Reforestation Project in Taiyuan, China2016.07.22

Human existence has an enormous influence on nature. Our meat consumption, the use of daily transportation, energy, gas and water all contribute to environmental pollution. Even our breathing – and that of animals – emits CO2. It is an enormous contemporary issue that everyone should be aware of. Architects have found a solution to this problem by building passive houses. Houses built according to passive house standards emit less carbon dioxide, which in turn saves the environment. But no matter how well we build something – in the end the act of construction itself creates CO2. Manufacturing construction materials such as clay tiles that are burnt at 1.000 degrees Celcius contributes to climate change. A polemic solution would be to simply stop building altogether. Given our ever-growing world population, however, that’s not really an option.

Wolfgang Frey, a practicing architect who specializes in sustainability in Freiburg, has found a better option for ironing out his „debt“. In the spring of 2014 Mr. Frey began a reforestation project on the Chinese mountain Xishan (which means West Mountain in English) in Taiyuan in the Chinese province Shanxi. Wolfgang Frey has planted over 6,000 trees on 12.4 acres. Every growing plant absorbs CO2.

Wolfgang Frey’s goal is to compensate his own personal CO2 emissions as an architect with the help of the trees he plants. It includes the greenhouse gas emissions produced by driving to construction sites, the use of construction machinery and even the CO2 emissions produced when Wolfgang Frey flies to China.

wiederaufforstung wolfgang frey china taiyuan

Ideally, the trees should absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide that he produces. Because the climate in the industrial city of Taiyuan is extremely hot and arid in the summer time, Mr. Frey started out by planting acacia trees. This type of tree is also known as pioneer wood because it still manages to grow despite the rather unfertile ground and critical climate.

Apart from the absorption of carbon dioxide, the trees also provide other positive aspects such as the production of oxygen and the improvement to the micro-climate. The reforestation project has not yet ended: Wolfgang Frey wants to expand his forest. He flies to China about three times a year and can take between 150 and 200 saplings from Germany each time. It is therefore possible annually to plant up to 600 acacia trees that he brings with him. In addition, date trees bought directly from China are planted. The plan is to continue to expand the forest’s acreage.

wiederaufforstung wolfgang frey china taiyuan

Back in Germany, Wolfgang Frey also owns 111 acres of forest, the wood from which is used – among other things – for sustainable projects.

An example would be the police state in Freiburg-West. It is a wooden construction made according to passive house standards. The wood is beneficial as construction material because the carbon dioxide that resides in the wood is only released through deterioration or when it is torn down. In addition, unlike concrete, wood can be handled with great energy efficiency. Unlike Wolfgang Frey’s German forest, the Chinese forest is used only to compensate for pollution.