By sharing our projects that use alternative technologies to develop sustainability here, we hope to peak your interest to learn more about the impact sustainable technology shifts can have on the environment. We also hope that the topics on this page will serve as a model to help you develop similar projects in your own communities. This is a developing project. We begin with biochar.
Biochar: what it is, how it helps the environment, and how we use it in our projects.
What is Biochar?
Biochar is a charcoal-like residue produced from agricultural by-products decomposed at high temperatures. In this process of renewable energy production, the residual agricultural material’s physical and chemical properties are transformed to create the porous and carbon-rich material product known as biochar. You can use lots of materials to produce biochar – for example, in our case we use pecan shells, an agricultural by-product in abundance in the south of New Mexico – but you can adjust the material to fit the needs of your region and community.
Biochar’s Environmental Impact
When produced in large quantities, Biochar has the potential to sequester tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, mitigating the effects of climate change and improving socio-environmental health and wellness wherever it goes. Here are just some of the benefits to the environment that Biochar production and use can have:
- Improving soil nutrient retention naturally, without the use of harmful artificial fertilizers;
- Conserving resources: by using existing agricultural by-products that would otherwise be discarded, biochar production commits to waste reduction;
- Promoting circular economic models in sustainable agriculture;
- Improving the quality of farming land: Over time, the application of biochar as a soil amendment contributes to overall soil nutrition in the areas it is applied;
- Reducing emissions: Not only does biochar sequester carbon, but it also mitigates methane emissions, contributing to localized pollution reduction;
The environmental benefits of sustainable use of biochar indicate it has great potential to contribute to the increasingly necessary mitigation of atmospheric climate change. That’s not just the opinion of us at Border Partners – see “Further Resources” for a list of studies on Biochar that confirm its potential for positive environmental impacts.
Biochar in Our Projects
People around the world use biochar–and not only as a local soil amendment.
- Biochar production heats the city of Stockholm, Sweden using discarded yard waste.
- In Uganda, waste improves soil fertility and provides solutions to food insecurity.
- Researchers in Chile are working on how to use biochar to better use nitrogen in soil fertilizers.Meanwhile, in our very own Puerto Palomas de Villa, in Mexico, Border Partners has its own biochar stove project that harnesses the potential of Biochar’s environmental impact to make a community impact, too.
Over the last several years, we’ve built and installed 13 Biochar stoves designed by local biochar aficionado Bill Knauss in homes around Palomas. These stoves provide an alternative, inexpensive heating resource for families who would otherwise rely on propane gas, while also producing the necessary biomass to produce Biochar for our community gardens.
The benefits of using Biochar as a soil amendment in our gardens has resulted in an approximately 30% increase in crop yields. This comes back to further benefit the community in the form of healthy school lunches and fresh vegetables for our Meals on Wheels project serving local seniors. Community members are also welcome to come by and cut extra vegetables when looking for a healthy food supplement, which has huge benefits in a rural town where such produce can be difficult or expensive to come by.
Our project harnesses the potential of biochar to make a positive social, economic, and environmental change. Currently, we’re seeking to diversify funding to expand the project and heat more homes in Palomas for the winter heating season. If you’re interested in contributing or collaborating with us, feel free to get in touch!
Further Biochar Resources
Video Tutorials (English + Spanish)
Here is an in-depth tutorial that elaborates how you can experiment with Biochar production in your own community:
Here is a version available in Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHGFxQMjuF4
Biochar Research & Projects
If you are interested in keeping up with the latest research in the scientific community on biochar production and its many potential benefits, visit the academic journal ‘Biochar’ at this link: https://www.springer.com/journal/42773
Here is an article discussing biochar’s effectiveness in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in farmlands: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780323853439000197
Read more about the potential of biochar in circular economy-based environmental management here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0957582022004608
Read more about Biochar’s utility in reducing soil contamination: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780323853439000136
Read more about other projects investing in biochar across the developing world: https://biochar-international.org/about-biochar/biochar-in-developing-countries/
Biochar in the news:
Biochar: what is it and what ecosystems does it benefit?
Transforming wood from waste to biochar in Maine: https://www.mainebiz.biz/article/biochar-startups-use-thermal-process-to-transform-waste-wood-into-a-versatile-product
Biochar benefits indigenous farmers in Bolivia: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewwight/2023/08/30/bolivians-turning-forestry-waste-into-biochar-for-indigenous-farmers/?sh=3b3d69ddf301