How Many Trees to Offset 1 Ton of CO2 (& Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 15, 2024

Woman on the right places a tree on a scale balanced with CO2 to see how many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2.

How many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2? To offset one ton of CO2, between 31 and 46 trees are required…but it’s not that it doesn’t matter…IT DOES…it’s just that other facts need to be considered before making such a claim.

To offset a ton of carbon emissions, people need to plant way more trees than just cover an acre per person. Plus, did you know that there’s a right and wrong way to plant trees?

It’s true.

Planting the wrong trees in a place where they shouldn’t be can cause serious harm to delicate ecosystems, which is why many critics argue that afforestation projects can’t help the planet.

Find out how many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2 here:

Keep reading to learn why it doesn’t always matter how many trees…it matters where the trees are planted and why.

How Many Trees Per Person? Find Out

In a groundbreaking study published in Nature on Wednesday, a group of 38 scientists discovered that the globe is habitat to 3.04 trillion trees, far beyond the prior estimation of 400 billion. According to the experts, there are 422 trees per human on the planet.1

The researchers, on the other hand, do not believe this to be good news. According to the report, there are 46% fewer trees on the planet than were before civilization started the long, but recently accelerated, path of cutting down trees en masse.

In fact, the article evaluates that people, as well as other factors such as bushfires and insect infestation, are liable for the destruction of 15.3 billion trees annually — however, the researchers said at a media briefing that 5 billion among these trees may regrow annually, bringing the total loss to more than 10 billion.

Here’s a table showing the number of trees per person4 in every country in the world:

Country Number of Trees per Capita1
Afghanistan 12
Albania 372
Algeria 21
American Samoa 49
Andorra 288
Angola 1,900
Anguilla 10
Antigua and Barbuda 83
Argentina 1,202
Armenia 135
Aruba 1
Australia 3,266
Austria 360
Azerbaijan 81
Bahamas 451
Bahrain 0
Bangladesh 6
Barbados 16
Belarus 603
Belgium 47

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Belize 3,552
Benin 194
Bermuda 1
Bhutan 2,418
Bolivia 5,465
Bonaire Sint Eustatius and Saba 54
Bosnia and Herzegovina 515
Botswana 3,969
Brazil 1,494
British Indian Ocean Territory 14
British Virgin Islands 48
Brunei 856
Bulgaria 386
Burkina Faso 59
Burundi 36
Cambodia 360
Cameroon 852
Canada 8,953
Cape Verde 42
Cayman Islands 101

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bonaire Sint Eustatius and Saba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Central African Republic 5,152
Chad 353
Chile 1,079
China 102
Christmas Island 273
Colombia 1,051
Comoros 96
Congo 3,176
Cook Islands 164
Costa Rica 386
Cote d’Ivoire 349
Croatia 554
Cuba 204
Curacao 10
Cyprus 55
Czechia 193
Democratic Republic of Congo 1,461
Denmark 54
Djibouti 2
Dominica 510

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Christmas Island, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Dominican Republic 102
Ecuador 645
Egypt 1
El Salvador 64
Equatorial Guinea 2,156
Eritrea 46
Estonia 1,419
Eswatini 718
Ethiopia 143
Faeroe Islands 2,134
Falkland Islands 63,835
Fiji 177
Finland 4,461
France 182
French Guiana 20,226
French Polynesia 106
Gabon 8,131
Gambia 27
Georgia 558
Germany 107

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Faeroe Islands, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Ghana 172
Gibraltar 0
Greece 295
Greenland 4,964
Grenada 99
Guadeloupe 140
Guam 9
Guatemala 294
Guernsey 3
Guinea 739
Guinea-Bissau 586
Guyana 14,692
Haiti 14
Honduras 572
Hong Kong 4
Hungary 100
Iceland 2,023
India 28
Indonesia 319
Iran 29

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Iraq 15
Ireland 154
Isle of Man 118
Israel 2
Italy 143
Jamaica 159
Japan 146
Jersey 3
Jordan 0
Kazakhstan 354
Kenya 67
Kiribati 10
Kosovo 132
Kuwait 0
Kyrgyzstan 202
Laos 1,448
Latvia 1,255
Lebanon 6
Lesotho 323
Liberia 763

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Iraq, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Libya 4
Liechtenstein 163
Lithuania 503
Luxembourg 100
Macao 0
Madagascar 949
Malawi 189
Malaysia 501
Maldives 1
Mali 166
Malta 0
Marshall Islands 4
Martinique 102
Mauritania 29
Mauritius 26
Mayotte 48
Mexico 459
Micronesia (country) 119
Moldova 38
Monaco 0

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico, Micronesia (country), Moldova, Monaco) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Mongolia 2,571
Montenegro 948
Montserrat 562
Morocco 15
Mozambique 971
Myanmar 456
Namibia 970
Nauru 3
Nepal 119
Netherlands 20
New Caledonia 3,255
New Zealand 2,543
Nicaragua 639
Niger 11
Nigeria 61
North Korea 200
North Macedonia 306
Northern Cyprus 38
Northern Mariana Islands 68
Norway 2,774

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Oman 3
Pakistan 5
Palau 626
Palestine 0
Panama 736
Papua New Guinea 3,063
Paraguay 2,747
Peru 1,501
Philippines 63
Poland 169
Portugal 301
Puerto Rico 61
Qatar 0
Reunion 139
Romania 243
Russia 4,461
Rwanda 29
Saint Barthlemy 12
Saint Helena 1,448
Saint Kitts and Nevis 134

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Barthlemy, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Saint Lucia 116
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 997
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 115
Samoa 212
San Marino 15
Sao Tome and Principe 300
Saudi Arabia 0
Senegal 90
Serbia 232
Seychelles 22
Sierra Leone 366
Singapore 0
Sint Maarten (Dutch part) 4
Slovakia 276
Slovenia 689
Solomon Islands 2,199
Somalia 81
South Africa 329
South Korea 76
South Sudan 2,335

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sint Maarten (Dutch part), Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Spain 245
Sri Lanka 118
Sudan 79
Suriname 15,279
Sweden 3,200
Switzerland 135
Syria 4
Taiwan 98
Tajikistan 18
Tanzania 410
Thailand 124
Timor 422
Togo 146
Tokelau 13
Tonga 53
Trinidad and Tobago 155
Tunisia 14
Turkey 115
Turkmenistan 1
Turks and Caicos Islands 115

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands) on the y-axis.

Country Number of Trees per Capita
Tuvalu 4
Uganda 63
Ukraine 155
United Arab Emirates 0
United Kingdom 47
United States 716
United States Virgin Islands 45
Uruguay 159
Uzbekistan 4
Vanuatu 2,216
Venezuela 1,176
Vietnam 103
Wallis and Futuna 106
Western Sahara 0
World 422
World (mean) 422
World (median) 164
Yemen 1
Zambia 1,838
Zimbabwe 387

Number of trees per person in the world data on a bar graph with number of trees per capita on the x-axis and countries (Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, United States Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, Western Sahara, World, World (mean), World (median), Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe) on the y-axis.

What’s Wrong With Planting Trees to Reduce Emissions?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with planting trees! Trees are the planet’s natural carbon reduction technology that’s been going strong for millions of years. But if you want to reduce emissions by undergoing a tree planting project, there is a right and wrong way to do it.

When trees are planted in areas where they grow natively, planting trees is an awesome way to reduce emissions. This is called “reforestation.”

Volunteers of an organization go to a pine forest to plant pine seedlings and restore the forest.

(Image: Alessandra Ceja8)

But, problems can occur with some “afforestation” projects. These projects plant trees where there weren’t any forests…and they rarely consider the native species.

Related Reading: How many trees are planted each year?

Afforestation using non-native plants can lead to a loss of biodiversity, the change of certain ecoregions, the entrance of non-native and ultimately invasive species, and diminished agricultural output if it is not well managed.

Most afforestation programs are tree farms.

These plantations are designed to grow trees for harvest after a certain number of years (usually 30-50 years). So, the trees grow and “capture” carbon emissions, but are harvested at a later date and processed.

The end result is that the sequestered carbon is recirculated back into the atmosphere.

It is only by rebuilding forests and protecting them that the carbon emissions can truly be erased.

Calculation of CO2 Offsetting by Trees: Do This

How many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2? One of the most significant greenhouse gas emissions is CO2. During the photosynthetic activity, trees take CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into oxygen plus plant material.

Related Reading: How many trees are in the world?

The process of photosynthesis is a way through which plants use sunshine to transform CO2 and H2O into oxygen and glucose.

Forest trees showing roots that take water for sustenance from a nearby body of water

(Image: Clay Elliot10)

Using their roots, trees take in water from the earth. Through the pores in the foliage, CO2 and breathable air are swapped with the atmospheric air. Other molecules, like complex sugars, are generated from glucose. When compared to other plants, trees produce the most net oxygen because they convert a considerable portion of CO2 into roots and timber.

Related Reading: How many pieces of paper in a tree?

As a result, forest CO2 fixation5 is substantially higher than in grasslands or plains, allowing them to offset some Carbon footprints.2

CO2 Offsetting by Trees: By the Numbers

So, how many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2? The Carbon dioxide balancing of trees is significantly influenced by the geography, variety of trees, and cycles and phases with similar climates or weather. Carbon dioxide offsets have been determined by numerous scientific investigations.

The yearly carbon dioxide balancing rate varies between 21.77- and 31.5-kilogram carbon dioxide for each tree. To offset one ton of Carbon dioxide, between 31 and 46 trees are required. One should use a ratio of 24 kilograms of carbon dioxide per tree and an estimate of five hundred trees per hectare to get the values.

Related Reading: How many Christmas trees per acre can be planted?

This indicates that 500 trees x 24 kg CO2/tree = 12,000 kilograms of Carbon dioxide offsets per hectare, or twelve tons of Carbon dioxide per hectare.2

What’s Your Carbon Footprint?

The actual sum of greenhouse gas emissions6 produced by human activities is referred to as the carbon footprint.

In the U.S., a person’s estimated carbon footprint is sixteen tons, among the highest on the planet. The typical carbon footprint on a worldwide scale is nearer to four tons. Until 2050, the average worldwide carbon footprint annually must be below 2 tons to get the highest probability of averting a 2°C global warming trend, according to most climate change scientists.

Related Reading: How many trees does it take to build a house?

Individual carbon footprints can be reduced from sixteen tons to two tons over time. People can start making a large impact by making little changes to their activities.

Sources of Emissions

There are a number of sources of emissions. Basically, anything you use, eat, or do generates carbon emissions. Some facts include:

  • Food contributes to between 10 to 30% of a family’s carbon footprint, with poorer households accounting for a larger share. Food production contributes to 68 percent of total emissions, with transportation accounting for 5%.
  • Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, and Hydrogen are the main components of food production toxins, which are mostly caused by agricultural operations.
  • Because of the poor transformation of the plant to animal fuel and waste produced from animal waste and intestinal decomposition in ruminant animals, animal products have higher carbon footprints per calorie compared to grain or plant products.
  • In a typical American home, eliminating food transportation for a year might save the equivalent of commuting 1,001 miles in greenhouse gas emissions, while switching to a plant-based diet one day per week can save the equivalent of commuting for 1,161 miles.
  • A plant-based diet minimizes a person’s carbon footprint significantly, but transitioning to little carbon-intensive meats can also have a significant impact. Brisket, for instance, emits 7.2 times more greenhouse gases per kg than chicken.
  • At a power plant in the United States, an equivalent of 0.888 pounds of Carbon dioxide emissions is discharged for every kWh produced. Coal emits 2.39 pounds of carbon dioxide, petroleum emits 1.89 pounds, and oil and gas emit 0.89 pounds. When renewable sources of energy power plants generate energy, no Carbon dioxide is generated; nonetheless, pollutants are produced during the production process. Household energy consumption produced 598.89 MMT of Carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, accounting for 9.09% of total Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
  • In 2021, space air conditioning systems are projected to account for 41.99 percent of total energy consumption in American households.
  • Refrigerators are among the most energy-intensive home appliances; in 2018, refrigeration produced approximately 672 lbs of Carbon dioxide emissions per dwelling.
  • Annually, laundry activities release 26 MMT of carbon dioxide in the United States. Changing to a cold-water wash once every week can save over 70 pounds of GHG pollution per year.
  • From 1987 to 2005, the United States’ fuel efficiency (mpg) fell by 12%, but rose by 28.9% from 2004 to 2019, achieving an aggregate of 24.99 mpg in 2019. Since late1995s, average annual miles driven have climbed by 8.9% to 9,918 miles in 2019.
  • In 2019, cars and trucks released 1.1 billion tons of Carbon dioxide, accounting for 16.9% of total the United States greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The use phase accounts for 84 percent of the 66,001 lbs of Carbon dioxide emitted throughout the lifespan of an ic engine car.
  • When gasoline is burned, it emits 19.6 pounds of Carbon dioxide per gallon, whereas diesel emits 22.5 pounds every gallon. Diesel, on the other hand, has 10.9% higher BTU in every gallon, which increases its fuel efficiency.
  • By simply following the speed limit, a person can boost their car’s fuel economy by 7-14 percent. Over 50 miles per hour, every 5 miles per hour rise in the speed of the vehicle equates to an additional $0.30-$0.50 a gallon.
  • Greenhouse gases produced from commercial aircraft vary depending on the kind of aircraft, route length, vacancy rates, and cargo and passenger load and reached 135.4 MMT Carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
  • The typical domestic airliner produced 0.41 pounds of Carbon dioxide emission per mile driven in 2019.
  • International air transport fuel efficiency improved by 115 percent between 1991 and 2020, owing to higher occupancy. Due to higher capacity and fuel economy, emission levels per passenger mile reduced by 45 percent from 1991 to 2020.

Ways To Reduce Carbon Footprint

Climate change has the potential to be overpowering. The science is complicated, and many mysteries still exist when it comes to potential ramifications. Whilst true answers will necessitate global action, there are measures a person can undertake in their daily life to reduce their personal environmental effect. So, how many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2, and what should be done?

Related Reading: How many trees are in the United States?

Reconsidering how much and how often one travel is among the most successful tactics to start thinking about how to minimize his/her carbon footprint. Carbon pollution from vehicles exceeded those from energy production as the prime source of greenhouse gas emissions in Nov. 2017. How so? Coal is being phased out of energy production in favor of renewables and fossil fuels.

According to a study published by academics at Lund University, being car-less for just a year might save approximately 2.6 tons of CO2 – a little over a single intercontinental journey. How does one get rid of their car? They can consider taking the train, bus, or, better yet, riding their bike.

When it comes to buying a new car, it’s a wonderful time to think about how one may lower their individual carbon impact. There are several aspects to consider when deciding between hybrid, gasoline, hybrid, and electric vehicles, all of which will influence how “green” the individual’s purchase is.

Related Reading: How to reduce the carbon footprint of your air conditioner

The following suggestions may be useful:

  • The person should consider where they’ll be charging up. The efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles is also determined by where one resides, as various states depend on carbon energy to various extents.
  • They should calculate both production and usage emissions. (There is also a carbon footprint associated with the production of electric vehicles.)
  • Understand that cars with reduced emissions can often be less expensive to run.

Taking one fewer long round-trip travel could drastically reduce their individual carbon footprint.7 Consider this: if a person takes public transit frequently and just goes home to see family once in a while, their carbon footprint may still be manageable, however, if they drive and fly frequently, their footprints will be larger.

If a person can’t avoid traveling, they can compensate for the pollution by making donations to sustainable programs like providing efficient burners to rural houses or assisting farmers in India in selling agricultural waste as bioenergy. Additionally, they can look into tree planting offset programs like a daily driver carbon offset.

While food production is complex, and studies on the most eco-friendly diet are still growing, experts generally agree that reducing meat consumption, particularly red meat, is a better decision for the environment. This is due to the fact that red meat production consumes a lot of food, land, and water. Methane emissions are also produced by cows.

Cows grazing on an open field with gray sky in the background.

(Image: Ronnie Overgoor9)

As a result, scientists believe that following a vegan diet is the greatest option for the environment. Red meat has close to 100 times the ecological consequences of vegetarian meals, as per a study in the Journal of Environmental Research Letters in 2017.

Consuming a pescetarian or vegetarian diet is likely to be healthier for the environment than eating a meat-heavy diet. Both these, though, are dependent on what someone is consuming and the quantity they’re eating. If one substitutes dairy for meat, for instance, their emissions may climb again.

On the matter of food, the majority of greenhouse gas pollution occurs during the manufacturing process instead of during shipping: what a person eats matters far beyond where it originates from. However, eating locally can make a significant difference.

Emissions can be reduced by reducing the number of food miles traveled. When one starts thinking about how the food reached them, instead of how far it traveled, eating locally becomes more complicated. Tomatoes transported by a truck over a small distance to a local farmer’s market or by train over a longer distance to a grocery shop could emit equal toxins.

Now that you know how many trees to offset 1 ton of CO2 you can realize that it takes more than just planting trees to reduce emissions, but when done right tree planting project DO matter.

Read More About How Many Trees To Offset 1 Ton of CO2


References

1Mapping tree density at a global scale. (2016, 13 April). Nature. <https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14967?error=cookies_not_supported&code=aa29eda8-2cfe-42d9-bef5-556e10e31017>

2Calculation of CO2 offsetting by trees | Encon. (2022, 2 June). Encon. <https://www.encon.be/en/calculation-co2-offsetting-trees>

3How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint. (2021, 10 May). A Year of Living Better Guides – The New York Times. <https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint>

4Our World in Data. (2022). Number of Trees Per Capita. Number of Trees Per Capita. Retrieved June 09, 2022, from <https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/trees-per-capita?tab=table>

5Center for Sustainable Systems. (2022). Carbon Footprint Factsheet. Factsheets. Retrieved June 09, 2022, from <https://css.umich.edu/publications/factsheets/sustainability-indicators/carbon-footprint-factsheet>

6The Nature Conservancy. (2022). Calculate Your Carbon Footprint. How To Help. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from <https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/>

7European Union. (2021, July 9). How to reduce my carbon footprint? How to reduce my carbon footprint? Retrieved June 9, 2022, from <https://europa.eu/youth/get-involved/sustainable-development/how-reduce-my-carbon-footprint_en>

8Photo by Alessandra Ceja. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/environment-reforestation-pine-6490647/>

9Photo by Ronnie Overgoor. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/TfGqzlSaQdw>

10Photo by Clay Elliot. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/EjKL9IZu3f8>