Lockdown does not mean shutdown!
We said, “Do something to Stop the Smoke!” Shangri-La Did!
Keeping up with Gabriele Lombardo, General Manager of the Shangri-La Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is hard. The wiry Sicilian never stops and never stops doing and doing and doing….
Warm Heart sat down with Mr. Lombardo in October 2019 to show him the terrible human and economic damage Chiang Mai’s “burning” or “smoke” season does to North Thailand and the hospitality industry, he understood immediately. When Warm Heart explained how the great hotels of Chiang Mai could stop the smoke, he said, “We will do it.”
So began the Shangri-La “Stop the Smoke” project that with Covid-19 has also become an important employment and jobs training program. Shangri-La supported the creation of two community-based biochar making businesses and bought their first 50 tonnes of biochar production. This alone gave a large number of unemployed young men in very poor villages an amazing 300,000 baht ($10,000) over two months and stopped – as in entirely kept from happening – the release of 313 kg of PM2.5, the killer component of smoke. (Lest you have a hard time imagining a kilogram of smoke, a single kg of smoke is equivalent to the smoke of 71,429 cigarettes.)
Then Covid-19 arrived.
The country went on lockdown. Tourism stopped. Hotels closed.
Hundreds of thousands of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, street venders, guides, chamber maids and waiters had no jobs. They did what people do – they returned to their villages. But in the hot season, there were no jobs in the countryside and little food.
What do you do with 50 tonnes of biochar?
Donate it, sure, but to whom?
With assistance from Aom Kwanpirom, Warm Heart Biochar Project Director, Shangri-La sought out small organizations training the urban unemployed to become farmers and either starting urban farms on empty plots or degraded soil near home. What these organizations need most is high quality soil amendment material to provide fertility to future gardens. What they need is ground biochar mixed with organic matter.
Suddenly, 50 tonnes did not look like enough biochar. Warm Heart found itself wondering how much of its own reserves were going to be needed!
Distribution began on May 29, with Warm Heart and Shangri-La staff volunteers helping with the hand-over and application.
All those who dismiss corporate “green washing” should consider the Shangri-La “Stop the Smoke” project. They should consider the value “return on investment” from this $15,000 outlay. In its first year, this project:
- Put $10,000 in new income into the hands of unemployed villagers in two months;
- Barred 313 kg of PM2.5 from the air;
- Averted the emission of 54,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (methane and NOx);
- Sequestered 150 tonnes of CO2 and
- Fertilized hundreds of intensively planted kitchen gardens that produced tonnes of nutritious, organic vegetables.
Imagine the benefits to Chiang Mai if every 5-star hotel followed the Shangri-La’s example? Imagine the benefits to Thailand if every 5-star hotel in the country followed the Shangri-La’s example? Imagine the benefits to the world if even a single hotel chain like Wyndham, Marriott, Hilton, Best Western, Holiday Inn, followed the Shangri-La’s example?
Can You Imagine?
Major hotels are not the only industry that can help kick start biochar production and use to help bring down global warming! Picture the benefits if the following industries embraced biochar the way Shangri-la has!
Mining can benefit in two areas: (1) mining, big and little, uses and leaks lots of cyanide and mercury from tailings piles and ponds. Biochar binds them up effectively. (2) big mining produces a constant stream of acid mine waste or acid mine drainage. Biochar is effective at binding it up. In all cases, problems persist long after mines close. Biochar is a cheap, easy to apply, long term solution.
Everyone loves a good BBQ! But what are they using for fuel? Regular charcoal can be directly associated with smoke, CO2, deforestation, habitat, biodiversity and watershed destruction.
There is a solution that would eliminate all of the negative impacts of commercial charcoal use and production!
One of the products that can be made from biochar is briquettes. Biochar briquettes have a positive impact on the environment, burn hotter, longer, and burn smoke-free!
All golf courses face issues of fertilizers, pesticides, water use and runoff poisoning neighbors/public waterways. Biochar should be used by all golf courses for its ability to improve greens, reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides (saving money), reduce leaching (saving community/public waterways pollution), and retain water (reducing irrigation costs, keeping greens green in droughts).
Every commercial farming operation needs biochar. If it is an animal production operation, it needs biochar at both ends: in feed to reduce methane burps, illness and, among chickens, agitation and in bedding to reduce smell.
At the other end, biochar is an excellent adsorbent of the gases – stink – produced by large manure piles and manure ponds covered in urine. (The by-product is also an excellent soil amendment.)
For commercial grain farmers of all sorts, biochar in the soil will help to restore soils badly degraded by intense over production.
Biochar will increase soil carbon. It will reduce fertilizer and pesticide costs by reducing leaching.
Biochar will reduce soil acidity and improve cation exchange capacity (fertility) and increase soil life.
It will also help to stop toxic runoff and NOx fluxes into the air from heavy N fertilization.
The list is endless!
Petroleum industry: Gas stations that routinely wash diesel, lubricants and hydraulic fluid off their concrete aprons can create simple biochar capture pits to stop the pollution of local waters.
Trucking industry, car rental industry, motor vehicle industry: All highways produce huge amounts of pollution in the form of tiny particles of rubber in aerosol form with oils and so on. These wash into storm drains in the tonnes. City streets are the same. Simple biochar swales and capture pits would capture these and keep them from streams and rivers.
Eliminating Agricultural Burning is a win-win!
Agricultural burning is not just a local issue for us here in Thailand. It is a worldwide problem that is a major contributor to global warming. The solution is so simple, but requires change. That change needs to come sooner than later!
Once we are able to educate farmers globally on the VALUE of biochar, not only will global warming be reduced, you can see all the benefits biochar can provide to help clean up the mess our short-sighted actions have caused to our environment. A definite win-win for humanity and the environment.
What can one person do?
Join our “Stop the Smoke” campaign.
Your $10 donation will help spread biochar training around the world. When you join our campaign you will receive quarterly updates on the success of our campaign.
What can corporations do?
They can follow the lead of Shangri-la and invest in a future that benefits everyone. Sponsor the training of local farmers to make biochar.
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