Ten with Tom: The Tree Council
With a shared passion for nature and sustainability, it’s no surprise that our relationship with The Tree Council has grown from strength to strength over the last year. Our participation in National Tree Week back in November sparked a new level of collaboration and since then, we’ve stayed in close contact with the Tree Council who were intending to partner and work alongside us on our RHS Chelsea Flower Show ‘Full Circle’ 2020 Main Avenue Stand to promote the importance of trees and safeguarding our planet's future.
We’ve caught up with Sara Lom, CEO of The Tree Council, to find out more about the charity's mission and goals...
TR: Who are The Tree Council and what do you do?
SL: The Tree Council is a national charity and membership organisation that brings everyone together on a shared mission to care for trees and safeguard our planet’s future. We’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2023. We inspire and empower people and organisations to create positive, lasting change at a national and local level. This includes coordinating our national volunteer Tree Warden Scheme, our practical tree science & research work and building partnerships with public, private and charity partners to plant, care for and promote the value and benefits of trees.
TR: What’s the best thing about surrounding yourself and working with nature daily?
SL: Time spent with trees and nature reconnects us to what is important. Personally, I've always loved the way trees serve as a peephole into history. I often find myself standing looking at a venerable tree, imagining what it must have seen in its long life. At the same time, glimpsing a young sapling stretching up to the sky turns my mind to the future. Thinking about the people who have planted the trees we enjoy today in years past motivates me to create a tree-filled tomorrow for the future. It’s fantastic for your physical and mental wellbeing too.
TR: Which is your favourite tree and why?
Hornbeam. I love its beautiful shape, but also its really practical nature. It’s a hard wood that has so many traditional and artistic uses, from piano hammers to the spokes on a water mill. It’s that balance of beauty and practicality that I love. I suppose that balance is why I also adore Tom Raffield’s work!
TR: Describe a typical working day…
SL: One of the great things about my role is how varied it is. During planting season, the team and I love to put on our wellies and get out to plant trees with our young Tree Champions, Tree Wardens and the wider community. But year-round, much of my time is spent with partner organisations discussing how we can work together on science, policy and national issues affecting trees. Last week, for example, this meant calls in one day with the Beaver Trust, University of Exeter, Defra, a local headteacher and the Urban Tree Festival.
TR: What’s your favourite part of your job?
SL: Meeting our volunteer Tree Wardens from around the country. They give their time and expertise so generously to plant, care for and promote their local trees. They really are the most inspirational and energetic people, and the heart of what we do at The Tree Council.
TR: Why is sustainability and climate change so important to you?
SL: Climate change is a fact and it will change our world forever, and this will affect all of us. While trees offer so many environmental benefits – from carbon storage to wildlife habitats to cleaner air to natural flood defences, they can’t do it alone. We must protect trees and natural habitats to help restore the balance and do our bit to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.
TR: How do we know which types of trees would best suit our climate and region?
SL: There are a lot of factors at play. For example, it will always be important to plant locally sourced, native species, as they sustain the historic character of our treescape and are well adapted to local conditions. But resilient, introduced species like the iconic London plane and the horse chestnut make fantastic, long-lived urban trees, while hedgerows do an amazing job absorbing street-level air pollution.
As the climate changes, some non-native species may play an important role because they can better tolerate warmer and wetter conditions. It’s always about the right tree in the right place for the right reason. If we are to build a resilient treescape for the future, we must learn what works and continually adapt.
TR: We really enjoyed getting involved in National Tree Week at the end of last year, what other ways can businesses and individuals care for trees and our planet’s future?
SL: And thank you for your wonderful support! We’d love individuals to join our national force of volunteer Tree Wardens. Or, those involved in schools and community groups might like to apply for one of our tree planting grants. Businesses can consider their carbon footprint and ensure their use of wood and paper products is as sustainable as possible – or become a Member of The Tree Council to work together to plant and protect trees. Everyone can do something to help!
TR: How do people regularly volunteer or become a Tree Warden?
SL: Those interested in volunteering as Tree Wardens should visit our website to see if there’s a network near them and sign up to hear more via email.
TR: What do the next six months hold for you and The Tree Council’s mission?
SL: We're going to be tree-ly busy! We're preparing for a bumper autumn tree planting season with a range of grants available to plant trees, orchards and hedgerows around the UK, with partners including M&G, Siemens, Network Rail and the Daily Mail. Schools and community groups should look on our website for more information on how to apply.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue our science, research & policy work to ensure we’re laying the foundations for a healthy, resilient UK treescape now and in the future. And that's just for starters!