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Buddhist Retreat Centre 2010 Carbon Footprint Study

The Background


The BRC has grown over 30 years to become a haven for hundreds of retreatants every year. Integrated into the 120 ha property, are the Centre’s buildings, accommodation lodges and cottages, the dining room and office, a shop, a lecture room and art studio, a library and the meditation hall. There is permanent staff living on and off site. An initial assessment (2009) provided an understanding of the direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the Centre (see below).

The Process Cool Carbon conducted the analysis according to the internationally recognised GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. • The control approach was used to consolidate all emissions controlled by the Centre • The organisational boundary was drawn around the activities of the Centre • All Scope 1 and 2 emissions as well as significant Scope 3 (optional) emissions were included (retreatants commute, approximately 30 people travelling an average of 100km per weekend, has been excluded). • The data was provided by staff for the period March 2010 to February 2011.

OVERVIEW OF SCOPES AND EMISSIONS

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The Results The total carbon footprint of the BRC for the 2009 and 2010 financial years was 202.57 and 208.25 tons of CO2equivalent (CO2e) respectively. The charts below show the total inventories of emissions by scope.

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The table below shows total emissions by scope and source:

Tons CO2e Type

Source 2009

2010

Vehicles (company owned)

7.4

7.81

Stationary fuel (LPG)

0.69

0.24

Scope 2

Electricity

147.24

124.85

Scope 3

Commute (vehicles)

4.85

6.59

Commute (flights)

37.56

65.86

Paper

0.279

0.173

Waste

4.55

2.73

202.57

208.25

Scope 1

Total

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These findings indicate that for the years assessed, the biggest sources of carbon emissions were: Tons CO2e 2009

2010

Electricity

147

125

Commute

42

73

Carbon emissions from the indirect consumption of electricity (60%) remains by far the biggest source, which is also a significant operational cost. There is no obvious explanation for the unexpected (although welcome) reduction compared to 2009 other than irregular blackouts during the reporting period. It is unknown whether the installation of timers on heaters has resulted in energy savings. Actual meter readings are now being submitted online which will allow for a more realistic analysis of consumption trends and costs. From the graphs below it is clear that despite the reduced consumption, costs continues to increase as a result of the annual Eskom tariff increases. Also noteable, is the increase in total Scope 3 emissions. Air travel is responsible for 87% (66 tons) of Scope 3 emissions.

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It is strongly recommended that the Centre: • Set emissions reduction targets that can be properly contolled and monitored on an annual basis • Implement a staff/retreatant awareness campaign to educate and involve staff/retreatants in carbon reduction initiatives (eg. electricity, waste etc)

Carbon Sequestration? The issue of whether or not the carbon sequestered by trees and plants can be used to offset other carbon emissions has been raised. While the idea has intuitive appeal, the answer is not that straightforward. The following summarises the basic concepts of carbon pools and flows and explains the processes at a landscape level. On a day-to-day basis plants absorb carbon dioxide during the process of photosynthesis. The glucose formed during photosynthesis is resynthesised to a wide variety of carbon compounds, the ‘building blocks’ of plant matter. Biomass (or plant matter), be it in the form of living and dead plants or soil organic matter, is generally between 42 to 45 percent carbon. Thus individual trees and plants form a temporary store of carbon which may be released back into the atmosphere at a later date, either through fire or when biomass decomposes. The term “carbon sequestration” refers to the long-term storage of carbon in biomass, which has been derived from the atmosphere, for a period of 20 years or more. When considering the long-term sequestration of carbon in biomass on a property, it is impractical and prohibitively expensive to track changes in the amount of carbon stored in each individual tree. It is therefore appropriate to view the carbon stored in biomass as a system of pools and flows, rather than at the scale of individual trees. Carbon pools may act either as sources or sinks of CO2, and are of four main types: • Above-ground and below-ground biomass (eg., crops and roots) • Dead organic matter in or on soils (ie., decaying wood and leaf litter) • Soil organic matter. This category includes all non-living biomass that is too fine to be recognised as dead organic matter • Harvested products (an important pool in the forestry sector) Carbon stocks represent the quantity of carbon stored in pools. The carbon stocks in individual plants are bunbled into ‘pools’ of carbon.

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The diagram below illustrates the main carbon pools and flows at the BRC. It is important to not only view carbon pools at a larger spatial scale, but to also consider a time dimension. Focussing on the change in the carbon pool over one year may not make sense . In the case of the wattle and eucalyptus it would be appropriate to consider the average size of the carbon pool over the rotation cycle. Over such a period, the net change in the carbon pool is essentially zero or ‘neutral’.

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Area (ha) Forest Carbon Pool

30

Grassland Carbon Pool

30

Wattle Carbon Pool

30

Eucalyptus Carbon Pool

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Mean carbon density (tC/ha)

Carbon Stock (tC)

Net accumulation (tC/ha)

1201

360

62

801

240

Zero

NA

Zero

Zero

NA

Zero

Zero

Total (tC) Total (tCO2)

500 18333

Notes: 1. Conservative estimates from Glenday 2007. 2. The carbon accumulation or sequestration rate is not constant over 20 years. For the sake of simplicity, a constant, linear rate has been calculated over 20 years. 3. To convert carbon to carbon dioxide multiply by 44/12 (=3.67) 4. Greenhouse gas emissions from the production of wattle and eucalyptus on the BRC property have not been included as a source. Such production requires land preparation, replanting, fertiliser applications and transportation.

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2010 BRC Carbon Footprint Study