Carbon Offsets – A Quick Calculation

Last modified on February 23rd, 2009

I was doing a little research on carbon offsets this morning, and just for yucks, wanted to price out what it would cost to be a supplier of carbon offsets in Canada. There are various ways to offset carbon, but a fairly standard one is to plant trees in exchange for money. How many trees can you plant on an acre of land? Well, turns out this guy has it all figured out, at least for poplar trees. If you space them 10′ x 10′, you can get around 436 trees on an acre.

The average tree consumes about 1 ton of CO2 over it’s lifetime, which according to this website is around 80 years. So over the course of 80 years, 436 trees will offset 436 tonnes of CO2. The going rate for carbon offsets are around $5 – $15 per metric ton of CO2 reduced. Let’s pick $10 per ton as an example. So at those prices, we need to be able to purchase land for less than $4,360/acre in order to make our venture at least break even.

I haven’t done any looking around, but $4,300 an acre sounds pretty cheap, and I’m not sure you could find that anywhere near a city. Maybe when I have more time I’ll redo this calculation using some firmer numbers, and also include the yearly property taxes.