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BLOG: Reducing plastic is an issue for tree planters

02 September 2019

Perrine Weffling is a French engineering student at AgroParisTech, the French Institute of Sciences and Industries of Life and Environment, located in Paris. She's studying urban agriculture and urban forestry and recently joined The Mersey Forest as an intern.

This summer, as part of my studies, I did an internship at The Mersey Forest. I chose to go to England because I thought that going to a foreign country would be rewarding to discover other people's perspectives on the issue of urban greening. I was employed by TMF to work on the Urban GreenUP project for three months.

While here, I also decided to work on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy of The Mersey Forest Team. In some peoples' minds, CSR can just mean a volunteering day for employees, it is in fact a much wider approach. It consists of the voluntary integration of companies' social and ecological concerns into their business activities and their relationships with their stakeholder. In recent years, CSR has become increasingly important in organisations, and this approach fits perfectly into the 2019 Year of the Environment.

Therefore, I looked at how The Mersey Forest offices worked and tried to implement fast and easy actions that might benefit social, economic and environmental factors. For example, as part of Plastic Free July, I organised a challenge with the TMF team which goal was to reduce the use of plastic items; it included a workshop to learn how to create its own household products. In fact, in addition to an organisation's actions, everybody can help the environment through their behaviour. We also changed our search engine to a fair one which subsidises tree plantation: Ecosia.

These actions are useful, but in TMF, we know that the biggest impact we can have is through the change of the main practices of the organisation. Thus we are actively looking for alternatives for plastic tree guards. These guards, which enable the trees to protect against rodents (such as voles and rabbits), as well as they provide a special environment for young trees (helping the tree hold onto available moisture, creating its own micro-climate) have been considered "good silviculture practice". In current context, it is critical to question this practice and to find other solutions. However it is worth remembering that if we don't offer protection to small trees they will be damaged by rodents and may die or not reach full maturity – thus not helping in our efforts to mitigate climate change. 

Next week I will go back to France in order to fulfil my last year of studies with the feeling of having made the most of this experience. I will always keep in mind that urban green infrastructure needs to be led by intelligence to get "more from trees" than simply their aesthetic aspect.

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