MENDOCINO COUNTY, California — You know that the money you spend on a new car puts a dollars in the salesperson's pocket and helps keep the lights on at the dealership and the car factory. But sometimes it goes even further.
Volkswagen, which wants to be known as a friend of the environment, is putting part of the proceeds from every eGolf purchase or lease in the U.S. into an ongoing project to restore the 24,000-acre Garcia Forest in Northern California's coast redwood zone.
Yup. Electric Golf drivers not only motor along in emissions-free bliss, they can do so knowing that a portion of the extra dollars they spent to get an EV are helping restore California's endangered coast redwood forests and providing sanctuary for the wide variety of fish, fowl and mammal that call the forests home.
The heavily logged Garcia River Forest, which the nonprofit Conservation Fund acquired for $18 million in 2004, is a registered carbon offset project, meaning the fund can accrue, and sell if it so desires, credits for some of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the forest.
A number of government agencies, including California's state government, have placed limits on the amount of CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas — that various industries can emit. Buying carbon credits in various "cap and trade" programs is one way for companies with excess emissions to gain more time to modify their operations to meet the standards.
Although it is not required to, Volkswagen, as part of its corporate sustainability goals, uses funds from the eGolf sales to acquire credits to offset the carbon footprint of manufacturing the car.
"We want to be perceived by our customers as the most environmentally friendly car manufacturer" on earth, says VW spokesman Darryll Harrison. With programs such as the Garcia River Forest restoration, he added, the company "is poised to be the first high-volume car company to deliver a carbon-neutral vehicle and provide a unique set of benefits to help consumers become more environmentally friendly."
The Conservation Fund uses the proceeds from carbon credit sales to VW and other corporate purchasers to help defray costs of its efforts to restore a portion of the coast redwood forests that once covered more than 2 million acres in California. The Garcia River Forest is one of four contiguous Northern California redwood forests, totaling 74,000 acres, owned by the fund and enrolled in the offset program.
While VW would not disclose the exact amount it contributes, Edmunds was told that it is between $50 and $100 per car. With more than 1,200 eGolfs sold in the U.S. to date, that's a minimum of $60,000 and a maximum of $120,000.
On a recent tour of the Garcia River forest reserve, Forest Manager Scott Kelly showed off a new bridge the Conservation Fund had installed to span the namesake river, a natural hatchery for coho salmon and steelhead trout. The steel bridge replaced a timber bridge that was deteriorating and unsafe to use.
The new bridge, installed using special precautions to keep the construction work from damaging the river with sediment and debris, cost almost $500,000, Kelly said.
Funding from ecologically conscious companies such as Volkswagen help make it possible to do such projects and to maintain the forests and the rivers and streams that run through them until selective timber cutting operations can generate sufficient funding to cover the ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation costs.
The forests once were populated largely by massive old-growth redwoods and were home to numerous wildlife species. Now a large portion of the 37-square-mile Garcia River Forest is made up of hardwood trees, pines and young redwoods. Some of the trees were planted by earlier lumber operators or, as in the case of many of the redwoods, were too young to be cut when the forests were actively logged. Others have grown naturally in the absence of the once-dominant old-growth redwoods.
The Conservation Fund's goal, said Kelly, is to selectively remove the oaks and other hardwoods, replant with more redwoods and let the forests return to their natural state, as home to huge stands of towering coastal redwoods — trees that can live for more than 1,500 years and grow to 300 feet or more in height if unmolested.
Edmunds says: Whether heartfelt or merely for PR purposes, programs such as this are making a difference. While not the reason to run out and buy an eGolf, knowing that the program exists can certainly help buyers feel even better about their purchase.