Say trees to a skier, and most likely they’ll picture the image above.
But trees are good for more than just a skier’s playground. They can be an important tool in the fight against global warming. Trees remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air and emit oxygen into the atmosphere. Less global warming means colder temperatures, which can mean more snow, which means more skiing for me in, say, trees.
So it all goes full circle. I like that.
Recently, I learned that Jay Peak Resort in Vermont is working with a program called the Clear Water Carbon Fund to fund tree planting throughout the region. I spoke with Laury Saligman, co-founder of Conservation Collaboratives, to find out more. An avid cross country skier whose love of the outdoors mirrors her passion for the environment, Laury has an MS from the Harvard School of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences and is a Toyota Audubon TogetherGreen Fellow. Her organization, which she founded in 2006 with her husband, John McGill, is a partner in the tree planting effort.
SD: I understand that the program is based on the use of carbon offsets. Can you tell me what these are and how they work?
LS: Sure. All of us produce carbon emissions in our day-to-day activities, whether we’re driving to work or driving to a ski area. These emissions go into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Carbon offsets counteract those emissions by linking the person or the business responsible for the emissions to an entity that can absorb them, most often renewable resources. So it’s a way to support these resources by “offsetting” the emissions that have already been produced.
SD: So what’s the Clear Water Carbon Fund? And how is it involved with Jay Peak?
LS: The Clear Water Carbon Fund is a carbon reduction program that funds the planting of trees on behalf of individuals and businesses who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Jay is offering carbon offsets through its website and online booking. So if you’re coming to Vermont to ski, but you’re attracted to the region – the fresh air, the beautiful views – you can counteract the CO2 you produce traveling here by going to the Jay website and contributing to the Fund. Also, when you book a trip online, you will be invited to participate in the program.The money goes toward planting and maintaining trees, periodic monitoring to verify the amount of carbon they store, and paying monetary incentives to landowners for the loss of revenue-generating activities such as the use of these areas for hay.
SD: Are the trees planted locally?
LS: Yes. Even though CO2 is a global pollutant, the trees will have the same effect on global warming no matter where they’re planted. In Vermont, we’re working with the White River Partnership to replant in areas that were denuded by Tropical Storm Irene or that’ve been assessed as important to watershed health. And we’re working with NorthWoods Stewardship Center to plant trees in the Clyde River watershed, a tributary of Lake Memphremagog in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In Maine, we’re planting trees along the Crooked River in the Sebago Lake watershed and along the Androscoggin River near Bethel.
SD: All these are along the water’s edge. Why?
LS: We try to do all our plantings within 150 feet of a creek or river. With good reason. Trees help prevent soil erosion, filter sediment and harmful pollutants to keep water clean, and provide shade for aquatic species and resting areas for migratory birds. We try to plant native species — cottonwood, red maple, and a variety of bushes and shrubs. The more we can mimic the natural environment, the better.
SD: So how may trees have you planted so far?
LS: Probably around 2,000. Jay Peak is the first ski resort in the area to offer this to their guests, but we’re hoping to expand it throughout the state. This way skiers can both take responsibility for their carbon dioxide emissions and protect our local environmental and water resources. I just wish every ski area would offer this to their guests, and that everyone who came to Vermont would pay a few dollars to support the natural infrastructure that makes this state so special.