In one of the more tortured twists of logic, one of the world’s largest producers of wasteful sprawl, is going to plant thousands of trees in pristine areas, to offset its own harmful environmental effects elsewhere. This is like a car thief offering to open up a used car lot in another city to atone for his crime. One good act does not eliminate the original crime. Home Depot announced two days ago that it is going to “offset all carbon emissions” created by its 35 acre business headquarters in Atlanta, by planting trees on nearly 130 acres of other land in the city of Atlanta. In other words, it’s a “produce it, reduce it” strategy designed to appear environmentally friendly. But if only if Home Depot announced no more wasteful big box stores, and an ambitious tree-planting frenzy, would we could out with something more than the “go zero” emissions they are touting. Most neighborhoods that have been ruined by Home Depot would abstractly support planting trees somewhere, but in the meantime, that Home Depot big box is attracting thousands of cars daily, and spewing CO2 into the air. Home Depot calls this absurd tree scattering plan “reforestation”, which it certainly is not. But they’ve got an environmental group, the Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that has encouraged businesses to offset their emissions through its “Go Zero” program. Home Depot figures that the tree planting will neutralize the 36,500 tons of carbon dioxide it creates at its headquarters each year, as well as some of the pollution its employees create while commuting to work and traveling for business. The emissions at Paces Ferry Road come from the gas and electricity used to heat and power the facility, which houses some 5,400 Home Depot workers. “By offsetting our carbon emissions through reforestation, we are doing more than sequestering carbon,” said Home Depot’s vice president of “environmental innovation”. “We are planting trees that will help reduce the heat island effect in urban areas, reduce erosion and storm water runoff, and help clean the air.” The next step would be for Home Depot to tear down the 2,104 energy-inefficient, impervious, asphalt and concrete abominations they call ‘stores.’ Instead, Home Depot is going to some nice spot like the Kennesaw Mountain State Park northwest of the city — and planting some trees there, where no one will notice. The Conservation Fund estimates that The Home Depot annually creates approximately 36,500 tons of carbon dioxide at its 35-acre headquarters complex, 2,300 tons from air travel for business and 12,100 tons from automobiles used by associates commuting to work. The Home Depot spokesman added, “The Home Depot’s commitment to offsetting carbon emissions through the Go Zero program is a milestone for the Company.” But it does nothing for the neighbors who fought to keep them out in the first place.
Home Depot says it is a “leader in environmental sustainability.” It says it sells wood from sustainable forests; working with vendors to source more environmentally friendly products; and using recycled content materials for some store and office supplies, advertising, signs, and shopping bags. “During the past 10 years, the Company has implemented conservation measures to limit energy use in its stores, upgraded existing stores to be more energy efficient, and constructed stores using green building materials and practices.” The Home Depot announcement about planting trees came at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 2nd National Summit on Energy and the Environment in Atlanta. The Home Depot Foundation was the title sponsor of the two-day summit. Through its Foundation, Home Depot says that over the past two years 250,000 trees were planted across the country in 2005. The head of The Conservation Fund added, “Climate change has emerged as the most pressing environmental issue of our time. We applaud The Home Depot’s leadership for its commitment to offset the carbon footprint of its headquarters.” When Home Depot has a business model change, not a climate change, and reduces the footprint of all its future stores, builds them on two levels, ends its saturation policy on store growth — then we will get to the source of the climate problem — — which is not planting more and more trees to offset more and more wasteful construction — but eliminating the problem at its root: Home Depot big box stores.