What's better for the planet, a cut tree or a WunderTree?

What's better for the planet, a cut tree or a WunderTree? | WunderTree

How sustainable is a WunderTree compared to a cut tree when comparing carbon footprints? 

The short answer is that already at the time of purchase a WunderTree is 100% better in terms of CO2 emissions when compared to a regular, cut down tree. In fact, the WunderTrees planted this year alone have the potential impact of eliminating carbon emissions of 111,000 cut down Christmas trees! 

We want to be as transparent as possible with these numbers and our work towards sustainability. At the same time it is worth remembering that reducing emissions is not easy and progress is more important than perfection. If you have a different idea or want to challenge anything in this post, please share your knowledge and thoughts in the comments so we can all learn and improve and make progress towards a shared goal of addressing climate change. 

Okay, let’s dive in! 

WunderTree’s CO2 footprint and savings can be roughly divided into two categories: CO2 saved at Christmas by choosing a WunderTree and annual CO2 taken out from the atmosphere after the tree is planted. We'll plant roughly one WunderTree tree per square meter alongside other native species, amounting to 2,000 WunderTrees planted and 2,000m² forest converted this year.

Choosing WunderTree for Christmas

Here the emission savings for WunderTree come from two main sources: CO2 that’s not emitted when the tree is burned and delivery emissions. 

In Berlin most Christmas trees are burned after Christmas, and because WunderTrees are likely to replace some of these trees, we assume a certain amount of CO2 saved per tree. For this we calculate that each cut Christmas tree weighs 15kg, out of which 8.5kg is wood, and each kilogram of wood stores the equivalent of ~1.83 kg of CO2. This sounds strange, but carbon while it is stored in the wood trunk is lighter than when it is released in the atmosphere because in the atmosphere it pairs with oxygen molecules to form carbon dioxide, CO2. As WunderTrees are not burned and therefore the stored carbon is not released, this totals to ~15kg of CO2 not emitted and therefore saved per tree. 

SO: each 🌲 contains the equivalent of 15kg of CO2. Each WunderTree stores and saves that amount of carbon dioxide because the tree doesn't get burned.  

On the emissions production side the biggest chunk of CO2 emissions would come from delivery and pick up of the trees. This year, however, we are super excited to be working with Mercedes-Benz Berlin and their eSprinter, all-electric vans that run on 100% renewable energy! This allows us to deliver and pick up all WunderTrees with zero emissions. 

If we were delivering using conventional diesel vans, the situation would be different. We estimate driving a total of 20,000 km this season, 10km per tree, most of it with delivery vans. In 2017, an average fuel consumption of this type of vehicle was 5.9 litres per 100km, while one litre of diesel emits about 2.6kg of CO2 (source, source). 

That would translate to 0.59 litres of diesel consumed and 1.5 kg CO2 emitted per tree, making up a total of 3,068kg of CO2 emissions from delivering and picking up all WunderTrees this holiday season. Our digital operations such as email and web hosting and the one-time delivery of the trees to the forest also produce a fraction of the transport emissions above, but the impact is negligible.  

This means that a WunderTree is already 100% better in terms of CO2 emissions when compared to a regular, cut down tree. This goes up to 110% when the saved transport emissions are included (1.5kg of CO2 emitted per tree when delivered with a diesel van).


Carbon sequestration during the tree’s lifetime

As trees ‘breathe’, they produce oxygen and absorb and store CO2. This process in the scientific jargon is called carbon sequestration. The rate of this varies depending on the type of the tree, its age and location where it is planted. 

As our Wundertrees are still young and just planted, each is estimated to sequester 1kg of CO2 during its first year as it’s just growing roots. This rate will accelerate as the tree grows, and after 60 years that's up to 1.83t CO2 per tree sequestered - although not all trees will reach this point of course due to a variety of reasons. In fact, the average survival rate of tree planting programs is 65% (source). At our most recent count and after the dry summer, over 50% of WunderTrees had survived their first year. 

Taking this estimate of a 50% survival rate, WunderTrees planted this Christmas alone could sequester up to 1,830 tonnes of CO2 during their lifetime! This means that the trees planted this year alone have the potential impact of eliminating carbon emissions of 111,000 cut down Christmas trees. And what is more, you can multiply that by the amount of years WunderTree operates and keeps planting trees.

By getting a WunderTree this Christmas or sharing the idea with someone who you think would love it you allow us to plant more trees and fight climate change!

These numbers are based on planting our WunderTrees (Nordmann Firs that will be about 7 year old when we plant them) in Saalow in January 2021. We will also plant 3 native trees for every 5m², but these are from saplings and for the moment are excluded from the calculations. You can read more about our mission to restructure forests away from monocultures and into mixed forests.

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