could use? Let's say some guy's a host of a podcast and he lives on four acres and it's filled with trees. Could he use i-Tree to figure out the good he's doing by not cutting down all his trees on his property just to make himself feel good?

Joe: There are all levels of tools within i-Tree. You can check out those tools online at www.itreetools.org. There are tools for every level of user. If you are an individual homeowner on a small plot of land and you want to quantify the benefits of your trees, there's a tool called MyTree that you can run and on an individual tree in your yard to quantify the benefits.

There's then from there, Doug, much more sophisticated tools that we can use to analyze entire urban populations that we can project a future planting project and what kind of benefits it will create over time, and how those benefits scale up as the trees grow. There are some pretty sophisticated opportunities in there for folks to play with and understand how important trees are to the environment. One of the things that I really love about getting into carbon here at Davey Resource Group is that we get to use those tools and we get to look at and really highlight that one benefit of trees, carbon sequestration, and what it means in the overall conversation of climate change.

Doug: What specifically, just their intent, is Davey doing as far as carbon credits are concerned?

Joe: Well, we've been looking and hearing about carbon for a while now. I've been with Davey for over 20 years and shortly after I started it, doing tree inventories and writing urban tree management plans, the topic of carbon and the fact that trees are a carbon sequestering benefit has always been of interest to our clients and our employees but it wasn't until i-Tree tools came around to help quantify it.

City Forest's Credits a registry specifically defining the rules for the carbon market in urban areas that we could combine it and use this to benefit our clients. It became an opportunity for us at Davey Resource Group to tackle a pilot tree preservation project in the name of Carbon. We got to work with our leadership and our managers here at Davey and Kent to tackle a small pilot project.

There are some forested hardwood stands in Kent that Davey owns and has owned for a long time that they decided would be best to be preserved in the name of the Climate Action. We use the City Forest Credits, registries kind of protocols and rules to navigate the process for generating credits for preserving and protecting trees.

In Kent, we decided to do a pilot project and the results are about 21 acres of hardwoods that we're protecting, that were threatened from development here in Kent. Kent's a growing community, Davey's a growing company. There was some land in there that we decided, hey, if we use this as a pilot project, we cannot only figure out how this voluntary carbon market works for our clients but we can also get experience with tree preservation. We can use the pilot project as a demonstration for our employees to learn about the market, and essentially it's been a really successful pilot for us. We've got the credits verified through the registry. We've generated about, let's see, let me check my notes here. We've generated about 4,600 total credits through the preservation and protection of 21 acres of woodlands.

That means now in Kent, there's some land that Davey owns that now it cannot be sold or developed or cleared. Those trees are now protected and that carbon is protected for the purposes of climate change.

Doug: I have a little business in Kent, Ohio. I bump into you at the Taco Shop and I realize what you do for a living. I tell you about my business. I'm trying to do everything I can in my business to make it sustainable. One of the things I want to do is bridge that gap for a little business, a small business. What would your advice be to them in that situation?

Joe: Yes, so we generated some credits with our pilot project, and then with that project and spec specifically Doug, we're still talking at internally at Davey about what will we do. Davey's a big company and we have emit greenhouse gas emissions that we want to get a handle on. There are still conversations going on about what we might do with our credits but, in general, yes, a small business and a growing community that wants to reduce its carbon footprint should look at choices that they have actively to reduce their carbon footprint naturally like those things that I mentioned before, more efficient energy choices things like that but when you want to bridge that gap, carbon credits become a good option.

We think, this is an important point, that the types of credits that you can get are widely variable. It's just like anything on the market that you want to buy, there's a cost-effective variety. There's a higher-end option. We think when it comes to carbon credits, whether you're investing in reforestation down in Ecuador or a tree preservation project in Kent, there's the right buyer for. Davey's interest right now is in the higher quality urban tree benefit planting and preservation projects.

I would advise small businesses that want to get into carbon credit buying that they look at urban credits because they have benefits well beyond just carbon sequestration. Once you invest in urban tree planting and urban tree preservation, now you get all the co-benefits along with that, like the energy and shade from energy savings benefits from the shade of trees, the stormwater benefits from the tree canopies, and all those other kind of beautification and aesthetic and psychological benefits. Those benefits aren't actually quantified and traded like carbon is, but you get the extra benefits on top when you invest in projects like that.

Doug: Before I let you go, I want to talk about just from a personal angle as far as it must feel great to be working on something like this that is going to help the environment. Talk a little bit about that for me because I think that's a great thing, what you're doing.

Joe: Yes. Thanks, Doug. Hopefully, you can hear in my voice, right? It's always been exciting to work in the urban forestry field and I've had great opportunities at Davey to do that over my career. As of recent, it's been really nice to see how our work in urban forestry is now becoming attractive to other types of entities who are now interested in the work because it generates carbon credits. It's been a fun pilot project for Davey to protect our 21 acres of hardwoods in Kent and generate those credits, figure out how the market works.

It's going to be even more fun to take all that knowledge and go to our clients that include cities all across the US, watershed groups, land trusts and land conservancy agencies, and other nonprofits in the environmental space. Now that everyone's starting to get interested in, "Hey, can I generate revenue from my project by using the carbon market to get more investments to do more good work?" Davey's in a position to help our clients understand that. I'm really excited and proud that Davey invested in the pilot, did the right thing for the climate, and is taking positive, actionable steps towards improving our sustainability, and that we can also use that information to help other clients take advantage of the market and get more good work done.

Doug: Well, Joe, I actually now understand carbon credits, and if I understand it, after talking to you, everyone's going to understand it. I really, really appreciate your time and explaining this to us. It was really great stuff. Thanks so much for your time.

Joe: Yes, my pleasure, Doug. Thanks for your interest.

[music]

Doug: Well, I hope you found that as interesting as I did. I've been wanting to cover the topic of carbon credits for quite a while now. Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I am your host, Doug Oster, and do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast so you'll never miss an episode. If you have an idea for a show or like to make a comment, send me an email to podcasts, that's plural, @davey.com. That's podcasts@davey.com. As always, we'd like to remind you, on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.

[00:24:28] [END OF AUDIO]