Biochar – A Truly Negative Carbon Activity

Biochar – A Truly Negative Carbon Activity

As part of Gentle Giant’s mission to ‘go green’, the company is dedicated to becoming a resource for information on the topic of environmentalism. From sharing our everyday eco-activities to larger, long-term projects, Gentle Giant is hoping to motivate our employees, customers, and beyond to help protect the planet we live on. This includes sharing the inspiring stories of our employees. Today we are thrilled to highlight Gentle Giant’s resident crate builder and Green Committee member, Tom Kiefer. Over the past three years Tom has been producing and utilizing biochar – a truly negative carbon activity!

After beginning his research into biochar three years ago, Tom developed a keen interest in the topic and decided to give it a go. He started by bringing his carpentry shop pine offcuts from Gentle Giant’s Wilmington, MA warehouse to his farm in Connecticut. Over time, Tom has seen amazing results using biochar – from the improvement of soil fertility to an increase in crop yields and health.

How did Tom get started with Biochar?

‘I came across a video on YouTube titled “Stop Burning Brush.” Having grown up on a farm, I thought that it must be complete nonsense.’ Instead, Tom discovered the process of creating biochar and its incredible benefits, and so began his journey into the world of biochar. Today, he and his family continue to see a huge difference in the health of crops planted in their biochar-rich soil. ‘My daughters bought tomato plants a couple of years ago. They planted a few in soil with biochar and some in ordinary soil. They were absolutely stunned by the difference.’

What exactly is Biochar?

You likely have not heard the term biochar. When Tom brought the topic to Gentle Giant’s weekly Green Committee meeting, it was a new concept to many members.

So, let’s break it down for you…

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning biomass, typically dry, plant waste material, in a controlled process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis refers to the heating of biomass in an oxygen-starved environment. During the heating process, the volatile organic compounds of the biomass are gasified and burned, resulting in the production of carbon. It is a clean process that produces little to no greenhouse gases. A carbon-rich substance, biochar is lightweight and porous. For this reason, it serves as an effective habitat for beneficial microorganisms that are known to promote soil health.

What are the benefits of biochar?

Biochar has many advantages due to its properties. It’s higher surface area and porosity mean it retains water and improves the soil’s ability to hold moisture and withstand drought as a result. Biochar is also a stable solid rich in pyrogenic carbon. The material’s stable nature enables it to endure in soil for thousands of years, with an average dwelling time in soil of 5000 years. This makes it a truly negative carbon activity.

4 Key Benefits of Biochar

  • Improvement of soil fertility: Soil is a ‘living ecosystem’ that thrives when rich in microbial life like fungi, bacteria, and archaea. Biochar’s porous surface provides the ideal home for these soil microbes to flourish and improve soil fertility.
  • Increase in crop yields: Biochar’s porous structure also attracts and stores nutrients, so they are available to plants when they need them. This is one reason why soil containing biochar is more nutrient-rich and produces higher crop yields. As well as increasing crop yield, the nutrient-rich soil means plants are healthier and empowered to resist disease pests more effectively.
  • Biochar sequesters carbon nearly permanently: Biochar effectively captures and stores carbon in the soil with minimal effort. Its ability to sequester carbon relatively easily makes biochar a potentially effective means to mitigate climate change.
  • Reduction of methane production: When biochar is added to livestock feed, it reduces the amount of carbon produced by livestock. The practice of adding biochar to feed in turn creates a distribution method for biochar in grazing fields.

Are you looking for more inspiration? Check out our Green Moving Company page to learn about Gentle Giant’s eco-friendly initiatives!