Author: Vanessa Collins, GreenFest Organiser
As the world heats up around us, we realise there is no magic bullet to stop what we’ve started. There is a lot of work to be done in many areas to ensure that the world is hospitable….indeed habitable for our children. But, while the scientists look to more and more extreme ideas such as mechanical trees, turning CO2 into fuel and even fertilising the sea with iron salts to promote plankton growth, there is something we can all be doing to a greater or lesser degree that will lower CO2 levels in our atmosphere dramatically. That is to plant more trees!
In the UK, our woodland cover is just 13%. Globally, forests cover only 31% of the planet. A study by Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich (this study was actually inspired by Felix Finkbeiner, child founder of the global movement Plant for the Planet) found that there is enough land on the planet to plant 3 trillion trees without impacting land in use. That would mean a doubling of our tree cover, something scientists all agree will play an important part in tackling climate change.
It’s not just their appetite for CO2 that we love about trees. Did you know each tree provides enough oxygen for three people to breathe? They provide shade (after some of the temperatures we’ve experienced this July, we can all agree this is a definite benefit!), a home for our wildlife, natural flood defences and I don’t know about you, but given the choice between mechanical or REAL trees, I know what’s better for my wellbeing.
Ultimately, trees of any shape, size, or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and easiest way for us to offset the CO2 we generate is to plant a tree...any tree, so long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.
And the best thing? It doesn’t take years of scientific development and testing to get this underway. We can do it now. There’s plenty of ways anyone and everyone can get involved whether, you have no time to spare or you’re willing to give some hours to get hands on and dirty!
How can you get involved?
1. Start Using Ecosia
Planting trees couldn’t be any easier than this. Ecosia is a search engine that uses at least 80% of the profit it makes from your searches to plant trees where they are needed most. In June 2019, 10 years after its conception, it hit a planting milestone of 60 million trees. And, as if these green credentials weren’t enough, it has built its own solar energy plant to power every search; so no CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels here either!
Are you ready to start planting? Just click here to add the Ecosia extension to your browser now.
2. Get your School Planting Free Trees
To achieve its target to plant 64 million trees over the next 10 years, the Woodland Trust is giving away tree packs to schools, colleges, nurseries, outdoor learning centres and any other not-for-profit community organisation you can think of, official or not. The important bit is that your group is willing to take on the planning, planting and care of the saplings….and provide the land to do it on of course.
The Woodland Trust's tree planting campaign
Newbury local Jackie Paynter and a team of Thatcham and Newbury volunteers have, between them, approached 48 schools, scout groups and village committees in West Berkshire and the surrounding areas over the last couple of months, providing them with all the information they need to take part in this greenest of schemes.
What can you do? Why not provide a copy of Jackie’s comprehensive information pack to your child’s school or local schools in your area and see if they can be persuaded to take up The Woodland Trust’s free trees offer. The only limitation is space. Beyond that, it gives children a hands on educational experience, while empowering them to make a positive difference to the world around them.
Email Jackie to request her information pack at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jackie is one of our GreenFest volunteers, so please ask one of our volunteers to introduce you if you’d like to chat with her about what she’s up to.
3. Write a Letter to Your Council
Believe it or not, China (alongside India) is the country leading the way in afforestation. It’s been planting trees for years, committed to its goal of increasing its national forest coverage to 26 percent by 2035. It recently announced plans to deploy 60,000 soldiers to plant 32,400 acres of trees in addition to other initiatives, which include a National Tree Planting day and a commitment to build 300 new eco-cities.
On a more local note, Cornwall Council revealed its plans to create a 20,000-acre forest in July 2019 following its climate emergency declaration back in January 2019 where it committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
West Berkshire declared a climate emergency on 2nd July with the same goal as Cornwall - to become carbon neutral by 2030. However, with this forest plan costing Cornwall an estimated £30m, how can we be sure our local government will make tree planting a point of priority?
One thing we can all do to influence change in our local area is write to our local councillor. Ask them whether they have plans to commit funds to an afforestation project and if not, kindly ask why not. If you’re willing to take part in a tree planting project to make this happen, flag this aswell. You can find your local councillor’s contact details here.
4. Get Involved With a Community Orchard Project
Community growing projects are soaring in popularity. They’re the epitomy of low carbon food, a hands-on educational resource for children and adults alike and they unite communities, combating social isolation and promoting well being.
Community orchards are one such type of project and provide the perfect excuse to plant more trees in your neighbourhood. There are already a number of community orchards up and running in the Newbury area, so why not join a work party one evening or try and get to their next event…..the apple days are brilliant fun for the kids.
Andrew Howard, owner of The Heritage Fruit Tree Company in Banbury, has plenty of experience getting community orchards off the ground and will be sharing his advice on this very topic in his talk at GreenFest.
Both Hampstead Norreys and East Ilsely are exploring opportunities to get a community orchard underway, so if you’d like to get involved in this project, drop us an email: email@example.com.
5. Help Landowners Create Small Native Woods
Going back to The Woodland Trust for a second and this mission they’re on to plant 64 million trees in the next 10 years; they’re currently piloting a scheme that offers landowners expert advice and grants of up to £4,000, to create small, new native woods.
West Berkshire Climate Change Committee (WBCAN) has plans to start spreading news of this scheme to landowners. These plans are still in their infancy, but if you’d like to find out more about what they’re doing and even how you can get involved, come along to their GreenFest talk or visit them at their stand.
6. Look After The Trees We Do Have
Now, it’s hard to talk about planting trees without also mentioning that it would be great if we could stop chopping so many down. Did you know that the equivalent of 40 football fields worth of tropical forests were lost every minute in 2017? And for what? The leading causes of deforestation include:
Soy: Around 70 percent of the world’s soy is fed directly to livestock (not to veggies as tofu!). Soy and corn are the two go to crops that are used to help livestock reach market weight in record times.
Palm oil: It’s literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. And its not always so easy to spot. Here are just some of the other names it goes by: palmate, glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, sodium lauryl sulphate and hydrated palm glycerides. A comprehensive list can be found here.
Beef: Meat and dairy production is a huge driver of forest destruction as trees are cleared for grazing land as well as to grow crops such as soy to feed the livestock.
So how can we prevent this devastation? One of the easiest ways is to be more mindful in our consumption and purchasing habits. Lawrence Woodward’s GreenFest talk ‘Food and Farming choices for Health and Environment’ will look at farming practices for a healthy planet and population. He’ll also be joining our panel discussion so when you register, remember to share any questions you have on this topic.
Another easy way to make more educated purchasing decisions is via the buycott app. By scanning barcodes, you’ll be able to access manufacturer information and assess how they match up against your values and principles.
So, let’s all unleash the treehugger within and make a pledge to plant trees in some way, shape or form. At GreenFest we’ll be sharing stacks of other information and ideas on manageable steps we can all take to better care for ourselves as well as the planet. Don't miss this fabulous day on the 7th September.