Friday 20 May 2016

Crofting - a major contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide - replace the sheep with trees perhaps?

When I put the last of the logs under cover I was feeling quite smug; I heat the house and hot water with wood I also cook with the Rayburn  most of the year.  The house is well insulated, I use mainly low energy light bulbs and I'm fanatical about switching things off.

Yesterday I found the WWF "Farm Carbon Footprint Calculator"  on line. I spent 15 minutes completing the questionnaire with details of fuel use, cropping, livestock, purchased feed, fertiliser and agrochemicals, capital items and the house. The result was a shock.

Despite relying on  mainly renewable fuel, keeping grazing livestock and poultry, driving only 6,000 miles a year I generate over 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.  What can I do about it?.

I thought that my truck would be the biggest contributor. Its two and a half tonnes  and pulls a 3,500 kg load. I use it for firewood , livestock, hay and straw haulage but it only generates 20 % of my total carbon. The sheep are the biggest culprits as they generate 37 % of the croft's CO2 emissions.

We need more young trees, they absorb more CO2
Planting trees would help, they soak up carbon dioxide and eventually they will provide someone with firewood on the doorstep without fuel miles. The 150 million trees in Kielder Forest soak up 2 kg each of CO2 per annum (Forestry Commission). Carbon capture depends on the species, the growing conditions and how the trees are managed. So how many trees would I need here to get my carbon emissions balance with carbon capture?

At 2,500 trees per hectare ( the plant population for commercial forestry) I would need 3 ha commercial woodland;  slightly more than twice the area of the whole croft. Last year there were 19,422 crofts in Scotland if Craigard is typical (unlikely!) total carbon dioxide emissions were nearly 3 million tonnes.

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