Volume 29 Issue 1, Winter 2024
by Gerco Hoogeweg
Homeowners can create carbon sinks on their own properties. Even if you have little space to work with, there are some options you can consider.
Planting native trees is a sure way of sequestering carbon. Mature trees, especially hardwoods such as oaks, can live many hundreds of years and thus store a lot of carbon. By planting new trees, especially native trees, in your yard, you can also control erosion, attract beneficial insects, enjoy fresh fruit/nuts, and even reduce your home’s energy needs through strategic shading.
Increasingly, planting native grasses is used for carbon sequestration. Many native grasses have deep, complex root systems that are well suited for storing carbon in the soil. Their root structures also help stabilize the soil, increase moisture levels, and retain nutrients. Perennial plants and native grasses are able to sequester carbon year-round without releasing it. This creates a healthier, more fertile soil along with reducing atmospheric carbon. Grasses are established much faster than trees and thus store carbon sooner. See the Plant NOVA Natives website for advice on which natives to plant.
Increasing the soil organic matter can be achieved simply by leaving your yard clippings, grass, and leaves in the yard, rather than bagging them up. Leaves and other clippings will break down and form soil organic matter. Smaller clippings are quickly broken down, often within a few seasons. You can even create a compost pile with the clippings and use the compost to fertilize your yard.
For those with larger parcels of land and more room to play, you may want to consider participating in a carbon sequestration exchange. Some information on this can be found at the Land Trust Alliance website.