The Potential of Green Charcoal

| 3/5/2010 1:06:51 PM

Tags: green charcoal, renewable biomass, biochar, climate change,

About Green Charcoal

Founded in Brazil in 1986, Pro-Natura was one of the first Nongovernmental Organizations from the South to internationalize. After the Rio Summit in 1992, Pro-Natura International was born, with its headquarters in Paris. More than 400 high-level volunteers are mobilized in programs in the global South, bringing together the fight against poverty with biodiversity conservation and the mobilization against climate change.

Two billion people must face the problem of domestic energy needs that pushes them to deforestation, adding to the problems of drought and desertification. To fight this, Pro-Natura invented and developed the innovative technology of “green charcoal.” This technology proves to be very competitive in relation to wood charcoal, has a positive effect in terms of climate change, and, in recognition of this, received the first place prize for technological innovation from the Altran Foundation in 2002.

In Africa, Latin America and Asia — including India and China — wood is becoming harder to find and, in general, alternative energies are not available or affordable for households. Two billion people across the world therefore depend on wood-generating deforestation for their domestic energy needs (particularly in Africa, where it represents 89% of energy sources). This use of unsustainable wood is a major cause of deforestation, which poses a serious ecological risk. Deforestation accentuates drought, desertification and climate change. The exclusive use of wood as a domestic fuel presents numerous other major disadvantages:

• As deforestation progresses, the burden on women and children mounts: They must travel longer and longer distances to supply themselves with the wood and other forest products they need. This additional obligation diminishes the time they could dedicate to other tasks such as education, which are nonetheless indispensable. In the Sahel for example, women must, at times, travel 20 kilometers a day to find the wood necessary to cook their food.

• With less fuel available, the quantity and quality of food diminish.

• Supplying the necessary fuel energy demands an increasingly large proportion of revenues.

12/27/2012 2:40:10 PM

You can make an experiment-size amount of biochar pretty simply. Get an empty quart paint can from the hardware store. Punch a couple holes in the lid. Jam as much shredded paper as you can into the can, and fasten on the lid. Put the filled can into a fire (I use our wood stove, with a window in the door). Let it cook. After the can heats up, you'll see flames from the wood gas shooting out the holes. When the flames stop, I leave it in the fire a while longer to be sure all the paper is cooked. When I'm tired of waiting, I (use tongs) take the can out and put it into a dish of water, holes down. This keeps air from getting in to the still-hot charcoal. After it's cooled down, remove the lid. Viola! Biochar! I mush it up with a stick and add some water to make a slurry that I can spread over the garden or mix into potting soil for our seeds. I plan to write a full article about this someday, but that's the gist.

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