Carbon offsetting for SMILE

Posted by Jenny Carter at Dec 17, 2019 10:39 AM |
Leicester scientists plant trees to carbon offset their air travel for the SMILE mission


In December, Jenny Carter and Steve Sembay from the Leicester SMILE Soft X-ray Camera (SXI) team planted some trees as part of a carbon-offsetting programme. SMILE is due for launch in 2023, and the University of Leicester is leading the build of the SXI. As part of this work, team members travel to visit collaborators and sub-contractors, often overseas.



The tree planting was organised with the assistance of Adam Tester, Gardens and Grounds Manager at the University of Leicester. Adam Tester and his team used a carbon-sequestering tool that was written by a maths graduate James Boyd, who was recently awarded a Green Gown Research with impact award for his work ( It was calculated that 420 trees were needed to offset the carbon released from travel taken from mission selection in summer 2015 until July 2019. The trees were provided by the Woodland Trust, from their Wild Harvest mix consisting of species such as hawthorn, crab apple, blackthorn, and rowan.



The carbon offsetting was based on air travel taken by the University of Leicester’s SXI team only. SMILE is a joint ESA-Chinese Academy of Sciences, as such, the SMILE mission involves hundreds of scientists and engineers. The launch of SMILE on a Vega-C rocket will also use considerable amounts of carbon, and this will be considered for future carbon-sequestering calculations. We hope to roll-out the tree planting as an annual event, and for other institutions involved in SMILE to do the same. The SMILE-SXI team understands that carbon-offsetting is not a solution to the carbon crisis, but it very much wants to take some sort of proactive steps in mitigating the impacts of travel.




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