Sustainability Initiatives

UGA Costa Rica Carbon Offset Program

Time to Take Action on Climate Change


Launched in January of 2008, the UGA Costa Rica Carbon Program is unique among carbon offset programs in that it has high added value. In addition to offsetting carbon emissions related to travel (on average, $20 per person will offset two tons of carbon related to international air travel and ground transportation within the country*) and restoring critical lost habitat on degraded pasturelands where tropical rainforests once stood, the UGA Costa Rica Carbon Program will establish long-term research forests where scientists from the University of Georgia and elsewhere will study the effects of climate change; forest, soils and wildlife ecology; sustainable silviculture and soils management techniques; and even sociological issues (e.g., Does participation in the program effect environmental behaviors and attitudes? Does the program influence land management practices within the Biological Corridor?).

The Pájaro Campana Biological Corridor forms part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which stretches from southern Mexico through Panama. UGA Costa Rica campus general manager, Fabricio Camacho, serves as the President of the Advisory Committee for this Corridor, which is recognized by the Costa Rican Government as part of the country's national biological corridor program. These new forests will help to improve forest connectivity throughout the Pájaro Campana Biological Corridor, and carbon offset purchases through the UGA Costa Rica Carbon Program will directly contribute to the establishment of new habitat for the three-wattled bellbird (known in Spanish as Pájaro Campana, the flagship species for the corridor) and the resplendent quetzal, two migratory species greatly impacted by habitat loss in this region.

In addition to planting trees on our campus, our goal is to engage local landowners as part of the solution by developing market-based incentive programs which will provide income to them for reforesting degenerated pastures and protecting existing forests on their farms. This approach helps keep farmers on their farms by generating new sources of income they can earn from the ecosystem services they produce from their land. Ultimately, we believe this will help keep rural families and communities together, and reduce emigration toward the cities and abroad while also building sustainable rural economies.

Our partners include the Fundación Conservacionista Costarricense (FCC), the Tropical Science Center (CCT), the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL), and the Costa Rican government's System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and Ministry of Environment (MINAET), among others. Faculty and Administration from The Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and The Odum School of Ecology, both at The University of Georgia, provide administrative and technical guidance for the UGA Costa Rica Carbon Program.

For further questions about the program and how to participate, please contact UGA Costa Rica Director, Dr. Quint Newcomer, at 706.425.3317.


Emissions and Sequestration Calculations

   Air Transportation

  • Atlanta to San José emissions per person:
    290 kg CO2 (one-way 2,639 km) x 2 = 580kg CO2 = 0.58 tonnes CO2



  Ground Transportation

  • One vehicle’s emissions: 5.5 tonnes of CO2 per 20,000 km
  • Average distance traveled per person during one program: 1500 km
  • Total emissions: 1500 km x 5.5 tonnes/20,000 km = 0.41 tonnes CO2/5 (minimum amount of travelers in one vehicle) = 0.082 tonnes CO2 per person



  Total Emissions per Person

  • Total emissions per person:
    0.58 tonnes CO2 + 0.082 tonnes CO2= 0.66 tonnes CO2 per person;
    round up to 1 ton of CO2

Number of Trees Planted to Offset Emissions

One tropical tree fixes an average of 2.2 tonnes of CO2 during its growth span (approximately 25 years) and a minimum of 1 ton of CO2 during the same period. We are using the minimum sequestration rate and an 8 1/3 year schedule. Thus, we plant 4 trees per person (3 trees to fix 1 ton of CO2 in 8 1/3 years and 1 tree to cover an estimated 25% mortality).


Types of Trees Planted

Only native species adapted to specific life zones will be planted. Reforestation species will include pioneer as well as settler species that are important for wildlife habitat and forest connectivity. Trees may be planted to accelerate secondary succession in open areas or in areas where secondary succession has already started. Living fences and windbreaks may be planted as long as native species are used.


Management of Reforestation Sites

Landowners interested in participating in the UGA Costa Rica Carbon Program must designate one or multiple areas within their farm as a reforestation site. This area must be kept separate from other farming activities such as cattle grazing and agriculture. The objective is to create habitat and connectivity for wildlife migration. Riparian areas as well as eroded sites will be considered top priority for reforestation efforts. Landowners must agree, through a letter of understanding with UGA Costa Rica, that they are committed to provide regular maintenance, at their own expense, for the trees planted as part of this program in order to assure that the trees will properly recruit. Regular maintenance activities include replanting dead trees and weeding a surface area of a minimum of 1 meter radius from the base of the tree at least once a year for the first three years.


Planting will only occur during the rainy season where trees have more chance to survive given the availability of water. UGA Costa Rica will provide participating landowners with the trees and student labor to plant the species adapted to their reforestation sites. In occasions and depending on the availability of students and volunteers, UGA Costa Rica will provide assistance with maintenance. Landowners agree, through the letter of understanding, to allow UGA Costa Rica representatives to use the reforestation sites to carry out educational and research activities. These activities will be coordinated with previous notice and will not represent a cost to the landowner.