Can burning wood be carbon-negative?

To quote from Yale University research on carbon-sequestration technologies: “Creating biochar actually reduces CO₂ in the atmosphere because the process takes a theoretically carbon-neutral process of naturally decaying organic matter and turns it carbon-negative: When plants decay, they emit CO₂, which other plants eventually absorb, and the cycle continues. Biochar stabilizes that decaying matter and accompanying CO₂ and puts it in the ground to stay for — potentially — hundreds or even thousands of years.”

In addition to sequestering carbon in the ground, it’s also an excellent way to fortify soils. Again, from Yale: “Biochar also enriches soil… burying biochar can improve crop yields by improving water retention and moderating the pH, or acidity, of the soils.”

With an entire clearcut of slash piles to deal with, and a forest to restore in its wake, I can’t imagine a better 2-in-1 way to solve both of these problems at the same time.

We’re now working out a missing piece of the puzzle: making use of the heat generated by this process to activate a third function. Boiling maple sap perhaps? Heating our greenhouses?

Shoutout to Rick for turning us on to this incredibly useful tool for soil remediation and carbon capture! A few photos from our first burn below.

IMG_2221Two Methods: VerticalLy ‘Suffocated’ (left) and the ‘Warm heart’ trough (RIght)

IMG_2234Pre-quenched Biochar

IMG_2209Vertical Method

About Adam Zinzan

Adam has a background in design and brings his experience with the design process to homesteading and natural building. He has designed and built several off-grid cabins, making use of salvaged materials and self-harvested timber. He is an experienced timber frame builder, self-taught draftsperson, homesteader, and visual artist. Adam lives and works at Snow Lake Keep homesteading community.

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