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Cutting carbon emissions in the Gola Rainforest

We buy carbon offsets to keep our gas 100% carbon neutral and for members who offset their carbon footprint with us. Get to know how a project we support in Sierra Leone helps to lower emissions in the Gola Rainforest.

Carbon offsetting balances out carbon emissions by reducing emissions elsewhere. Offsetting won't fix the climate crisis on its own, but it's a positive, impactful way to help the climate right away. We’ve offset 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 so far. As well as tackling emissions, the projects we fund through offsets create local jobs, improve health and conserve biodiversity. We’ve helped protect 14,526 hectares of rainforest, saved families £7.7 million on cooking fuel, and reduced air pollution for 562,400 people, too. And you can use our Carbon Calculator to work out and offset your personal carbon footprint.

Before international travel was limited, we went to the Gola rainforest to visit a project we support through our offsetting partner ClimateCare. We recently shared some sights and sounds from the trip to provide cheer in extraordinary times. In this post, we share more of what we learnt about how the project reduces emissions and improves livelihoods.

Protecting Gola from deforestation

Bulb helps to fund the work of Gola Rainforest Conservation (GRC) who are making sure that 41 million tonnes of CO2 stay locked up in Gola’s trees. GRC was set up in 2011 as a partnership between the Sierra Leone government, the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, and the RSPB to establish a National Park.

Creating a National Park in Gola gave the rainforest protected status
41 million tonnes of CO2 are locked up in the Gola rainforest – the equivalent of Switzerland's annual carbon emissions.

Before the project began, Gola was unprotected from logging, mining and agriculture. People living in forest-edge communities depended on the forest for their livelihoods. Cutting trees for firewood and hunting animals for food was business as usual. The rainforest was exploited for precious minerals like gold and diamonds, too. This meant the forest was shrinking in size by 2,700 hectares every year, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

The creation of the National Park gave 131,447 hectares of the rainforest protected status. GRC’s Park Operations team patrols over 12,000km of forest every year, making Gola one of the most protected National Parks in Africa. The team prevents trees from being cut down for illegal activity, like logging or mining, helping to keep CO2 locked up in the forest.

Working with forest communities

Along with the trees, it’s important to protect the communities that live and work in Gola too. As Eddie Sheriff, who looks after Community Development at GRC, told us, “none of this matters unless we look after the people that live here”.

Bulb offsets help to support GRC’s work in this area too. Part of the ‘carbon finance’ we provide helps to develop alternative livelihoods for people living on the forest edge, like cocoa farming. Cocoa is a forest-friendly crop because it grows best under the shade of trees. The GRC team has created a gender-inclusive cocoa programme, training 1,500 members to become expert cocoa farmers.

Harvesting cocoa beans from their pods
Harvesting cocoa beans from their pods

Measuring how well the forest is locking up CO2

We buy one carbon offset for every tonne of CO2 emitted by the gas we supply to our members. Each carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of CO2 by the project we’re supporting. GRC measures how much CO2 is locked up in Gola by measuring its trees on the ground.

GRC’s Carbon team have marked 50 ‘carbon plots’ (1,250 ㎡) across the forest. They visit each plot every 6 years to measure the circumference of every tree in the area. Those measurements, along with information they hold about the tree species, tell the team how much CO2 is stored in each tree. 

We’re one of the biggest buyers of green gas in the UK. And we offset the emissions from the rest of the gas we supply by supporting carbon-reduction projects around the world, including the Gola rainforest. Gola’s trees help lock away 41 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

The team uses this information to calculate how much CO2 is stored in the whole rainforest. Today, 41 million tonnes of CO2 are locked up in Gola – the equivalent of Switzerland's annual carbon emissions.

The RSPB support this work from the UK by regularly checking satellite images to make sure that no deforestation is happening within the national park.

Offset your carbon footprint

Not only can you use our Carbon Calculator to work out the size of your annual footprint, you can now offset it too. Answer a few simple questions about your day-to-day life, and start offsetting.

The rainforest conservation we help to support in Gola is one example of how offsetting helps to lower carbon emissions across the world. We’ll be bringing you more stories from other projects soon. In the meantime, join the conversation in the Bulb community – we’d love to know what you think.