by: Roger Sarrazin
Carbon4Climate was conceived while I was on vacation with my business partner Jamie Bakos in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on Earth Day April 22, 2019. We were only there to get a bit of R&R and do a bit of scuba diving and hike ‘the Needle’. But with it being Earth Day and with the incredible scenery of the tropics, this made us extra contemplative of the environment and the threats we are all facing from climate change. So back to work!
On this beautiful island in the South Pacific, we noticed wide-spread burning of palm tree branches and coconuts and other vegetation. This created significant smoke that could be seen at several locations around the island. We decided to investigate this practice and stopped in at the Cook Islands Infrastructure office.
It turns out that the government has limited options. The burning is a result of the lack of landfill space, and in fact a lack of free space in general, and a lack of more advanced technical alternatives. They do have very good recycling programs for glass and plastics and metal, but biomass is still problematic.
As the Island is almost entirely privately owned, there are limited options as no one wants a new landfill in literally their back yard. The government had worked on a few pilots for the biomass, including composting, and is working with the private sector help to solve this problem.
So we were directed to introduce ourselves to Teava, who heads up the local greenhouse growers association and owns a small composting facility. We were told we could find him just past the church near some really tall palm trees. With those directions in hand, we managed to find him straight away and were immediately engaged in meaningful discussions about climate change and the issues impacting the tropics. Teava introduced us to his family and took us on a tour of his facility and a really impressive erosion control project he had spearheaded.
Teava is dedicated to the environment and has engaged internationally about his ideas and pursuits. We were pleasantly shocked and surprized that Teava was well aware of biochar / biocarbon and its role in carbon sequestration and soil health. In fact, Teava had built a ‘two barrel’ pyrolyzer to manufacture biochar from coconut shells that he had pre-dried in the sun. The biochar looked great! (But the production rate is too small).
Teava explained that root vegetables were very difficult to grow because the soil conditions were not adequate. That took us into a long conversation about the benefits of adding biochar to compost and creating an enhanced soil that can promote the growth of food. It was surprising to learn how many fruits and vegetables are brought in from mainland New Zealand and other locations.
It became very clear that a solution to convert this biomass into biocarbon with our technology is a win win on so many fronts. Not only do we sequester the carbon, but we eliminate the smoke and CO2 emissions from burning. The carbon can be used for local food production, and even water and wasterwater treatment to protect the lagoon.
So the next day, we formed Carbon4Climate and documented it using an outline of local basalt rocks (there is a beautiful basalt rock outcrop at the northwest portion of the island).
We also decided to do a quick video of the concept we had for Carbon4Climate that was filmed by the local tv station, Cook Island TV. They even played the video on a local business show a few days later. The concept we had has now evolved and we hope it will allow us to work together to make a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change.
Carbon4Climate is an idea where we can all come together and help communities dealing with climate change and also help our global ecosystem. We need to implement solutions that are part of a circular economy and form the foundations that will not only help mitigate the effects of climate change, but also help us deal with the changes happening now.