Frequently Asked Questions

The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero® program works with individuals, companies and foundations to address climate change and habitat loss by protecting and restoring America’s forests.  With Go Zero, you can engage customers, inspire employees, meet carbon reduction goals and make a real difference on the ground.  

Go Zero supports both conservation-based forest management and forest restoration carbon reduction projects as well as tree planting in some of America’s favorite places. 

1. Who administers Go Zero?

Go Zero is administered by The Conservation Fund. Effective and efficient, we are consistently recognized as one of the nation’s top environmental charities by two watchdog organizations: Charity Navigator and Charity Watch

2. Is The Conservation Fund a 501c3 charitable organization?

Yes. For 8 years in a row, Charity Navigator has awarded us 4 stars, ranking us among the top 1% of charities in America. We also top Charity Navigator’s “Environmental Protection and Conservation” category, leading more than 230 other organizations. And, for more than 10 years, we’ve been ranked a top environmental charity by Charity Watch. You can view our audited financials and learn more other great work The Conservation Fund is doing across the country here

3. I represent a company. How can I work with Go Zero?

Our work would not be possible without the support of our donors and partners. From customer and employee engagement to the reduction of corporate emissions, our partners are planting the seeds of the future with a gift that keeps growing. Contact us to find out how your company can use Go Zero to:

  • Engage customers at the point of purchase to offset emissions and/or plant trees
  • Reduce the emissions impact from fleets, employee commutes or corporate business travel
  • Offset energy use at select facilities including headquarters, offices, manufacturing or retail locations
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of conferences, corporate events, annual meetings or other events
  • Meet corporate sustainability and reporting goals and enhance corporate responsibility programs
4. Where does my donation go?

Your charitable contribution of approximately $9.00 per metric ton of CO2 sequestered supports the Fund’s efforts to restore and manage native forests that will reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, protect wildlife habitat, support the green economy and enhance America’s public recreation areas.

Donations support The Conservation Fund’s efforts to protect, manage and restore working forestlands, acquire land on behalf of national and state parks or wildlife refuges and to restore that land with native trees that will trap CO2 over the project’s lifetime (estimated at 100 years). Donations are also used to measure, monitor and validate the projects over time.

Go Zero is focused exclusively on partners interested in participating in voluntary emission reductions and philanthropic support through forest carbon projects.  That means that carbon reduced from Go Zero donations is either retired or withheld from the carbon market entirely. It cannot be banked, traded or sold by donors in the future. For buyers interested in compliance-grade offsets that can be traded in the future, contact ckelly@conservationfund.org.

5. What types of projects does Go Zero support?
Conservation-based forest management:

At The Conservation Fund, we believe that working forests can be financially self-sustaining and environmentally healthy. We’re demonstrating a new way to sustainably manage forests, as a nonprofit owner that uses both sound environmental strategy and sound economics—including a light-touch harvest regimen, sales of carbon offsets and a supply of local jobs. We work with our partners to skillfully manage both forest growth and harvest to ensure that these forests remain viable ecosystems for generations to come. Since 2004, we have protected and now managed more than 70,000 acres across California’s North Coast, including Buckeye, Garcia River, Big River, Salmon Creek and Gualala River forests. Go Zero supporters can help protect and restore the these California redwood and Douglas fir forests by purchasing and retiring carbon offsets sourced from Garcia, Big River and Salmon Creek forests.

Reforestation:

This project type was established as a philanthropic approach to support reforestation projects that trap carbon over time. For the past several years, The Conservation Fund’s reforestation efforts have been focused on the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Habitat loss is more pronounced here than in any other area of the United States—more than 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forests have been cleared over the course of the last century. Restoring these lands are top priorities for The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, we’re directing Go Zero donations toward the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.

Ceremonial tree planting:

While these trees will not be validated to carbon standards they play a critical role in climate change solutions. If your company would like to plant a tree for each employee, customer, at the point of purchase, or for other programs, we can help. Contact us to learn more about how you can help restore the Rouge River watershed in Detroit or longleaf pine forests in South Carolina.

6. What standards and principles does the Go Zero program adhere to?

The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero carbon calculator uses calculation methods and standards set forth by The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (GHG Protocol), which aims to harmonize accounting and reporting standards worldwide to ensure that different trading platforms and other climate related initiatives adopt consistent approaches to GHG accounting. In addition, our carbon monitoring regime follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Good Practice Guidance (IPCC GPG 2003) and our tree measurements satisfy the IPCC Tier 3, the GPG’s highest level of accuracy criteria.

All Go Zero carbon projects adhere to the following standards and principles:

  • Validation: Reforestation projects are validated against the standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance. Conservation –based forest management projects are verified under Climate Action Reserve. Both of these standards are high quality industry standards and all carbon projects are audited regularly by a third-party. *North Coast projects are also SFI and FSC certified.
  • Permanence: Go Zero works with the nation’s leading public natural resource agencies and non-governmental organizations so that our forest work occurs in protected areas with long-term management plans to ensure accuracy and certainty of carbon sequestration. For our reforestation projects, up to ten percent of the total anticipated carbon to be captured from a project will be set aside as a buffer, or a reserve, in case of loss. In general, project areas with high risk of loss, such as from fire or drought, will not qualify.
  • Additionality: Each Go Zero project establishes a carbon baseline and a defined monitoring system so that GHG removals can be independently verified. Projects result in additional carbon dioxide capture compared to that which would otherwise have occurred.
  • Leakage: Projects do not displace productive land-use activities nor do they displace emissions to another location. For example, carbon capture and storage activities at our project areas do not lead to the clearing of forestlands elsewhere.
  • Native Species: Forest-based carbon sequestration projects are comprised of native trees, designed to restore fully functioning natural systems.
  • Community and Biodiversity Benefits: Projects provide additional environmental benefits including restored wildlife habitat, improved air and water quality and enhanced recreation areas. They also contribute to the green economy by creating forest-based jobs.
7. How do trees trap carbon?

The process of collecting carbon in forests, soils, geological formations and other carbon “sinks” is called carbon sequestration. Native trees and forests help fight climate change as part of their natural processes. As they grow, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, convert it to oxygen and store the carbon in their trunks, roots and leaves. In addition to trapping the gases that cause climate change, these new forests filter the water we drink, restore habitat for wildlife and enhance public recreation areas. 

8. How much carbon dioxide does one tree absorb?

Sequestration rates are based on scientific research conducted by academics and consultants and have been taken from peer-reviewed scientific literature. These rates vary depending on tree species and geographic location. Go Zero calculations assume average sequestration rates per acre of land reforested and include appropriate tree survival assumptions. 

For example, in the Lower Mississippi River Valley the Fund and its partners plant approximately 302 trees per acre, which will sequester an estimated 361 tons of carbon dioxide over 100 years. Therefore, on a per planted tree basis, each tree absorbs approximately one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. The EPA also estimates between 0.82 and 1.22 trees per metric ton. 

9. Who cares for the trees?
Conservation-based forest management

We do. We believe that working forests can be financially self-sustaining and environmentally healthy. Since 2004, the Fund has protected more than 125,000 acres along California’s North Coast.  Today, we own and manage more than 75,000 acres as sustainable working forests, including our Buckeye, Garcia River, Big River, Salmon Creek and Gualala River forests.  We’re demonstrating a new way to sustainably manage these lands, as a nonprofit owner that uses both sound environmental strategy and sound economics—including a light-touch harvest regimen, sales of carbon offsets and a supply of local jobs. We work with our partners to skillfully manage both forest growth and harvest to ensure that these forests remain viable ecosystems for generations to come.

Reforestation

We work primarily with state and federal public land agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These government agencies are the long-term land managers and stewards of the projects and employ well-trained biologists and environmental professionals. Our public agency partners provide written verification of each planting and are responsible for the monitoring and stewardship of the land once it is restored. All of our projects are validated to the highest industry standards and audited by a third-party. Since 2000 the Fund has planted 10 million trees over more than 25,000 acres across the Southeast and the Gulf Coast.

10. I am supporting a reforestation project. What are the details for the planting of my trees?
  • When: The Fund pools Go Zero donations and completes one or two major restoration projects each year. Your trees are typically planted as part of the first project after your donation.
  • Where: For the past several years, The Conservation Fund’s reforestation efforts have focused on the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Today, we’re directing Go Zero reforestation donations toward Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana. Read more about where we plant >> 
  • Who: Go Zero trees are planted and monitored by scientists specializing in reforestation and carbon sequestration planting and monitoring. We also work with state foresters and professional tree planters at select sites. If requested, Go Zero trees may be planted by volunteers for ceremonial purposes only.
11. I am supporting a conservation-based forest management project.  What is a working forest?

Our approach to forest conservation includes a desire to sustain the local timber economy. Our success stems from our consistent, dedicated team of employees and contract consultants. The North Coast program has contributed more than $20 million to the local economy since our project began in 2004, working with over 100 local businesses. Across these forests, we have implemented sustainable forest management practices that include decreasing the intensity of harvests, increasing the time between harvests and widening riverfront buffers to improve water quality in streams impaired by erosion resulting from a century of timber harvesting.

12. Are forest projects an effective way to fight climate change?

Yes. But it takes time. While there is no silver bullet to this issue, reforesting once-forested but currently unproductive areas such as marginal agricultural lands is a recognized way to sequester carbon dioxide.

Estimates are that as much as 50% of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 50 years may be due to the effects of land use change. Furthermore, climate scientists estimate that between 12-17% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation. Thus, protecting and restoring forestland represents one way, among others, to reverse these effects and combat climate change.

Given the scale of the effort required to tackle climate change, we need to pursue new technologies that help us reduce our footprint and at the same time, recognize and use the tools we have at our fingertips.

13. Do I earn ‘carbon credits’ as a result of my donation?

No. The Go Zero program is focused exclusively on partners interested in participating in voluntary and philanthropic forest carbon projects.  That means that any carbon accrued from Go Zero projects is either retired or withheld from the carbon market entirely. It cannot be banked for future offset purposes, traded or sold by donors in the future. 

14. My company may be regulated by cap and trade. Can I use Go Zero projects for offsetting?

Companies interested in compliance-eligible offsets should contact ckelly@conservationfund.org.  Any contribution to Go Zero will be retired or withheld from the carbon market entirely.

15. Can my support of Go Zero projects be included in my corporate sustainability reporting?

Yes. We can help you communicate your purchase for a variety of reporting mechanisms. We provide you the information you will need for the following: Corporate Sustainability Reports (CSR), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) and American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) – as well as others.