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Winter Solstice Biochar Stove Lantern Class 2014

Reinvent Fire and Help Build a Sustainable Future

Join us on the Winter Solstice 

Make a beautiful, rustic tin-can torchiere that doubles as a BioChar Camp Stove

Sunday, December 21st from 1pm – 3pm at the West Seattle Nursery

BioChar Stove Lantern

BioChar Stove Lantern

This blazing fire is a wonderful activity to warm up your outdoor holiday, while learning how to craft your own gifts, reuse and recycle materials, and learn more about biochar and our environment. It is a fun project for kids (over 10) and adults.

Dome School BioChar Camp Stove Workshop 1pm – 3pm

West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center

5275 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98136

Build a derivative design of Kelpie Wilson’s Dome School Soup Can Emergency / Camping / Tea Light Stove (see video here).

This little stove is great for understanding the principles of wood gasification and biochar creation while replacing traditional expensive backpacking equipment.

The camp stove is good to have around and know how to use in camping, personal / community emergency preparedness, as well as teaching sustainable solutions for our soil and environment.

BioChar Pine Cone

BioChar Pine Cone

BioChar is charcoal but made with a purpose…

It locks away carbon for thousands of years, improves soil with better root aeration, decreases water evaporation, provides a great home for beneficial soil organisms to thrive in, and helps keep nutrients where plants need it rather than leaching into our waterways.

  • Class Price is $25

Please RSVP Jenn Dowell at West Seattle Nursery  –
Larry James (and Julia Jackson) – [Instructors]

( Volunteer, Stove Builder, Instructor)


***** You will NEED to bring FOUR specific tin cans [Preferably pre-emptied and washed]  ******

  • a 46oz. can [tomato juice]
  • a can approx. 28 oz. [crushed tomatoes]
  • an 18.5oz. Progresso soup can
  • and (for the decorative chimney), either a 15oz. can [tomatoes] or a short 8oz can (like in the photo)
  • You should also bring a pair of gloves to wear during the class (if you have them), since there will be many sharp edges! Goggles/safety glasses strongly recommended (required for minors).

Also feel free to bring some of the tools listed below so there might be extras:

  • Can opener, Triangle can punch, Hammer, Phillips screwdriver, Tin snips, Box knife, Pliers/needle nose, Hacksaw, Nail/awl, Metal File, Spacer (paper bag/cardboard).

Donate to                     Kelpie Wilson’s Dome School Stove Design

Printable PDF Google Drive link here…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Announcing the Biochar Journal

Announcing the Biochar Journal

From: Kathleen Draper

US CHARector at Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence

Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kelpie Wilson and I are excited to officially launch the Biochar Journal (tBJ), the first international journal dedicated to biochar.

The Biochar Journal will provide relevant, cutting edge research and practical guidance showing how the use of biochar and other climate friendly techniques can not only boost economic and environmental resilience but also regenerate local, regional and global ecosystems. We are planning to cover biochar uses in agriculture, livestock farming, building industry, habitat remediation, desert reforestation, disaster management, water treatment, reusable packaging, electronics and more.

To maintain our independence, we do not plan to accept sponsorship agreements from the growing biochar industry. We are proud to be financed only by the good will and enthusiasm of our readers. Help us prove that this idealism can work by choosing one of three subscription formulas, or by giving an amount of your choosing to help sustain the Biochar Journal and its contributions to the development and deployment of biochar around the world.

Our goal is to deliver new and exciting information related to biochar-based technology, application and research from as many different sources as possible. We need your help to make this happen, not just financially, but in terms of creative ideas, research and stories worth telling that will help us cooperatively raise biochar to a new level. We hope you will join us in co-creating the biochar revolution!

Come and look and read:
Welcome to the Biochar Journal (tBJ)

The first international journal dedicated to biochar is online now!

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November 7-11, Swallow Valley Farm, Sonoma County, California

Register Now! Space Limited to 50 Students

Who should attend? Small farmers, home gardeners and anyone interested in soils, plants and small scale biomass energy. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT

What you will learn from our faculty of 12 prominent biochar experts:
•    No-cost and low-cost ways to make plenty of biochar for your farm
•    Biochar application rates and methods for best results
•    How to make biologically active, nutrient balanced biochar fertilizer blends
•    How to analyze biochar characteristics
•    How to integrate biochar economically and ecologically into your farm production systems
•    How to design biochar devices that capture useful energy

Exciting Demonstrations and Lectures:
•    Hear Toby Hemenway talk about biochar and permaculture
•    See how Penny Livingston is using biochar for restoring native grasslands
•    Experience the amazing Adam Retort with Peter Hirst
•    See the latest biochar stove designs from Dr. TLUD
•    Learn about biochar from experts Gloria Flora, Kelpie Wilson and Josiah Hunt, among others
•    Visit Bloomfield Organics to see how a CSA farm uses biochar

PROGRAM SCHEDULE (subject to change):


Classroom — “101” classes offered Friday and Saturday. “201” classes offered Sat, Sun, Mon:

  • Biochar 101 – the basics about biochar and how it works in soil
  • Pyrolysis 101 – the basics about the chemistry and physics of the biochar-making process and how different devices work
  • Biochar 201 (part 1) —  Biochar Compost Science & Methods (Josiah Hunt, Hawaii Biochar & Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates)
  • Biochar 201 (part 2) – Biochar Application Rates & Application Methods (Phil Small, Land Profile & John Miedema, BioLogical Carbon)
  • Pyrolysis 201 (part 1) — Design for Heat Transfer (Peter Hirst, New England Biochar & John Miedema, BioLogical Carbon)
  • Pyrolysis 201 (part 2) – Pyrolysis Economics for Farm Scale (Josiah Hunt, Hawaii Biochar & John Miedema, BioLogical Carbon)

Labs —  Labs will be offered on Saturday, Sunday and Monday:

  • Open Fire Kilns – how to make and operate pit kilns, cone kilns, top lit open burns and new devices (Michael Wittman, Blue Sky Biochar & Paul Anderson, Dr. TLUD)
  • Make a Jolly Roger Oven – make this 55 gallon gasifier to take home. $100 materials fee (Art Donnelly, SeaChar)
  • Make a Biochar Stove – make a very simple, easy tin can stove that you can really cook on that makes biochar from wood pellets (Paul Anderson, Dr. TLUD & Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates).
  • Feedstock Management – learn how to process, handle and store different feedstocks (Matt Banchero, “the tree-hugging tree cutter”)
  • Adam Retort – learn how to operate the Adam Retort (Peter Hirst, New England Biochar)
  • Biochar Characterization – learn how to tell different biochars apart and what they are good for (Phil Small, Land Profile)
  • Biochar Fertilizer Formulations – learn how to make biologically active, nutrient charged biochar with compost and other ingredients (Josiah Hunt, Hawaii Biochar & Simran Rafael, Bloomfield Organics)
  • Nutrient Capture and Bio-Filtration on the Farm – make a biochar/sand filter; learn about the biochemistry of filtration and use of biochar in swales (John Miedema, BioLogical Carbon).
  • Biochar and Permaculture – learn how biochar works in permaculture systems (Gloria Flora, USBI & Penny Livingston-Stark, Regenerative Design Institute)
  • Terra Preta Sanitation – learn how to close the loop with biochar and use biochar to manage human waste (Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates)

– See more at:

•    Announcing an exciting new biochar learning opportunity
•    More info and registration coming soon!

Biochar School:
Appropriate Technology for the Small Farm

November 7-11, 2014

•    5 days of learning and experimentation at Swallow Valley Farm in Sonoma County, California
•    Produced by Wilson Biochar Associates, New England Biochar, LLC and Biocarbon Associates
•    Co-sponsored by US Biochar Initiative, Sonoma Biochar Project, Southern California Biochar Initiative and others TBA

Sign up NOW to get more information – add your name to the email update list for the Biochar School here:

This educational program will demonstrate simple, small to medium scale biochar production technology, with lessons and demonstrations of methods for feedstock selection and handling, biochar post-processing and application.  You will leave the school with a well-rounded experience and knowledge of the nuts-and-bolts practicality of on-farm biochar systems.  Here are some of the topics we will cover:

•    Building low tech biochar devices
•    Design for combined heat and biochar
•    Biomass & biochar handling: matching feedstocks to devices, size reduction, drying, grinding, storage
•    Biochar mixtures and preparations: compost, bokashi, minerals, wood vinegar
•    How to test and characterize biochar
•    How to apply biochar
•    How to set up field and pot trials to assess biochar effects
•    How to match biochars to soils and crops
•    Integrating biochar in permaculture practices

About the venue: Swallow Valley Farm provides a unique combination of resources:  a working farm with an established system built around the stationary Adam Retort of the Sonoma County Biochar Project; a large meeting room that can hold 50 people; a huge pole barn for under-roof activities; and nearby permaculture farms where biochar is in active use.

Housing and meals: Unlimited camping is available at the farm, or you can opt to stay at nearby hotels or cabins.  A caterer will work in our large, professional kitchen preparing all meals.

Faculty (preliminary list):
•    Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates, editor at the Biochar Journal, researcher at the Ithaka Institute
•    Peter Hirst, New England Biochar, Sonoma Biochar Initiative, Swallow Valley Farm
•    Raymond Baltar, Sonoma Biochar Initiative, Biocarbon Associates
•    Gloria Flora, Executive Director, US Biochar Initiative
•    Paul Anderson, Dr TLUD, Chip Energy
•    Toby Hemenway, Pattern Literacy, author of Gaia’s Garden
•    Michael Wittman, Blue Sky Biochar, Southern California Biochar Initiative
•    Art Donnelly, SeaChar, Estufa Finca
•    John Miedema, BioLogical Carbon, biochar educator and innovator
•    Josiah Hunt, Pacific Biochar
•    Simran Raphael, Regenerative Earth, Bloomfield Organics
•    Philip Small, Land Profile, Inc
•    Matt Banchero, the Tree Hugging tree cutter
•    Damien McAnany, Ecological Landscaper

Please save these dates on your calendar now. Go to our registration site to add your name to the email list to receive further information and registration prices.

For burning questions about this event please contact Peter Hirst:



Posted by: Kelpie Wilson <>

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At a recent meeting in the Bribri community of Amubri, Costa Rica, a woman told one of our Estufa Finca team members that because of deforestation, children are now growing up in the Talamanca Valley without ever having seen a monkey. She then went on to tell us how she plans to use our Estufa Finca Cook-stoves and biochar to address that problem.

Since 2011, SeaChar has been working with indigenous Bribri, farming communities in the Talamanca Canton of S.E. Costa Rica to combat deforestation and unhealthy cooking practices by offering fuel-efficient, clean-burning cook-stoves to households at risk from the deadly effects of smoky, inefficient cooking fires. Our innovative stoves create high-quality agricultural charcoal (biochar) as a byproduct of the cooking process. This carbon negative method of building and sustaining healthy, productive soil has a 7000-year old history in the Americas. Improving the productivity of tropical soils helps to prevent the clearing of more forest. High quality charcoal is a valued commodity and the surplus produced by a cook’s stove can earn a family much needed extra income. This activity will soon form the basis of a cooperative community owned business.

Biochar-producing stoves can save lives and trees. In the communities where we work, most families survive on less than $3 a day. Through our time spent in Costa Rica, we’ve learned that deforestation, poor agricultural productivity, poverty and childhood mortality are interconnected issues. SeaChar seeks to combat these socio-economic problems by teaching communities how to build, cook on and sell easy-to-use stoves. The Estufa Finca (Farm Stove) has been laboratory tested and consistently reduces Carbon Monoxide emissions by 83% and Particulate Matter emissions by 91%, when compared to open fire cooking. The stove also uses approximately 40% less fuel than a traditional stove and, is able to use renewable inputs such as bamboo or coconut shell.

Why we picked this campaign?

1. The organization and technology have a proven track record of effectiveness.

2. The project emphasizes training and community development, promoting long-term environmental and economic sustainability.

3. The Estufa Finca (Farm Stove) design creates high-quality biochar as a byproduct of the cooking process. This valuable charcoal is being sold to generate income for stove users.


The Impact

SeaChar’s innovative stove can reduce carbon monoxide poisoning, drastically reduce particulate matter that poisons lungs and skies alike, reduce deforestation, and provide farmers with a valuable soil amendment (biochar). Most importantly, your support will help create a truly sustainable socio-economic model that will prosper independent of grants and donations.



April29th reposted from:

Wood VinegarModern research on the use of wood vinegar was first carried out in Japan in the early 1950s. It was reported to be effective against: rosette or green mosaic in wheat, nematode in sweet potato, tobacco mosaic, powdery mildew in leafy vegetables, leaf miner and other insect pests. However, due to the introduction of agro-chemicals and their instantaneous effects, research on wood vinegar took a back seat. Ten years ago, interest in wood vinegar resurfaced as the effectiveness and safety of agro-chemicals were put on the spot. It is now commonly used by Japanese farmers and is also catching up fast in Taiwan and Korea.  

It is estimated that wood vinegar contains more than 300 constituents such as acetic acid, methanol, phenol, ester, acetals, ketone, formic acid and many others. Instead of the specific effectiveness of a certain element, in the case of wood vinegar, various elements work synergistically. Various factors are controlled by the dilution rate of the wood vinegar. It has a bactericidal effect as well as the ability to propagate microbes. It has radicational qualities, which provides a growth inducing effect. But depending on the concentration of the mixture it can also be used to retard the growth of the plant.

The various elements in the wood vinegar work as co-enzymes or catalysts. Various enzymes are involved in reactions such as cell multiplication. The functions of the enzymes are assisted by the elements in the wood vinegar which co-ordinate the reactions and the cell multiplication. Elements that are effective as co-enzymes and catalysts require only a minute amount. It is like vitamins in our bodies. The dosage of some of these elements is effective in the unit of PPM. (Parts per million).

Wood vinegar contains a small amount of nutrients directly taken in by the plants. It also contains very few elements that have the bactericidal and anthelmintic effect. It is neither a fertilizer nor an agro-chemical. Yet when it is correctly applied, it enhances the intake of fertilizers and reduces the damages by various diseases. Wood vinegar enhances rooting, helps in the regulating of the nutrients condition of the soil, and the balance of the microbiological population. The changes in the microbiological population not only greatly reduce the tendency of soil bound diseases, it also increases the vitality of the roots and hence enable better uptake of nutrients.

Wood vinegar had been long known to be very effective against nematodes.  It kills nematodes directly as well as propagates microbes that feed on them. The high acidity, methanol and phenol content have strong bactericidal effect at a high concentration, such as 50 to 100 times dilution. However, microbes propagate well when it is diluted to 200 times dilution. This is mainly due to the effect on the metabolism by its main element, acetic acid. Acetyl co-enzyme is produced by plants and microbes from acetic acid. Through the TCA cycle, acetyl co-enzyme is converted into citridic acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, succiric acid and other elements that are necessary for the plant and microbes. This is the main reason behind the propagation of microbes.
Through foliar application, some bacteria are killed by direct contact and the changes of the microbiological population deter the propagation of pathogenic bacteria.  The acidity on the leaves surface also deters propagation. However, the most remarkable effects of foliar application are the increase in resistance of the leaves against pests and diseases and the increase in the effectiveness of agro-chemicals.

Through foliar application of wood vinegar, the leaves become shiny and darker in color. This is due to the increase in chlorophyll through the effect of ester in the wood vinegar which promotes photosynthesis. This ester also helps in the formation of sugar and amino acids. This also results in a better taste of the produce. The healthier leaves naturally have a stronger resistance against pests and diseases.

Five plant hormones are closely related to the growth and health of a plant. These are: gibberellin, cytokinin, auxin, etherlene and abscisic acid. Etherlene and abscisic acid contribute to the plant’s resistance against diseases and attacks from bacteria. An amino acid called methionine effects the formation of etherlene. The formation of etherlene is reduced by the excessive intake of nitrogen. On the other hand, growth hormones like gibberellin, cytokinin and auxin will be produced. As a result, the size of the plant increases but the resistance against diseases is reduced. The formation of oxidized etherlene from etherlene and the formation of methionine is accelerated by acids. The wood vinegar helps in their formation due to its acidity.

Furthermore, wood vinegar accelerates the process of transformation from nitrogen to amino acids. In other words, nitrogen is effectively transformed into amino acids. This will also stabilize the formation of methionine. As the result, oxidized etherlene is also produced. These processes contribute to higher plants resistance against various diseases.

At 500 times dilution, wood vinegar can reduce the cluster value of water to 1/3. This means that the water is activated and can be easily absorbed by the plants because water with a low cluster value is in a very small mass. Each of these masses will hold one or few mineral elements. These elements can be easily taken into the plants.

The concentration of agro-chemicals or liquid fertilizers can be reduced by 50% if it is diluted in a 500 times dilution solution of wood vinegar due to its higher permeation. This will greatly reduce the use of agro-chemicals. However, it should not be used with alkaline chemicals.

Essay submitted by Steven Leong

2013 North American Biochar Symposium–Early Bird Registration Extended to August 31, 2013

There couldn’t be a more exciting time to join your colleagues for a North American conference on biochar. Over the past six years, growers, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs worldwide have experienced the remarkable properties and benefits of using biochar as a soil conditioner, as a medium for ecosystem restoration, as an agent for wastewater remediation, and even as a food additive to enhance livestock nutrition. The event will be held October 13 – 16 at the University of Massachusetts located in Amherst, MA, USA.

Registration is now open for this event at:

In addition to learning about exciting new developments in the field through networking and formal presentations at the event, participants will also have the opportunity to attend the following:

  • Ignite Talks – Monday night presentations by experts in the biochar field
  • Exhibit tables
  • Poster Presentations & Book Signings
  • A Biochar Banquet with food stations that will feature local produce grown in biochar conditioned soil, as well as a variety of meats and adult beverages enhanced by biochar
  • A Video Lounge
  • A post conference field day to learn more about technologies with a hands on approach.
  • To volunteer, ask questions, or share comments, please contact the conference organizer, Karen Ribeiro at:

Ms. Thayer Tomlinson

International Biochar Initiative

Communications Director

(802) 257 5359


IBI is a non-profit, member-supported organization and is counting on your generous donation to put the Earth “Back in the Black”. Please join us at

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Program Coordinator, Northwest Biocarbon Initiative

Climate Solutions’ mission is to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment, and bridging divides. Since 1998, Climate Solutions has pioneered the vision and cultivated political leadership in the Northwest for the proposition that clean energy and broadly-shared economic prosperity can go hand-in-hand. Through our programs such as Business Leaders for Climate Solutions, New Energy Cities, Sustainable Aviation Fuels, and Northwest Biocarbon Initiative, Climate Solutions builds a powerful constituency for local, regional, and national action on climate and clean energy. Climate Solutions has offices in Seattle, Olympia, and Portland. For more information about Climate Solutions, visit

The Northwest Biocarbon Initiative (NBI) program is dedicated to establishing the Northwest as a leading laboratory and incubator for biocarbon solutions (  In addition to rapidly transitioning off of fossil fuels (the first climate solution), we must also restore safe levels of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere by developing scalable strategies to pull carbon from the air and store it in soils, trees, and other plants (the second climate solution).  NBI is building the movement to protect and increase carbon stored in forests, farms, communities, wetlands, coasts, and other ecosystems, in ways that are economically attractive and deliver multiple public benefits.

Climate Solutions is seeking a talented Coordinator to lead our NBI program in its movement-building work to:

  • Engage and lead a diverse range of partner groups in communications activities connecting their work to Northwest leadership on the global biocarbon imperative, and to overcome key barriers to biocarbon solutions;
  • Increase public understanding and the visibility of biocarbon as the second major solution to Frame current scientific knowledge on biocarbon for public understanding, and identify key gaps in knowledge to help shape the research agenda going forward; and
  • Educate policymakers—local, state, and federal—on the biocarbon imperative, and on specific policy actions they can take to support biocarbon innovation and Northwest leadership.

The NBI Coordinator will work in close consultation with Climate Solutions’ Director of Strategic Innovation, Eileen V. Quigley, who will supervise this position, as well as with NBI’s Steering Committee, which includes several key partner organizations. This position may be located in our Olympia, Seattle, or Portland office.


  • Our NBI Coordinator will be the primary leader responsible for creating and implementing NBI’s annual work plan and for achieving the goals of the plan.  The annual plan is developed in close consultation with Climate Solutions’ senior staff, particularly the Director of Strategic Innovation, and the NBI Steering Committee.
  • The Coordinator will organize, facilitate, and ensure tracking of decisions and action items from meetings of the NBI Steering Committee and of other key NBI groups. 
  • Actively and consistently reach out to NBI partners and prospective allies to discuss NBI goals and objectives and engage them in NBI activities as appropriate, including recruiting NBI Innovation Partners.
  • Engage a range of NBI constituents in communications activities, especially blog writing.  The Coordinator will compile and write the NBI E-digest on at least a monthly basis.
  • Lead NBI in advocating policy targets that are: a) focused and well-defined enough to be successfully adopted by our policymaker champions; and b) have enough narrative power to speak to the urgency and global scale of the biocarbon imperative.
  • The Coordinator will, at a minimum, supervise NBI interns, and will possibly supervise one or more staff as the program grows.
  • Consistently add new contacts to the NBI contact list and manage the NBI list in the database.
  • Set up Steering Committee meetings, creating agendas, taking notes at meetings, and capturing and disseminating action items.
  • Additional duties may be assigned within the course of the work.

Skills and Knowledge:

  • The Coordinator needs, first and foremost, demonstrated skill and a significant track record building and coordinating coalitions or partnerships. 
  • S/he must be a skilled communicator, able to deeply understand complex technical issues and Strong, clear, accessible writing and verbal skills are a must.
  • Excellent understanding of policy and policymaking.
  • Strong commitment to the mission and vision of Climate Solutions.
  • Excellent project management and organizational skills, the ability to multitask and move smoothly between strategic discussions and management of coalition processes to translating and executing outcomes from discussions.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Highly energetic, organized, focused, reliable, hard-working.
  • Maturity and an ability to deal with experts, scientists, thought leaders, and policymakers.
  • Analytical, clear thinker who can translate complex problems for clients in a clear and objective manner.
  • A self-starting individual with a can-do attitude and a sense of humor.
  • Ability to work effectively both independently and with a team in a fast-paced, dynamic environment.
  • Ability to operate desktop computer and Microsoft Windows and Office Software, including Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and specialized software applications in a network environment.


  • At least four years of experience, including a primary leadership role, coordinating groups to achieve shared goals and objectives.  
  • At least two years of experience advocating, advising, analyzing or making public policy.
  • At least one or two years of experience in supervisory roles.
  • Experience facilitating group processes, scoping complicated projects, breaking down tasks, resources, and deliverables into work plans with timelines required.

Education and Training:
Bachelor’s Degree at a minimum. A Master’s Degree in environmental systems, eco-biology, or public policy would be applicable, but is not required.

Licenses or Certificates:
Possession of, or ability to possess, within 3 months, a driver’s license and auto insurance.

This is an exempt position with a generous benefits including, medical, paid leave, and retirement.  Salary range starts at $50,000 annually.


  • Email a résumé, cover letter and at least three professional reference contacts in PDF format to
  • Please put NBI PROGRAM COORDINATOR as the subject line of the email and address the cover letter to Eileen V. Quigley, Director of Strategic Innovation.
  • Please label the cover letter and resume with your last name.
  • The position will remain open until July 29, 2013.

Climate Solutions is committed to equal opportunity in employment and promotion for all qualified persons without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, military or veteran status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, pregnancy and childbirth, family responsibilities, or any other basis protected by applicable laws, regulations, or guidelines relating to discrimination in employment.

Connect with the
Northwest Biocarbon Initiative

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Wiley BarbourFor Immediate Release
Contact: Thayer Tomlinson, IBI Communications Director
July 16, 2013

The Board of Directors of the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is pleased to announce that Mr. Wiley Barbour has been appointed to serve as the organization’s Executive Director. Mr. Barbour, P.E. is a licensed professional engineer with 20 years of relevant experience in growing new markets for environmental products and services, and technical expertise in greenhouse gas emissions, climate change strategies, and project management.

Mr. Barbour comes to IBI from Camco Clean Energy, a project development company investing in emission reduction projects around the world. During his four years as a Vice President at Camco, Mr. Barbour led a successful effort to develop the first forest carbon project in the state of Alaska and created and launched the Nitrace project, a first of its kind program to help farmers in the US corn belt access environmental markets.

Mr. Barbour previously served as the Executive Director of Environmental Resources Trust (ERT), an early pioneer in market based solutions to environmental problems. At ERT he developed standards and protocols for the emerging carbon market, working with a variety of governmental and corporate clients. After leading ERT into a merger with Winrock International, he helped to found and launch the American Carbon Registry.

As a Senior Policy Analyst in the US Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton Administration, Mr. Barbour was responsible for the US Government’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory Program. At the EPA, he participated in numerous US delegations to the United Nations climate change negotiations, and contributed to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, particularly on issues related to national reporting, emissions accounting, and verification of emission inventories.

Says Mr. Barbour, “I am thrilled to join the thousands of researchers, supporters and members of the International Biochar Initiative. As CO2 levels in our atmosphere rise above 400 ppm for the first time in human history, the world is looking for inexpensive and sustainable ways to pull that excess carbon back out of the atmosphere. Biochar production and use holds the promise to do just that, while improving the fertility and resiliency of degraded and marginal soils.”

The board also wishes to thank Ms. Debbie Reed who served as the IBI Executive Director for many years. Ms. Reed will continue to work with IBI as the organization’s Policy Director to expand our focus on creating a more supportive policy environment for biochar, and will continue work on the Biochar Carbon Offset Protocol and other initiatives.

For more information on IBI, please see:

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From The European Biochar Newsletter

I am posting this here as a way to introduce you to the writings of Hans Peter-Schmidt @

Switzerland: the first European country to officially approve biochar

by Hans-Peter Schmidt

Switzerland has become the first country in Europe to officially approve the use of certified biochar in agriculture, with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture issuing its approval on 23 April 2013. In it, the Delinat Institute is given responsibility for controlling biochar quality and the sustainability of its production.

Following an exceptionally thorough 3-year approval procedure involving the various research groups of the Biochar Science Network of Switzerland and the Federal Ministries of the Environment and Health, the Swiss Federal Ministry of Agriculture has issued conditional approval for the use of biochar in agriculture. Approval is based on strict, scientifically checked requirements with regard to the sustainability of biochar production, to biochar quality and to user protection in its application.




Production sustainability


Until the sustainable use of other biomasses has been thoroughly checked and accepted as such by the federal administration, the only biomass authorised as source material for producing biochar is untreated wood. This includes roots, prunings from trees, vines and shrubs, wood from biomass plantations, bark, wood chippings and shavings, sawn wood, wood waste, sawdust, wood chips, wood wool and husks. The feedstock for producing biochar must not be contaminated by organic or inert waste (e.g. plastic or remains of paint) or with heavy metals.
In the production of the biochar, any syngases are to be trapped and/or appropriately burned, allowing the emission thresholds for wood-burning systems to be complied with. Material properties and pyrolysis conditions required to achieve the right biochar quality (e.g. pyrolysis duration, temperature, type and moisture level of the input, and other relevant parameters) are to be specified by the producer.




Biochar characterisation


The product definition of biochar is dependent on the source material, the pyrolytic production process used, the carbon content (Corg > 50% dry mass) and the molar H/Corg ratio (0.1 – 0.7). Biochar produced using other processes such as HTC (hydrochar), torrefaction or coking do not fully meet these requirements and are therefore excluded from this approval.
The heavy metal content of the biochar must not exceed the thresholds for fertilisers produced through biomass recycling. The emission levels of PAHs, dioxins and furans must not exceed the recommended values for compost and digestate. Nutrient content and the pH value must be specified.
All specification requirements, all thresholds and the analysis methods to be used correspond to the premium quality of the European Biochar Certificates (EBC-Certificate).






The biochar is to be prepared in such a way (e.g. spraying it with water or mixing it with manure) that no dust occurs when working with it / applying it. Packaging must refer to the need to wear appropriate protective clothing when working with / applying the biochar.




Monitoring / certification / approval


Producers wanting to market biochar in Switzerland require the approval of the Delinat Institute. To gain this approval, the Institute requires the certification of production and product quality in accordance with the European Biochar Certificates.The monitoring of this certificate is in the hands of the independent, state-certified monitoring organisation q.inspecta. Swiss users are only allowed to use biochars for soil conditioning purposes which have gained approval from the Delinat Institute and which therefore are in possession of an EBC Certificate. The Delinat Institute is accountable to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the amounts of biochar used in agriculture, and bears responsibility for compliance with the quality and sustainability requirements.
The approval remains in force until biochar is added to the List of Approved Fertilisers (Düngebuchverordnung). The Federal Government has specified a three-year timeframe for this. Within this period further biomasses suitable for producing biochar are to be checked and included in the extended approval procedure, using the positivlist of the EBC Certificate as a basis.




Status of the EU approval procedure


In 1984, Japan became the first country worldwide to approve the use of biochar as a soil conditioner. Switzerland is now the first country in Europe officially authorising biochar for use in agriculture. Switzerland’s strict quality and sustainability regulations are a major factor driving the development of biochar technology as a key technology for closing material cycles. Such regulations are currently missing in the European Union Member States, as well as in the USA and other countries using biochar in considerable amounts in agriculture.
Looking at the EU, the use of biochar in agriculture is neither clearly regulated nor explicitly forbidden. In Germany for example, the use of biochar as animal feed is allowed. It can thus be composted with the manure and applied to fields. In addition, charcoal is allowed as an additive for fertilisers and soil conditioners. What however is missing is an exact definition of what can be counted as biochar and which production conditions and thresholds need to be complied with. With the Swiss approval, we now have an exact definition, along with a requirement for strict quality controls. As a result of this approval, Switzerland can justify its leading role not just in the research and application of biochar, but also into its regulatory approach.
Thanks to a number of EU-sponsored research projects such as EBRN, Interreg or Refertil, we can now hope that a regulatory basis for the sustainable use of biochar will be created within the next few years, and that the development of a centuries-old agricultural tradition will not remain limited or even prohibited by fertiliser legislation pandering to the agri-chemical industry.


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