# How many trees in a barrel?

Do they even measure the same thing?

If by doing this you save 100 trees in a year, and by doing that you save 100 barrels of oil a year (fairly common measures in green literature), which one should you choose?

Are they both supposed to be measures of carbon footprint? holistic units of planet conservation?

And a barrel of oil is, of course, a very well established standard measure, but when I hear that something saves a tree, what should I picture? How tall, how big, how old? How many pounds of vegetable matter?

And if you have some other “conservation units” that you can add to this conversion table, by all means do.

When I first saw this topic, I thought back to barrel making episodes from both “Dirty Jobs” & “How it’s made”, and thinking about the amount of material used for an average barrel (not all of the tree, normally oak, can be used, of course), and I guess about 2-3 barrels per tree.
Of course what you really meant was something along the lines of ‘by not printing these reports, we can save X trees’ and that simply means (to me) don’t waste resources (BTW that number is…4 to 5 tons of wood from a forest to make 1 ton of paper, assuming no recycled source).
Since wood is more or less a renewable, and oil is not…well, we’re back to apples and oranges (which are tasty).
So kids, don’t waste resources, don’t do school, and stay in drugs…

Looking for info about another subject, I find that I am indeed correct about this topic, and just in case anyone cares…

Yes, I know that it’s not what you meant, but really both expressions are just saying “Don’t waste resources” and don’t have much else in common (although in steel or aluminum production, reuse of scrap metal does save a tremendous amount of energy, up to 70% against producing raw steel)

And the correct ‘Mr T’ quote was “drink your school, stay in drugs and don’t do milk” - sorry about that.

Yeah, not how many barrels in a tree, but how many saved trees in a saved barrel of oil.

And yeah, the “by not printing these reports” and “by parking in the first available spot and not circling the lot” are exactly the type of green statements I was referring to.

So, is there a good way to compare these? Anyone?

And I thought you were asking the tree equivalent of “How many dinosaurs did it take to make a barrel of oil?

I think the only reasonable measurement is in how much energy can be saved, and since an oil barrel contains 300 lbs and has a BTU value of 151,000 BTU/lb while undried wood has a BTU value of 4,375 BTU/lb, you would need approximately 10,000 lbs of wood to match the energy potential of one barrel of oil, and that is just about the green weight of two large pine trees.

That was a sorry cop out of an answer. I think Telperion’s approach could have been bent a little to answer that question. How many pounds of organic matter make a pound of oil, pounds per barrel, pounds per dino (choose a model) and there you have a hack of an approximation, which was probably enough to satisfy the curiousity of the letter writer.

Great, this is the line of answer I was hoping for (I will take your factual accuracy on faith).

Is a large pine tree a fair “standard” tree. Is it more or less what the literature means when they talk about saving a tree? How large/old is a large pine tree (ballpark)?

Now your answer assumes we are burning that tree for energy, which is not the case when we are talking about paper/wood consumption. What is assumed to be the loss of cutting a tree? The CO2 that it won’t trap? the CO2 that will be released when it rots/burns? Loss of habitat? Change to the albedo? The energy it will take to process it into goods?

I took a tour of a distillery the other day, so the first thing I thought of on seeing the thread title was: “How many wooden barrels can you make from one oak tree?”

Agreed.
One should be able to figure out how many KCal are in a full dino and use those figures to calculate the oil, though the assumption is that no additional energy is gained or lost in the conversion.

Talking about “saving trees” by using less paper is ridiculous. Do you talk about “saving wheat” by eating less bread?

Trees for paper are farmed, just like any other crop. When they’re cut down they are replaced by more trees. We don’t chop down virgin rainforest and turn it into paper, we chop it down to turn it into pasture.

In any case, mature trees are net producers of CO[sub]2[/sub]. They only absorb carbon when growing fast, so in a sense, planting fast-growing pine trees and turning them into paper, furniture etc is helping to (temporarily) remove carbon from the atmosphere.

I’m not saying we should all use as much paper as we can, as obviously it takes energy (plus a bunch of nasty bleach and other chemicals) to produce it. But it’s not a case of “saving trees”.

Colophon, that’s all true and part of what I want to find out, in the end. The “doing this saves so many trees” is part of the green literature and all I want is to figure out exactly how “saving a tree” stacks against other green actions. “saving a barrel of oil” is the other super common one.

Part of my concern is that “saving a tree” is meaningless if it was a farmed tree that is replaced right away. The net “tree consumption” is zero for farmed trees.
Let me move the goalposts a bit then. If I wanted to compare the greenness reading the paper online instead of printed versus riding a bike to work instead of driving my car, is there a reasonable unit I could use after boiling it all down to its minimum factors? Or is it really apples and oranges and each has its own set of nuances that cannot be readily measured?