September 5, 2008
A shining example of corporate citizenship has come to the attention of this columnist. It is my distinct pleasure to offer “green thumb” recognition to Chicago’s A. Finkl & Sons Co. for their tree planting and reforestation program “Forging a Fresher America.”
Established in 1989, the goal of “Forging a Fresher America” is to plant enough trees to absorb the carbon dioxide emitted from the company’s Chicago tool-steel manufacturing facilities. To accomplish this, Finkl to date has planted more than 6,000,000 trees in protected forests in Illinois and Wisconsin with an eventual goal of 10,000,000 trees.
The company, founded in 1879 as a blacksmith shop that manufactured a new kind of chisel, is today a leading supplier of steels for forging dies, plastic molds and other types of tooling. More than 100,000 tons of steel are produced each year in the furnaces operating at Finkl’s northwest-Chicago facility.
While the company’s website rightly points out that carbon dioxide is a vital natural resource from which plants produce carbohydrates and oxygen (which sustain all forms of life), it also acknowledges that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing at a level of approximately 1 ppm per year, and fossil-fuel combustion is the most likely source of the increase. Without jumping to a conclusion about whether any of the pundits’ dire predictions about global warming are likely to come to pass, the folks at Finkl nevertheless decided that planting trees is perhaps the most effective action they could take to offset the CO2 they produce, proving that actions speak louder than words.
The trees planted under the Finkl initiative in state forests to the west and south of Lake Michigan include both evergreen (e.g., jack pine, red pine) and deciduous varieties (e.g., oak, ash, cherry, walnut, pecan, plum, hickory). In addition to the mass plantings organized and funded by the corporation, Finkl also encourages and facilitates the planting of trees by individual employees. Every year, each of the more than 500 Finkl employees is offered one ash, pear, linden or crabapple sapling at no cost, as long as they agree to plant it promptly.
In one Southern Illinois location, under the Finkl program, more than 61,000 trees have been planted in an area that covers more than 140 acres, for a density of approximately 440 trees per acre.
So just how much carbon dioxide will 6,000,000 trees absorb every year? CO2 sequestration varies according to the species and maturity level of the tree. Published estimates vary widely, with one source reporting sequestration of only 3 pounds of CO2 per tree-year (for a certain species, averaged over its lifetime) and another reporting up to 24 pounds of CO2 per tree-year.
Based on this formula and the number of trees that Finkl has planted, the resulting forests are removing up to 72,000 tons of CO2 per year. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2 produced annually by the combustion of 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas used in gas-fired process heating.
And besides all the carbon offsetting, there are many side benefits to planting trees. They provide shade, reduce noise, shelter wildlife and beautify the environment. What a fine example of environmental stewardship by a member of our industrial heating family. What a fantastic win-win solution for present and future generations of Americans! IH