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More Than 23,000 Trees Planted in Brazil to Offset Emissions of IZOD IndyCar Season Opener

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All carbon emissions connected with the opening race of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season – the São Paulo 300, held on a street course in Brazil’s largest city on March 14, will be compensated by more than 23,580 trees planted at the largest sugarcane processing mill in the world. The trees were planted based on a study by an independent consultancy, which quantified emissions produced by the São Paulo race and estimated the number of trees needed to offset those emissions.

The study, produced by the São Paulo-based Totum Institute, was commissioned by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) with support from the Indy Racing League. The tree planting was completed on May 18 by the world’s largest sugarcane processing mill, São Martinho, located in the town of Pradópolis in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.

Details of the operation, which was supervised by the São Paulo state government’s Environmental and Agriculture Secretariats, were announced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carburation Day (May 28) by UNICA’s Chief Representative for North America, Joel Velasco, in a joint news conference with Indy Racing League Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt.

“UNICA was able to bring together all the necessary players to ensure credibility and transparency every step of the way, from the assessment report produced by an experienced and recognized institution, to direct supervision of the tree planting by two state government offices,” said Velasco.

A memo issued on May 18 by the Environmental Secretariat confirming that the tree planting had been completed, was the final ingredient necessary for the Totum Institute to issue certificates for each participating organization.

“It was a huge investment and huge effort to compensate for the carbon footprint around the São Paulo event,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League’s commercial division. “I think it was a great effort from our good partners at UNICA, and we are working hard to possibly neutralize more events, which would be fantastic.”

In all, 23,580 native Atlantic Rainforest seedlings were planted on 14.2 hectares of land around the São Martinho mill, to offset an estimated 1,137.85 tons of CO2 and equivalents emitted by the race in São Paulo. The assessment report called for only 8,128 trees to be planted, but the mill decided to expand the planted area. The mill and the São Paulo state Environmental Secretariat have pledged to monitor the area for at least five years and replant seedlings whenever necessary.

To complete its report, the Totum Institute considered a wide array of emission sources and then calculated the number of trees that would be necessary to neutralize the sum of those emissions over a 20-year period. Items such as the use of electrical energy from the national grid and generators, discarded residues, land transportation of organizers, work crews and the public, and the use of air travel by race teams and organizers were all included.

The successful experience may lead to a much broader effort by UNICA and the Indy Racing League according to Velasco. “Offsetting the São Paulo race went so well that UNICA and the Indy Racing League are now discussing expanding the formula to cover the entire 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season, with all emissions from every race offset by tree plantings either at sugarcane processing mills or state parks in São Paulo state” added the UNICA executive. He added that São Paulo state is the world’s largest sugarcane growing region.

Angstadt pointed out that if all races in the 2010 calendar are offset, that would make the IZOD IndyCar Series the first major category in U.S. motorsports to go carbon neutral through a tree planting initiative: “Indy was the first in auto racing to embrace a renewable and environmentally responsible fuel when it adopted ethanol in 2006 and we’re working with UNICA to continue to lead the way in the greening of motorsports through this carbon offsetting project.”

Since 2009, the IZOD IndyCar Series utilizes 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol supplied by UNICA.

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Ana Carolina Lessa
Public Affairs, North America
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