How much carbon is "In My Tree"?

 

The grunge band Pearl Jam is known for being loud — and for being socially and environmentally conscious. The rockers deserve more applause this week, after announcing they will mitigate their emissions for their 2009 tour, one tree at a time. The band's giving $210,000 to the Cascade Land Conservancy to help restore urban forests and sequester carbon in the Seattle area, their home.

With the aid of volunteers, the CLC will plant native trees, while tearing out invasive vines and shrubs. Then, they will mulch, monitor and maintain sites for years. The plantings will start immediately and finish by 2013. The band's tried to mitigate its carbon output each year since 2003 by giving to various environmental projects. As the band's guitarist Stone Gossard said in a press release, "We view this as a cost of doing business."

The 2009 tour featured 32 performances and produced an estimated 5,474 metric tons of carbon. The nonprofit Conservation International aided in the calculation, taking into account lodging and travel for the band, crew and equipment, the venues at which they played, the attendance for each concert, and even a rough guess of the traveling fans did to and from each show. When Pearl Jam says it's mitigating its tour, they mean it: the rockers aren't just offsetting their footprint, but that of all the people who came to hear them croon.

Trees, of course, store carbon as they grow – to the tune of 500,000 tons each year, in the Seattle area alone. But many patches of urban forest are nearing the end of their natural lifespan and are beset by invasive plants. So the CLC and the City of Seattle got together in 2004 to form the Green City Partnership and design a 20-year plan to nurture the metropolis' arboreal swaths — and thus its people. The program has spread to suburbs like Kent, Kirkland and Redmond, where some of Pearl Jam's sponsored trees likely will take root.

The Green City Partnership designates possible restoration areas as high, medium or low value sites, depending on the current health of its landscape. The most cost effective parcels for restoration — at $30/tonne of sequestered CO2, or $7,300/acre — are places where native conifers already exist and simply planting more can go along way. New seedlings will add carbon-sequestering capacity to the landscape, though eventually, of course, that carbon will be released as trees die and decay. But Pearl Jam's contribution will allow up to 7,000 tonnes of carbon to be sequestered long-term — something to sing about.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must mention that I was listening to Pearl Jam as I wrote this blog post. I recommend trying this anthem out. Trust me, it's apropos:

 

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