Caring for All Through a Carbon Offset Cooperative Mission

April 10, 2020

In 2012 the Rt. Rev Greg Rickel, Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia and the Rt. Rev. Danilo Bustamante, former Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Philippines met and realized their common commitments to the spirituality of the Earth and decided there was something they could do together. The Covenant for Caring of All Creation was created and signed to establish a carbon offset partnership that would reforest the Southern Philippines especially the island of Mindanao. The Diocese of Olympia created a fund for various reforestation projects in the Diocese of the Southern Philippines. These carbon offsets are set at a rate of $25 per ton of carbon sequestered.

This partnership and the fund are supported by the people of the Diocese of Olympia especially through churches including Trinity Parish in Seattle, Washington by the Rev. Jeffrey Gill. He is the main contact for this partnership along with the Bishop’s Committee on the Environment, and his parish has committed to calculating their annual carbon footprint and contributing to the Carbon Offset Fund. Trinity Parish alone puts 40 tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year and has dedicated funds in their budget to offset their footprint.

Another important member of this partnership is Dave Hanson a tree scientist and former executive of Weyerhaeuser, an American timberland company in Washington state. He travels to the Philippines twice a year to oversee the project, take measurements of the trees, and calculates the amount of carbon the trees are storing. He then takes this information to estimate how much the trees are able to store in 20 or 50 years from now to evaluate how much carbon will be taken out of the atmosphere. “The amount of carbon that they are storing in trees in the Southern Philippines already from the funds we’ve sent far out paces the amount of carbon that we have paid offsets for”, comments Fr. Jeffery. Currently, it is estimated at there are about 29,400 trees growing which at maturity will sequester approximately 71,300 tons of carbon dioxide. Since the project’s inception, 84,400 trees have been planted. In addition, jobs are being provided. The trees being planted are Narra, Philippine Mahogany, Rubber and Coconut. The rubber being harvested from the trees is an income producing opportunity for the community as well. “It’s a win/win all around.”

By April of 2014, over $10,000 had been donated which funded a tree nursery in Upi in the Southern Philippines and over 7,000 trees were transferred from the nursery to help with reforestation. That Summer a delegation from the Southern Philippines visited the Diocese of Olympia and the hope is that they will return for another trip to the U.S. in the following couple years. In 2017, the covenant agreement between the two dioceses was renewed for another five years.

Fr. Jeffery reflects, “It is important for us to emphasize that funding carbon offsets is not an alternative to reducing our carbon footprint. It is a kind of penitence or reparations for our carbon footprint as a way to both raise consciousness here about the impact we are having on the planet, and as a way to give back something that will help reduce the effect of that, and in the process do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint.”

This relationship between Olympia and the Southern Philippines is based on a shared mission and a mutual partnership. “This partnership is defiantly something that we all benefit from and in that sense, it is the best kind of partnership we can have with our brothers and sisters around the world.”

Please visit the Carbon Offset Cooperative Mission for more information on this ministry.