Offsetting CO2 emissions is a trend theme. However, the focus is often on short-term climate targets and reforestation - a path that cannot sustainably withstand the growing environmental challenges. With effective methods to protect the existing forest, as well as innovative fruit tree projects, HELIOZ offers alternatives with ecological and social impact.
The forest is one of the few resources with the ability to absorb CO2. This characteristic gives it a leading role in the fight against climate change. In addition to absorbing emissions, trees also sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide, regulate precipitation by absorbing and releasing water, purify the air and cool the earth and therby trees prevent an overheating.
Therefore, afforestation seems like a fitting remedy. The problem is in the details, because to decompose one tonne of CO2, a tree would have to live for about 80 years - a period that can only be guaranteed in the rarest of cases. If the lifespan of the trees is shorter, the planned compensation does not bear fruit, and additional CO2 is even released through deforestation. Nevertheless, concrete, measurable climate targets are almost exclusively limited to reforestation projects, as an analysis* by WWF shows. "To address the problem effectively, the cause must be tackled. We need to find ways to prevent CO2 emissions instead of just trying to offset them," explains HELIOZ CEO Niclas Schmiedmaier.
Protect forests instead of replacing them!
Where there is a lack of clean drinking water, deforestation of intact forests is a problem. The reason for this is boiling with firewood as the primary solution for water disinfection in the global South. In Bangladesh, for example, one tonne of wood per family is cut from local forests every year solely for disinfecting water. In tree-poor India, the government is already trying to counteract the trend with restrictions. For example, families are no longer allowed to carry collected firewood by motorbike, only on foot. In Uganda, the poverty of clean drinking water is even responsible for the highest deforestation rates worldwide.
With WADI, HELIOZ's innovation for measuring solar water disinfection (SODIS), many households in the affected regions no longer need to boil firewood. Contaminated water is filled into glass or PET bottles by the families themselves and exposed to sunlight. WADI indicates when the water is ready to drink. The protection of the forest stand and the reduction of CO2 emissions achieved by switching to SODIS are already having a sustainable impact in the project regions. In Bangladesh, 5000 tonnes of firewood can be saved annually through the implementation of WADI and targeted community education. The project in Soroti district, Uganda, launched in 2019, will reduce 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over five years. In India, 4.5 million litres of water per year are now disinfected using solar instead of firewood.
For many years, the continuously growing HELIOZ projects have served as effective models of how sustainable climate protection can be combined with social added value for people disadvantaged by traditional markets.
Assuming a long lifespan, there is not much to be said against planting new trees. To ensure this, HELIOZ combines the air-purifying value of the tree with visible economic benefits for the local population.
Together with Get Water Uganda, fruit trees (e.g. mango and orange) are given to households in Namayingo district. In addition to fruits for self-supply, the inhabitants benefit from an additional source of income through selling them. The private benefit of the fruit trees protects the trees from early deforestation, and the trees also provide habitats for animals, thus promoting biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. The goal is to plant a total of 10,000 fruit trees in Uganda.
Social impact leads to economic success!
For more than 10 years, HELIOZ has been offering climate projects including individual communication for companies to achieve their climate goals. Many years of expertise and the will to combine economic interests with real social and ecological added value make the Vienna Social Enterprise unique today.