Opening another front in the climate battle, Dan (along with Green & Black’s founder Craig Sams) started Carbon Gold in 2008 in order to realise the carbon-reducing potential of one of the planet’s most widely available assets, the earth beneath our feet. Carbon Gold is the first modern biochar company, broadening the appeal of a practice known for thousands of years which not only improves soil fertility but actually removes existing, harmful CO2 from the atmosphere.
For thousands of years farmers in South America have known of a rich, black, fertile earth known as ‘terra preta.’ Analysis shows that this soil results from continuous improvement by a type of charcoal which we now know as ‘biochar.’ Biochar can be made from all sorts of organic material including agricultural waste, tree trimmings, manure, and rice husks. It offers many agricultural benefits, improving fertility without the need for synthetic fertilisers, supporting healthy soil by providing a home for glorious armies of microbes and mycorrhizal fungi, and increasing the soil’s ability to hold water, mitigating the effects of flooding and improving drought resistance. It is a valuable asset in no-till farming, which is much less damaging than intensive farming to the soil’s essential microbial structure. But biochar’s biggest benefit is enduring carbon sequestration, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and holding it as an inert substance over the very long term. This offers potential not just to balance emissions, but actually to reduce the levels of CO2 accumulated in the upper atmosphere.
As well as providing this boost to the environment, biochar offers great benefits to rural farmers in terms of soil fertility, water retention, and financial gain, a genuine example of the Triple Bottom Line in action. As eminent environmentalist Tim Flannery said in 2009, the properties of biochar “allow us to address three critical crises at once: the climate change crisis, the energy crisis, and the food and water crises.” It is, indeed, Carbon Gold.