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Forest Carbon Inventory

Category: Campus Design

Healthy, well-managed forests sequester carbon. You can further your decarbonization goals by taking an honest account of the carbon sequestered in your forests and using it as an offset for your emissions. Taking a forest carbon inventory marks the important first step towards improved land stewardship, honest carbon accounting, and potential generation of offsets.

Healthy forests offer myriad health and environmental benefits to the ecosystem and human community. Many colleges and universities own and manage forested land and can model sustainable forestry as a climate solution. Besides acting as carbon sinks, forests also provide valuable ecosystem services such as air and water purification. They reduce erosion and water runoff during heavy rain events and provide critical wildlife habitats, aesthetic beauty, and restorative spaces for relaxation and solace. Additionally, campus forests provide natural shade and cooling.  

Establishing a baseline forest carbon inventory is an important first step in actively managing campus forests for the purpose of measuring their carbon sequestration rates.  A forest carbon inventory involves establishing sample plots, measuring the trees in those plots, and extrapolating the data to estimate stored carbon and annual rates of sequestration throughout the campus’s forested lands.  Alternatively, when campus forests are removed, neglected, or harmed, that loss of sequestered carbon would be added as campus emissions. Well-managed campus forests are part of the climate solution and should be treated as such.

Benefits of Forest Carbon Inventory

  • Integrates campus forests into the overall campus carbon footprint 
  • Elevates the importance of managing and protecting forests
  • Can be used as an educational opportunity for students and the community 
  • Can result in carbon offsets


  • Requires new skills, knowledge, and time commitments to complete the field measurements
  • May require outside assistance from foresters with experience in forest carbon inventories and field measurements


  • GHG Impact


    Counterbalances gross emissions and provides important educational and ecosystem service benefits

  • Economic Impact

    Net Savings

    Savings from avoided carbon offset purchases has potential to surpass the cost of maintenance

  • Feasibility


    There are technical aspects of this Solution that can be addressed by working with a trained forester and using software tools such as iTree.

    It is highly recommended to certify campus forests to help ensure that the forest is managed well and value is added.

  • Timeline

    10 years +

    Once the baseline forest carbon inventory has been established, then measurement should reoccur on a 5-year interval.

  • Maintenance


    Creating and updating a forest management plan and doing the field work are essential components of this project. Depending on the size of the campus forest, this can take days to months to complete every five years.

  • Publicity

    That's really cool

    Has potential to garner interest from other institutions and sustainability practitioners while emphasizing the importance of land stewardship in helping to solve climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Colgate University Forest Carbon Inventory

Colgate University owned and managed over 1000 acres of forested land. As part of their effort to reach carbon neutrality, they inventoried their forest and quantified the amount of carbon it sequestered annually. In addition to offsetting their emissions, the project also resulted a forest stewardship program.