Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

Carbon & Community

Carbon Offsetting and Beyond
The most obvious aspect of the Earth Education International (EEI) Carbon and Community program is tree-planting, something we have been involved in since 2002.  Ecologically, our trees help to offset carbon dioxide emissions associated with EEI offerings and assist in Costa Rica's carbon-neutrality efforts.  Some related points of interest are as follows:

-> Emissions associated with participating in a two week SHORT COURSE (air travel, in-country transport, and daily consumption) total approximately .80 metric tons compared to .65 metric tons if living in the United States for that length of time. Thus, flying to Costa Rica and participating in a short course contributes an additional .15 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere compared to the U.S. baseline. However, participants typically plant three trees during such short courses, and on average one tropical tree absorbs .0226 metric tons (22.6Kg, 50lbs) of CO2 per year. Thus, excess carbon emissions as a result of participating in the course are sequestered in approximately 2.3 years, and total course emissions in an additional 9.5 years (11.8 years total).

-> Emissions associated with participating in the nine week CONDENSED SEMESTER PROGRAM (air travel, in-country transport, and daily consumption) total approximately 1.09 metric tons compared to 2.91 metric tons if living in the United States for that length of time. Thus, participants' carbon emissions can be reduced by more than half by participating in the semester abroad program compared to the U.S. baseline. Nevertheless, if participants plant five trees during the program, and one tropical tree absorbs .0226 metric tons of CO2 per year on average, then total carbon emissions associated with the semester program are sequestered in under 10 years.

-> EEI is projected to be carbon neutral (having offset carbon emissions for all operations and offerings) by 2029. This is due to the time needed for trees we have planted since 2002 to repay the 'carbon debt' associated with our offerings. In the future we hope to shorten the 'payback period' by increasing the number of trees planted.

-> In addition to sequestering carbon dioxide, trees we plant provide watershed restoration, climate management and erosion control, and improved local air quality.  Due to the primary location where we reforest (within the Montes de Aguacate Biological Corridor), reforestation of native trees helps restore habitat for increased biological diversity.

For More Information:
How Much Carbon Does a Tropical Tree Sequester
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Calculator
World Bank CO2 Emissions (U.S. average = 15.5 metric tons/year., Costa Rica average = 1.6 tons)

Local Community Involvement
In addition to offsetting carbon dioxide emissions (and other environmental benefits) the Carbon & Community program also supports the local economy and community.  Implementation is primarily in cooperation with local community-based partners in our sister town of Palmares with community initiatives involved in reforestation, watershed conservation, and related activities.  EEI assists and supports those efforts through community integration, outreach, and education.  For more details, see an overview of our sustainability efforts, or the EEI Sustainability Assessment Inventory (Word document). 

On a personal level, this also provides an opportunity for EEI program participants and alumni to collaborate with Costa Ricans and others through shared field experiences and volunteer service-learning work.  For example, past participants have assisted various reforestation efforts, restoration of a butterfly garden, maintaining hiking trails, attending to and fertilizing trees, working in a tree nursery and posting signs, and repairing and painting bathrooms after they were vandalized.  On behalf of EEI and the local community, we thank all who have been involved for your efforts!

Reforestation: Then and Now
Included below is a representative sample of past reforestation efforts.  To the left are pictures taken during the course (on the date noted), and to the right are how the trees look today.

International Environmental Issues and Globalization: June, 2016

Tropical Biology: May 2009


Ecosystems, Conservation & Community:
January 2008

Semester Abroad in Sustainable Global Stewardship: Spring 2007


Ecosystems, Conservation & Community:
January 2007

Ecosystems, Conservation & Community:
January 2006

Environmental Field Studies Program:

Spring 2004