Urban Forestry

Project Description & Co-Benefits:

In the United States, economic growth and development has led to the removal of millions of acres of natural forests. This impact decreases the country’s carbon sequestration capacity, or the ability to naturally capture atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from our emissions and convert it into long-term storage. In recent years, a greater emphasis has been placed on increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of urban areas, due to their widespread presence. To achieve this goal, urban planning is modified to incorporate an increased presence of trees, creating an “urban forest”, which allows urban areas to function similarly to natural forests as a carbon sink, in addition to having many other social, ecological, and economic co-benefits:

  • Education — Urban tree plantings can provide opportunities for students to develop a tree planting program, teach citizens about tree health and maintenance, and help develop curriculum about trees and the benefits that they provide.
  • Social — Urban tree plantings can provide volunteering opportunities to community members, increase the physical and emotional health of citizens, and create safer places for individuals to walk.
  • Environmental — Urban tree plantings reduce storm water runoff, absorb harmful exhaust emissions, and provide food and shelter to local animal populations.
  • Economic — Urban tree plantings can reduce energy bills, increase property values, and provide relatively low-cost carbon offsets.
  • Scalability — Urban tree plantings are easily scalable due to their relatively low cost and ability to partner with local municipal governments that already have tree planting initiatives.
  • Public Relations and Partnerships — Urban tree plantings are a highly-visible offset project and can bring together a wide variety of stakeholders.

DCOI, in partnership with Urban Offsets, has implemented this program to generate carbon offsets (one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, MtCO2e), which may be counted against Duke University’s carbon footprint with the added benefit of enhancing the quality of urban forests. 

 Duke's urban forests provide great benefits to students and the residents of Durham North Carolina, beautifying spaces and providing habitat for wildlife.

Duke's urban forests provide great benefits to students and the residents of Durham North Carolina, beautifying spaces and providing habitat for wildlife.

Student Involvement:

Students have the opportunity to get involved in educational workshops or outreach programs. Students may also volunteer at community tree planting events.

Tree Planting 3.21.13 015.jpg

Project Organizer Contact Info:

Nathanial Colbert-Sangree, Program Coordinator, the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

nathanial.colbert.sangree@duke.edu, 919-660-1413

Project Status:

Active (2009-Present)

Offset Registry or Program:

Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI), a branch of Sustainable Duke, in collaboration with Urban Offsets (http://www.urbanoffsets.co/)

Protocol Applied:

Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative – Urban Forestry Carbon Offset Protocol, V 2.0

This protocol applies to trees that are planted within the boundary of an urban area as defined by the United States Census Bureau. In order to generate carbon offsets, said plantings must be additional as compared to a business-as-usual scenario in the absence of a carbon offset market. Once planted, trees are monitored for a minimum of 40 years to ensure that the carbon they sequester is stored ‘permanently’. The amount of carbon captured by each tree is estimated using the U.S. Forest Service Tree Carbon Calculator.

Cost per Offset ($ per mtCO2e):


# of Total Offsets:

First DCOI project started in 2016 - no verified offsets yet.

Website: Duke Urban Forestry Program