Article Written by TCV Volunteer Officer, John Bark
Article updated November 2020
Since TCV and OVO Energy launched the I Dig Trees campaign back in 2015, well over one million free trees have been allocated to public places, with individual volunteers and community groups helping to get them planted across the UK…..
The speed of uptake this year is in keeping with last year, despite the pandemic and demonstrates the increasing demand from people and groups who want to make a real difference to their local environment.
All they need now is enough help to get this years’ 370,000 whips (baby trees) safely into the ground by the end of the planting season to reach the target of 1,448,000 trees planted since the programme began.
If you are wondering whether it’s worth joining in, here are 10 good reasons to make the effort…
Fight climate change
Global warming is happening because carbon dioxide (CO2) from all sources (natural and made-made) is accumulating in the atmosphere. Natural processes just don’t absorb the amount that is being produced fast enough.
Unfortunately, we have yet to invent an easily mass-produced machine (running on renewable energy) that will take CO2 out of the air and lock it away where it can do no harm.
Fortunately, Nature has done the job for us with a highly effective carbon-capture device that’s cheap to install and maintain: the tree! Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and go on doing so for years, absorbing CO2 faster as they mature. When trees age and decay, the carbon stored goes into the soil, not the air.
It’s direct action
Taking to the streets or putting your cross in a box are ways to get other people to do what you can’t do yourself. But there is no guarantee they will act – even if they understand the problem and sincerely want to make a difference. But once you have planted a tree (with the landowner’s position), it’s done. One tiny positive step towards a better future. You don’t even have to be old enough to vote!
Woodland – especially mixed native woodland – is a fabulous habitat for lichens, fungi, insects, birds and mammals. Some of this life you never see, like the fungal ‘mycelium’ network connecting tree to tree beneath your feet; others such as the jay bring a flash of colour and delight to a woodland walk.
Trees planted beside intensively cultivated farmland provide valuable shelter and food for birds such as the lark and the fast disappearing turtle dove. Urban trees support wildlife too, commonplace creatures you barely notice, but you would miss if they vanished.
It’s good for your community
The simple act of planting trees is a great way to bring together a diverse range of people in a single cause. And not just people in rural areas or leafy suburbs.
Planting in neglected urban spaces can help to create pride of place and strengthen the bonds within a neighbourhood. Trees can also make communities more resilient in the face of climate change.
Planted in the right place, trees can protect communities by reducing the threat of flooding and soil erosion. Planting a community orchard brings free fresh fruit in season!
Trees create their own climate
The Amazon rainforest makes rain clouds (see episode 3 of BBC’s wonderful Seven Worlds, One Planet), but all trees everywhere affect local climate, capturing rainfall, acting as windbreaks and providing cooling shade for people, animals and buildings.
Woods mean wealth
It is possible to put a cash figure on the benefit of tree-planting to society. According to the National Capital Committee, independent advisors to HM Government, 250,000 hectares of woodland planted near to cities and towns would produce £500 million in ‘societal benefits’ a year.
Trees produce more oxygen than they use, a by-product of photosynthesis, but they also trap air particles and droplets which can damage human health.
Working on green projects outdoors is great for anyone who wants to get fit, but maybe doesn’t fancy the gym, or needs a bit more motivation. Tree planting adds extra purpose that benefits others. It can also be more effective than going to a traditional gym.
Studies have found that people taking part in conservation activities can use up to a third more calories than in a step aerobics class. And if you join a community group to care for your trees and other green spaces, you could have a fitness course for life (with guilt-free cake at tea break!).
Green activity in the great outdoors has been shown to have a positive impact on mental well-being. And even if you believe you are at the peak of mental strength and fitness, just think of the sense of achievement after an hour or two helping to save the planet.
You can make a lasting contribution towards a better future for everyone in just a few minutes. All you need is a spade, a tree and some sturdy footwear!
Together we can plant one million trees across the UK.
You can help further by sharing your #IDigTrees experiences on social media: