Greenwashing... and why we're not!

I went to an event last week organised by our tree planting partners in Cornwall, Plant One. During a fascinating event I learnt some things that I felt were worth sharing, and spent some time with like-minded, ecologically minded business owners and employees. Firstly, I thought it was worth reiterating why we work with Plant One and why we think tree planting to offset our Carbon creation isn’t just Greenwashing.
A few years ago, I wanted to find out definitively what damage the production of our products was doing to the environment. Simplistically, I wanted to frame this in terms of carbon produced during production and transportation to our customers (on average). 
We had great good fortune that an intern working for us had a deep interest in the area and a father who was an ecological scientist. After weighing, measuring and talking to our suppliers, he determined that per product, we would need to plant 1 tree per 9.22 products made. But we strive to be carbon-neutral, so we now plant at least 1 tree for every product we manufacture, and up to 6 for a larger one.
I was then worried that the carbon captured would only be briefly contained during the life of the tree, but in fact I learned that cut wood retains carbon! So, if you understand that 50% of the weight of a tree is captured carbon, then building with wood, keeping that carbon trapped and creating accommodation or business space is great use of it. It’s only when it’s burnt or chipped that most of the carbon is released.
But even that isn’t straightforward - we were told that wood burning is the least carbon producing way of generating heat - trumping Oil, Gas or Electricity! So that wood burner is beginning to make sense. The point was also made that knowing where your burning wood comes from is useful in reducing transport miles.
Even tree planting isn’t simple. We learnt about ‘benefit stacking’ - making sure that each copse has multiple different positive advantages - from encouraging biodiversity of insects, Carbon capture obviously, landscape and soil health improvement, creating rural employment and design for end use (i.e. wood for fuel, or building require different levels of management).
Some stats: in 1900 only 3% of the UK was forested, now it’s 13% (9% in Cornwall). This was due to the industrial Revolution using wood for fuel, props and construction. Then WW1 almost completely decimated the wood population. Forests were chopped down to feed demand for ammo cases, mine props and other wartime uses.
In contrast, Germany has 33% tree coverage and Finland some 73%. France is at 23%
Planting trees also helps everyone’s mental health, in a recent scientific study it was found that even just walking through diversely planted forests reduces mental disturbance and improves mood measurably.
But access to woods and forests is a problem in the UK, the right to roam has always been considerably less than other countries, but the positives of allowing dog walkers and ramblers in surely far outweighs the negatives. For instance, having regular human activity reduces the need for plastic tubes and netting to product seedlings and trees from rabbits and deer.
So I’m cheered, and very glad we started our activity when we did, although of course we should have begun sooner! Plant One are a great partner for us, taking care of the saplings and ensuring they don’t just wither after planting. We can even visit the site of our first copse and see how things are growing. Now that’s a legacy!
By Simon Heap
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