During the next several years, we partnered with Dow to develop that data. And it’s a good thing we did—it turned out that the marsh’s precise location couldn’t create the specific protection the facility needed.
We learned a valuable lesson, and that experience led to a great working relationship between TNC and Dow. In fact, three years ago, our teams evaluated a powerful natural solution to a different environmental challenge, and this time we got much more promising results.
Dow wanted to reduce the amount of air pollution around that same Texas facility, so our teams worked with university researchers to study site-specific solutions. We concluded that planting 1,000 acres of trees could, over three decades, remove 127 to 209 tons of regulated nitrogen oxide emissions—compounds that contribute to potentially harmful ground-level ozone.
And planting a forest would likely cost $1,700 to $3,200 per ton of nitrogen oxide, making it potentially comparable in cost to the mechanical alternative. The conventional method—installing facility retrofits such as smokestack scrubbers—could cost $2,500 to $5,000 per ton. Plus, Dow would have to replace the scrubber every two decades, whereas the forest would largely maintain and regenerate itself.
Besides purifying the air, the forest would also provide co-benefits, such as creating wildlife habitat and absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide, the main contributor to climate change.
This success led to even more momentum for our partnership, and just last year, Dow made a commitment to carefully evaluate the value of natural solutions in all of its business decisions.