Going Green in Lyons
By Kathleen Thurmes – East County Zero Waste Coordinator
“Keep it in the ground” is the mantra of climate change activists and organizations across the globe. To slow the upwards creep of the global thermometer, we must keep fossil fuels safely locked underground and stop releasing carbon dioxide and other not-so-healthy chemicals into the atmosphere through burning them for energy.
But what about the carbon that is already in the atmosphere, which is causing our climate to change at this very moment?
The Colorado Carbon Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting carbon offset activities, describes the situation like this:
“When a boat is sinking, two things need to be done to save the boat. You must plug the leak and bail out the water. Doing one without the other will leave the boat in a dangerous situation. Currently, many governments and activist groups are focusing on only one piece of our perilous climate situation: stopping the leak. A key part of the story is being left out.”
New research shows that, just as fossil fuels are found in the ground, so might the solution.
Researchers participating in the Carbon Farming Project in Marin County, California, have found something remarkable: if we focus on building healthy soil through all the practices known to store carbon – compost use being the practice that sequesters the most – we can significantly draw down excess atmospheric carbon, and reap many other benefits such as increased plant growth and reduced water use.
Boulder County and the City of Boulder, not to be outdone in the arena of innovative environmental solutions, have started their own carbon farming pilot project in partnership with the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory of Colorado State University.
“Agriculture in the Front Range of Colorado is very different from agriculture in northern California,” said Dan Matsch, Eco-Cycle’s in-house carbon sequestration expert and Lyons resident. “The Marin County study shows tremendous potential for climate change mitigation, but the soils and the climate are so different here that we need to generate local data. The purpose of the Boulder pilot project is to demonstrate how best to integrate different carbon farming practices for our own region.
A number of local farms, many of which had already implemented practices that pull carbon out of the atmosphere when the research group approached them, are participating in the study.
Compost use in agriculture is important for a number of different reasons. It helps the ground retain moisture, reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, and now evidence shows that it could be a major tool in the fight against a changing climate.
“Keep it in the ground” is a good mantra for reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, but it can also be used to describe a new path to help reverse the damage that has already been done.