In May 2014 Jeremy Jones and his family traveled to Costa Rica and volunteered for the non-profit rainforest reforestation Association Community Carbon Trees (ACCT). ACCT has spent the last twelve years fighting against climate change by reforesting clear cut swaths of Costa Rican rainforest with a wide diversity of native tropical trees. Jeremy and his family helped the ACCT crew collect tree seeds, plant saplings and prepare land for future reforestation.

Planting and protecting trees is truly one of the most important steps toward fighting global warming as forests pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and recycle it into oxygen.The benefits of reforestation in Costa Rica are greater than most other places on Earth because trees are able to grow 365 days-a-year thanks to Costa Rica’s unique location within 10 degrees of the Equator. Fast growing trees offset enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, much more than trees planted in non-tropical areas.

CCT Nursery where they grow native tree saplings.

After witnessing the amazing work of ACCT first hand, Jones Snowboards has made the commitment to help fund ACCT through our annual donation to 1% For The Planet and Protect Our Winters. ACCT managed reforestation projects are on a 25-year cycle. ACCT work crews maintain the the trees for the first three years and the participating landowner takes over the continued maintenance and receives instruction for an additional 22 years. The estimated cost per tree for the 25-year cycle is $25. With our 2015 donation to ACCT, Jones Snowboards will help reforest and maintain an important biological corridor with nearly 400 trees.

Cass Jones plants a seedling at the ACCT nursery.

A Jones’ sponsored tree planted in the Chontales waterfall region.

ACCT was founded by lawyer turned rainforest activist Jennifer Leigh Smith. Jennifer organizes a group of full-time local workers and volunteers that have successfully reforested dozens of clear cut swaths in the past decade by planting and maintaining over 4000 new trees.

"I’ve searched for years for a rainforest program to support," said Jeremy Jones. "I found it with CCT. Jennifer takes real action for the environment and the local people love her. She brings them work and reforests their land in a way that they can make a living off maintaining the forests.”

Jennifer Leigh Smith, second from right, and one of the ACCT planting crews.

We caught up with Jennifer this fall at the end of the planting season to hear about the latest successes with ACCT. Follow along for detailed thoughts from Jennifer:

How has the 2015 planting season gone so far? How many trees do you estimate you’ve planted this year?
We have enjoyed the best planting season ever in 2015. For starters, we planted more than 4500 this year trees totaling approximately 85 different species. We started projects at five new participating family farms which means that our community of workers and conservationists is growing and we manage more then 3000 trees from prior planting seasons so our male and female work crews have enjoyed more regular work this year. This has improved self esteem, commitment and availability of the surrounding community to jump on board and continue planting and caring for more trees on their own farms.

Jennifer gets her hand dirty daily helping with the reforestation effort.

ACCT is a role model program for other international reforestation programs. Any new outreach that you’ve accomplished recently helping other world wide programs?
Yes, ACCT is focused on outreach for other community reforestation programs particularly serving as the example of a new paradigm in the areas of tree planting, especially in the Tropics. Employing high biodiversity and fair paid community labor with trees planted on small farms instead of conservation style buy out land trusts has been a real change for most groups. We are currently working with a community reforestation group in Nepal, helping them to protect some of the few existing trees remaining standing after the earthquake and rebuild communities from the ground up by planting varied fruit trees for future food. They are fundraising through international networks and I am consulting with them on a regular basis. Notably, ACCT is demonstrating a model that works in rural communities with very little money and infrastructure with women in the center. Over the last 2 years, we have consulted for numerous small groups of women in Africa and were nominated in April 2015 for the Wangari Maathai award by the World Forestry Congress for our efforts. ACCT is also moving towards being certified for selling international carbon neutral compensation bonds through Earth University. ACCT is being presented as the premier level of carbon offset because of our commitments to fair labor, education, water protection and reforestation biodiversity.

A women’s planting crew carries saplings to the project site.

Fresh from the nursery, a diverse mix of new saplings are planted in each plot.

Why are you excited for the future potential of ACCT?
Times are more dire than ever when it comes to climate change. If we have been reading any of the accepted science out there, and paying attention to the actual strange events that comprise our weather nowadays, I think we can all feel the urgency to do whatever we can to be a force for repairing the Earth’s systems. Seeking carbon neutrality as a whole planet does not have to be hard. We just have to get the information out there to the people. I think people are ready to choose products that are responsible to the Earth and support projects like ACCT that work to repair the environment. That is why i started this whole tree planting movement. Because I believe that planting trees is our best solution to battle climate change. After we reduce all we can, use sustainable energies all we can, we can plant rainforest trees to help sequester more of the carbon and greenhouse gases in our footprint that we cannot otherwise reduce. Our new partnership with Jones Snowboards comes at a great time for ACCT. We are growing and we plan to keep it up... planting more and more trees every year. We also hope that people pick up on the carbon offset idea through seeing Jones’ example. I believe that more and more people will be drawn to consider their own carbon footprints and feel called to reduce and compensate by supporting a validated and verified reforestation project with fair paid labor and biodiversity like ACCT.

CCT maintains the trees for the first three years and then the participating landowner takes over care for the next 22 years with maintenance instruction from ACCT.

How do you decide how many trees and what mix are planted in a given area?
The number of trees planted on any given acre depends on the topography of the land and whether there are any secondary regenerating trees currently present. We typically are planting cleared cattle pasture and approximately 350 trees are planted per acre at approximately 5 to 8 m apart. We do not do a lot of early thinning of trees. In fact, we guarantee all trees for 25 years to reach the highest carbon dioxide sequestration levels possible and create as much as a new sustainable forest matrix in a natural way based on high biodiversity of many different species planted together. That is one of the special things that we do at ACCT. We are not planting monoculture trees in rows. In addition to the number of trees planted, we also measure how big the trees get, how long they live, and how much biomass and soil they regenerate. Of course how much water they recycle is also key for all of our challenges to balance the hydrological cycle. We aim to rebuild healthy habitats for animals and humans and stable rainforest food for all. I think what is so cool about ACCT is that the mixture of trees is designed to create a productive food forest full of products and food, medicine, lumber, beauty, all sustainably managed.

Thanks to the humid, lush climate in Costa Rica, trees start small but grow fast.

How much of your efforts are funded by business contributions vs individual contributions?
Most of our funding currently derives from individual contributions. We work strongly with Global Giving our 501c3 partner which serves as a great platform for philanthropic donors seeking US tax deductions. Recently, we received a $5000 donation from a charitable endowment. We also work with a few eco hotels and yoga retreats seeking to carbon neutralize their vacation packages. A few products like a surfboard maker is sponsoring trees to neutralize his production process. We work with a few schools too. Various musicians are also neutralizing their recording process and tours. In addition, we are given small donations by a few businesses beginning to seek a more balanced bottom line. We have created a new carbon offset reforestation partnership and look forward to helping more and more businesses and individuals erase their carbon footprint with our biodiverse community rainforest trees.

By year four trees have started to fill in a low canopy.

Are you open to volunteer help on the farms from travelers?
We love to receive volunteer help in our tree nurseries. We create activities for people to come and transplant trees, water the babies, fill the tree bags with dirt, weed, help work on the compost. We also receive students and longer term volunteers with prior arrangements. We also offer a variety of fun eco-tours out to one of our projects depending on how much time folks have and what they want to do. We can visit a variety of our ACCT reforestation projects complete with Rivers/waterfall swimming, lunch prepared by our women’s group and all kinds of information about how our work contributes to global climate. Year round by appointment. People can contact us through our website and arrange directly with us.

Jeremy Jones and his family visited ACCT and helped out in the nursery.

Find out how to volunteer or sponsor trees here:

www.communitycarbontrees-costarica.com/sponsor-now

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Jeremy Jones
Published on
18 November 2015
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