What kind of tree should I plant in my back yard to soak up the most carbon
My husband and I intend to plant some trees on our property this spring. We’d like to do our part in the fight against climate change, so we’re looking for trees that can sequester exceptionally large amounts of carbon. Can you recommend a specific species, one that’s the acknowledged champ at reducing greenhouse gases?

By Brendan I. Koerner, January 8, 2008, SLATE.com – The Lantern wishes he could just name a single species that will meet your needs, thereby making this his easiest (and shortest) column. But alas, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to your query; the type of tree that’s best for the environment will depend on your geographic location and its attendant climate, as well as the composition of the soil on your property. And to maximize your results, you’ll have to commit to taking extra-special care of your trees during their formative years—and consider turning them into chairs or tables before they start to decay.

The first part of the sequestration equation is a no-brainer: The bigger a tree, the more room it has to store carbon. According to the United States Forest Service, the best trees for carbon sequestration are those with large trunk diameters and dense wood. It also helps if the trees sport leaves in lieu of needles; choose a hardwood over a conifer.

Just as important as maximum size and leaf type, however, is rate of growth—the faster a tree grows, the greater the percentage of its life that’s spent as an arborous titan. According to the Energy Information Administration, a 30-year-old hardwood that’s classified as a speedy grower—a red mulberry, for example, or a laurel oak—will sequester an average of 69.5 pounds of carbon per year, versus 36.8 pounds for a hardwood whose growth rate is deemed only moderate, and a measly 16.8 pounds for a true slowpoke.

Unfortunately, bigger hardwoods often grow at a snail’s pace, especially in northern climes where there’s a dearth of sunlight and chilly winters to contend with. As such, the conventional wisdom has long been that trees planted in equatorial rainforests are much better at stemming global warming than those planted in, say, Alberta or Vermont—the logic being that warm temperatures and heavy rainfall will result in faster average growth.

But North American trees can be goosed to grow more rapidly, a task usually accomplished through the careful application of nitrogen-based fertilizers. The downside to this method, however, is that the use of such fertilizers results in increased emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. A cleaner approach may be to plant a mix of trees—some that are good at sequestering carbon, others that enrich the soil by depositing nitrogen. Studies (PDF) on eucalyptus plantations, for example, have shown that more carbon is sequestered overall when nitrogen-fixing mimosa trees are added to the land.

If you’re planting a non-native species, your rate of growth may be lackluster no matter how much nitrogen you add to the soil. Do some research and find out which large, leafy, fast-growing hardwoods are native to your area. Native trees are also more likely to reach maturity and thrive for years.

Yet even the hardiest native trees are doomed to die someday, and in doing so, spew their carbon back into the atmosphere. (That’s particularly bad news when the trees are killed as part of a timber company’s clear-cutting efforts, since no young trees are left behind to help mitigate the losses.) If you’re around to witness your trees’ twilight years, consider keeping the carbon in place by turning them into furniture or building lumber, rather than letting them go gently into that good night.

OK, so let’s say you don’t have the inclination to research the perfect tree for your locale, nor the time to spend ensuring that your soil is suitably flush with nitrogen. If that’s the case with you and your husband, you probably can’t go too terribly wrong with a few of the following trees: yellow poplars, scarlet oaks, London planes, or American sweetgums. All are fast-growing hardwoods that require little maintenance (and thus little use of gas-guzzling equipment), and have proved to be solid carbon absorbers in tests. According to a 2002 survey of several hundred New York City trees, a yellow poplar (also known as the tulip tree) was the carbon sequestration champion, socking away an impressive 137.26 pounds of carbon. (The runner-up, strangely, was a European beech, at 112.39 pounds.)

The Lantern’s answer might be different a few years hence, thanks to a recent wave of research on hybrid trees. Scientists in Asia and the United States are all working to breed trees that are far better at absorbing carbon than their predecessors; this past October, for example, Japanese researchers announced they’d developed a hybrid larch that fixes 30 percent more carbon than normal larches.

How might planting, say, a half-dozen such supertrees on your property affect your household’s annual carbon footprint? Let’s say that a hybrid yellow poplar can be engineered to sequester 30 percent more carbon than the regular variety, for a grand total of 178.44 pounds per year. Multiply that by six trees, and you’ve offset 1,071 pounds of carbon. That, in turn, translates into 3,931 pounds of carbon dioxide, or 1.78 metric tons. Estimates vary widely, but the average American household’s annual carbon footprint is around 22 metric tons.

Of course, if you have enough property to plant six yellow poplars in the first place, your carbon footprint may be a lot higher than that.

Is there an environmental quandary that’s been keeping you up at night? Send it to ask.the.lantern@gmail.com, and check this space every Tuesday.

Target Health Inc. is proud to be a positive statistic as small businesses continued to lead growth in the U.S. economy in 2006, according to a report, The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President for 2007, issued by Advocacy.

The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President for 2007 reviews the economic environment for small businesses in 2006, including the financial and federal procurement marketplaces. Following is the research summary:

website for full report

The Small Business Economy 2007

Purpose and Scope

In this edition of The Small Business Economy, the Office of Advocacy reviews the economic environment
for small businesses in the year 2006, including the financial and federal procurement marketplaces. New research focuses on minority- and veteranowned businesses, social entrepreneurship, and pre-venture planning. Advocacy’s annual report on implementation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the results of Advocacy’s initiative to carry regulatory flexibility successes to the state level are summarized. Appendices provide data on small business and regulatory flexibility documents.


The Small Business Economy in 2006
Small businesses continued to be at the core of the economic expansion in 2006. A softening housing
market seemed reasonably contained in the economy’s resilience.
• Output rose, business income and profits were up, and unemployment was down.
• Small firms continued to drive employment in early 2006. A lower employment growth rate, 2.3 percent, occurred in the context of a tightening labor market.
• A review of small business costs showed the small firm share of payroll declining from 47.9 percent in the late 1980s to 45.1 percent in 2004.
• An appendix to this year’s report highlights Advocacy’s Quarterly Indicators publication, which
provides current detail on economic indicators that the small business economic milieu.

Small Business Financing in 2006
As the economy continued to grow at a slower, but still healthy pace, total business borrowing increased from $562 billion in 2005 to $753 billion in 2006.
• The rate of increase in nonfarm, noncorporate business borrowing declined slightly, from $304 billion
to $289 billion over the period.
• Average rates for the smallest, fixed-rate loans reached 8.76 percent in November 2006.
• The volume of initial public offerings increased, while the number declined slightly, indicating an
increase in the average size.

Federal Procurement from Small Firms
Small firms continued to benefit from the federal government’s acquisition of their goods and services.
• The Small Business Administration undertook a thorough data certification and review process
and worked with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to improve the quality and transparency of
procurement data.
• Small firms won $77 billion, or 22.8 percent of a total of $340 billion in federal government contracts
eligible for small business competition in FY 2006.
• The value of awards to small firms through the Small Business Innovation Research program
reached an estimated $1.9 billion in 2006.

Minorities in Business
Minority-owned businesses continue to increase their share of the U.S. economy.
• Between 1997 and 2002, firms owned by African Americans had the highest growth rates for
several measures, particularly in the number of firms (45.4 percent) and in total receipts (24.5 percent).
• Asians also saw growth in the number of employer firms and in annual payroll.
• Hispanic or Latino-owned firms constituted the largest minority business community.

Veteran Business Owners and Veteran-owned Businesses
The Census Bureau’s new Characteristics of Veteran- Owned Businesses and of Veteran Business Owners
December 2007 No. 314 provide important new data on firms owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans.
• The veteran respondents to the survey represent about 14.5 percent of an estimated 20.5 million total
respondent business owners.
• About 812,000 veterans had ownership interests in respondent firms having paid employees, compared
with about 2.2 million veterans with ownership interests in respondent firms having no paid employees.
• The firms of veteran respondents are older than U.S. firms overall, on average, and are similar in
receipts and employment size, according to the data.

Social Entrepreneurship
Andrew Wolk of Root Cause in Massachusetts describes social entrepreneurship, emerging at the nexus of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
• Innovation is a key role of the private sector, providing public goods and services is a role of government, and engaging individuals in action to achieve social goals is a role of the nonprofit sector. Social entrepreneurship has emerged where these roles intersect.
• Case studies of eight specific programs—ITN America, City Year, Benetech, KaBOOM!, New Leaders for New Schools, Resolve to Stop the Violence Program, Outside the Classroom, and Triangle Resident Options for Substance Abusers, Inc.—illustrate social entrepreneurial approaches.
• Louisiana recently founded the first Office of Social Entrepreneurship, which aims to shift the orientation of the state’s social services sector to a results-driven approach.

Pre-venture Planning
In any year, about 7 percent of the U.S. working age population is actively engaged in efforts to start a
business. Professors William Gartner and Jon Liao provide compelling evidence from the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics that business planning can significantly improve an entrepreneur’s chances of successfully starting a business.
• Entrepreneurs who started businesses were more likely to complete a business plan than those who were “still active” or had quit the process.
• Entrepreneurs who completed a business plan were six times more likely to start a business than those in the “still active” or “quit the process” groups.
• Those who completed written plans were likely to engage in more start-up activities than those whose plans were unwritten or informal.

Regulatory Flexibility Act Implementation, FY 2006
The Office of Advocacy oversees implementation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, an important tool requiring federal agencies to systematically review the potential effects of proposed regulations on small entities and to examine alternatives.
• In its annual report of RFA implementation, Advocacy documented savings of $7.25 billion in foregone regulatory costs in 2006.
• The Office of Advocacy offered model regulatory flexibility legislation for states in 2002. By summer 2007, 37 state legislatures had considered RFA legislation and 22 had implemented it by law or executive order.

This report was peer reviewed consistent with the Office of Advocacy’s data quality guidelines. More information on this process can be obtained by contacting the director of economic research at advocacy@sba.gov or (202) 205-6533.

Ordering Information

The full text of this report and summaries of other
studies performed under contract with the U.S. Small
Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy are
available on the Internet at www.sba.gov/advo/research.
Copies are available for purchase from:
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