Tag: environment

Volunteers’ Week – A Celebration of Coming Together for a Common Cause!

Volunteers’ Week 2020 runs from 1st – 7th of June and is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make by Volunteering  in the UK every year.

As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing. It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, and boost your confidence.

It’s true to say that an hour can really empower – empowering you, the volunteer, the charity and the community. Giving you a sense of common purpose, pride and togetherness. It adds to your skill set and improves mental and physical health too.

The UK has a society that historically has strong links to volunteering as well as teamwork across the country. This is in part due to the nations large wartime past as well as several national crisis’s over different eras.

Often, volunteering is closely associated with an individuals’ beliefs, passions or alternatively they may have historical connections with a group. Furthermore, many people choose to volunteer as they would like to do something meaningful in their spare time.

Birmingham Trees for Life works with volunteers throughout the tree planting season and over 14-years we have worked with 13000 volunteers and we are grateful to every single one of them and all their hard work and dedication to tree planting.

As BTfL is a very small team on a very large project, planting 7000-10,000 trees a year over 14-years. In a five-month window that means we need that help. We couldn’t achieve the planting of nearly 100,000 trees since our beginnings in 2006 without that help.

In fact, volunteering nationwide props up the UK economy and the financial activity of volunteers is worth nearly 24 billion pounds annually.

Volunteering has a great deal of other value too –

 V – Versatility

O – Opens your mind

L – Learn New Skills

U – Understanding

N – New Sense of purpose

T – Team Work

E-  Empowerment

E – Emotional Wellbeing

R – Raising Awareness

Here BTfL talks to three members of Friends of Parks Groups across Birmingham to see what motivates them to volunteer.

Emma Woolf, MBE, a trustee at, BOSF, (Birmingham Open Spaces Forum) and a dedicated volunteer at Cotteridge Park says: ‘I’ve been volunteering in Cotteridge Park since 1997. I’m just one of many volunteers who keep the park tidy, weeding, planting and pruning.  As well as the gardening, we have volunteers who raise funds, share information on social media, help school groups and lead physical activity sessions.

There is so much done by volunteers to make our parks lovely places to be. The volunteering in our park is just one piece of the puzzle across the city. In 2019 parks and open spaces volunteers in Birmingham contributed more than £600,000 worth of work to our communities.

I give about 50-hours a month and what motivates me is that so many other people are giving their time, so I want to support them – and it makes me happy!

 We have a team of 50-volunteers that work on the annual CoCoMAD festival. We have a team of about 20 people helping at regular gardening, litter picking, helping school groups etc. We also run a forest school where children come and connect with nature get muddy and have so much fun.

We have worked with Birmingham Trees for life over a long period and in February we planted 10 standard trees at various sites across the park with children from Cotteridge Primary School and Kings Norton Girls School.

The important thing about volunteering is to find something you enjoy doing. If you’re not getting paid, then you must enjoy what you’re doing!

If you would like to volunteer for Cotteridge park, please check their social media platforms

Find Friends of Cotteridge Park on Facebook at Friends of Cotteridge Park and on Twitter at – @CotteridgePark

Brenda Wilson, 63 is the secretary for Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve and says: ‘I’ve worked as a volunteer at the reserve for 13-years.

The QNR is a reclaimed quarry, not long after it became a nature reserve the Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve was formed and we have been going strong ever since.

I became the secretary of the QNR friends group back then, but I volunteer in the nature reserve every week too.

My passions are the environment and conservation and I’m so motivated by making those small, but important change to improve QNR. Fundraising, social media, publicity, litter picking, bat walks, patrolling the reserve and engaging with the parks community.

    

  Its’ a very vibrant community, but we are always on the lookout for new members.

Being a volunteer gives me a sense of pride and achievement, keeps me busy doing something worthwhile. I do it for the absolute love of it.

We are guests on this planet and we should treat our host with more respect than we do. When I volunteer at QNR I feel I’m doing my bit for the planet. I dedicate eight-12 hours a week of my time to it and to hear the birdsong, to watch the wildlife on the reservoir, to see it come to life in the Spring and to chat to it’ visitors is a really wonderful thing.

But it’s a legacy that is much bigger than me alone. Every one of our volunteers is an important cog in that wheel. There are no egos, just a shared love of nature. Some individuals might pledge an hour a week or ten hours a week, we are grateful for whatever time that person dedicates to the QNR.

       

We always need volunteers and younger volunteers would be wonderful too.

We continue to maintain the park, work with the ranger service and like-minded environmental and conservation groups like Birmingham Trees for Life.

Our future-plans include engaging with more volunteers who can help us look after the park. We would like to incorporate some some council land near to QNR to turn it into a haven for nature.

We would also like to have a memorial gate at the QNR built in memory of Councillor Keith Linnecor. Keith is my cousin and was the founder member of The Friends of QNR and chairman. He did a huge amount of volunteer work at QNR to make it the haven it is today and was a determined advocate for it.

Sadly, Keith passed away in February. His legacy at the QNR is huge and wonderful. He showed such passion and dedication and we would love to honour all the amazing dedication that he showed to it over the years – that would be lovely.

The QNR is central to the community here and over lockdown it became even more so. Highlighting just how important nature is to us all and I will continue to nurture it for as a long as I can.

If you would like to volunteer for QNR please contact them through their social media platforms

Facebook -The Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve

Twitter – @the_queslett 

 James Hinton, 45 works with the friends of Perry Park and says: ‘I’ve been a member of the group since it started over two years ago.

It started when the building for the Commonwealth Games began as the Alexander Stadium is in Perry Park. We wanted to ensure the parks interests were being looked after. We are a small, but dedicated group of eight people. Perry Park is an important open green space to its residents. The park is in a busy built up area and open green spaces are intrinsic to our wellbeing.

There is a beautiful reservoir brimming with all kinds of birds and wildlife and we want to keep it looking beautiful so we go on regular litter picks. We started guided walks in the park for the local community. It’s especially good for the older generation who might feel isolated, building a more cohesive community.

I have a pretty intensive job in an office to get into the park and do some physical tasks to improve the park is great. I dedicate a day a month and feel I am doing everything I can to improve the area for everyone to enjoy.

As a friends group, we feel a sense of togetherness and stewardship, it’s satisfying to see that we are making a difference to our park. We are from many different backgrounds and in other circumstances we may never have met, but our common cause has given us a sense of togetherness to work in this green space which is an asset to the community.

When the public are using the park, and see us working in it, they are happy to talk to us, to thank us for our time. That’s another very important part of volunteering for me.

There is a stretch of land at the edge of the motorway that we would want to turn it into a wildlife reserve where schools and communities could visit and learn about nature. We would like to work with the Commonwealth Games to regenerate some parts of the park and ensure its looked after properly before, during and after the games.

 

    

We are always looking for new volunteers to join the Perry park Friends Group and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone who volunteers has a special reason why.

Mine is to ensure my park is in as good a shape as it can be, so people want to come and enjoy everything it has to offer.

There was a time I might’ve said; I don’t have the time to volunteer through my busy schedule. But actually of course we can all find a bit of time through the week or months if we want to. It’s just about finding your niche, your passion. It might only be an hour or two a month, but rest assured that time will be cherished, celebrated and valued more than you can imagine.

For me it’s a win, win situation. You take out of volunteering what you put into it.

It’s empowering and instils a sense of ownership and pride and we should never take those feeling for granted!

 If you would like to volunteer at Perry Park or become a member of the Perry Park Friends Group, please contact them via Twitter – @friends_perry

We Have to Plant Millions More Trees! #TogetherWeWill

When BtFL were invited to visit King Edward’s Boy’s School in Aston in February. We couldn’t have been more delighted. A group pf 15 students had chosen BTfL as their chosen environmental charity in Birmingham to support. The King Edward students in collaboration with a charity called Envision wanted to raise funds to enable BTfL to plant more trees and promote what we do.

‘It’ all about the trees, we are all about the trees,’ they explained. ‘We have to plant millions more trees to save the world!

Envision is a ‘can do’ organisation driven by the desire to build a ‘can do’ generation with the ability to turn ideas into reality. Working with young people providing them with practical learning experiences in the world of work to empower them, give them confidence, skills, determination and value team work. Tackling social mobility through social action. It’s an amazing project and one BTfL have been very honoured to be involved in.

Visiting the class back then it was clear they were a, ‘can do’ team, with great ability, creative ideas, a pragmatic and enthusiastic bunch wanting to change the world for the better – we were privileged to meet them and hear their ideas.

Their passion for trees and in particular trees in Birmingham along with deep concerns about environmental issues saw them discuss big plans which were to be spread over 13-weeks. But sadly, Covid-19 stopped everything, except the students’ determination to keep their promise to raise funds.

Under extremely difficult circumstances the students have ploughed on, when it could’ve been so easy to say sorry, we can’t do any more. In earnest, the students launched a fundraising page, that can be found, here.

Sharing the page, having weekly sessions with their Envision coach to bounce around creative ideas, before lockdown happened.

Conducting an engaging assembly to their peers about the value of trees and what BTfL do. They ran an interactive quiz using Kahoot about the importance of urban trees.

They had planned to accompany on us to celebrate Arbour Day in April. They were planning a fun day of activities at the Custard Factory, including quizzes, party games, and selling homemade samosas.

 

But despite all their plans coming to nothing, due to lockdown the students are still managing to raise funds. So, would you help them and us by sharing this page and even donating to it? Please click here to share or donate, here.

Enjoying what the students have to offer and absorbing their positivity and enthusiasm was a wonderful experience for us. Because as the class quite rightly stated, ‘It’s all about the trees and we’re all about the trees!’

So, help us plant more trees and add to the legacy that has made Birmingham one of the greenest cities in the world, the legacy led by students at King Edward School Aston, the legacy that our small part in changing the world for the better and the legacy that is, #TogetherWeWill

Forest Tree Flowers and Fruits – look out for them on your walks

We all enjoyed the amazingly beautiful ornamental cherry blossom in April. But forest trees also have flowers and fruits, sadly not edible like cherries and apples. The yellow flowers of the purple Norway Maple turn into ‘helicopter wing’ seeds, the pollen from the Oak catkins contributes to creating acorns and the Ash produces hundreds of ‘keys’. The forest tree which is the most famous for its flowers is the Horse Chestnut, with its amazing candelabras of usually white flowers which always look breathtaking.

Read This Load of Old Rubbish? Yes – and Become a Litter Guardian!

For lots of us during our busy lives before lockdown, a walk was something we did to achieve an important daily goal. To get to the shops, the school run, to exercise the dog, to get to work, meet friends, go to the park to play footie or give the children or ourselves some exercise or enjoy nature.

Now life has come to a virtual standstill isolation allows us one form of exercise a day and it’s feels like our golden ticket!  Now of course the small things do feel like a great treat, including walking.

A day and we are no longer rushing from one place to another to get something done. Now we can walk for the sake of walking – and it’s a bit of a blessing.

At BTfL we have always advocated walking as a green alternative to your car, as exercise, as a way of appreciating your surroundings, to clear your head, think creatively and of course appreciate trees.

But now we have the time to appreciate all these things, we can do something more – we can pick up litter.

We all know walking is good exercise, but litter picking adds that extra dimension for to your exercise routine all that bending and stretching is good for joint and muscle movement, not to mention the cardiovascular benefits.

We all know horrible and unpleasant it is to see an over flowing bin in your local park – or anywhere. Or watching a reckless individual throw an empty drinks’ can or takeaway carton out of their car window without a care.

And we always wonder – why! Why go out of your way to make your environment look ugly!

Instead let’s ask why not? Why not grab some gardening gloves, a bin bag and a steely determination to improve your own patch today and pick up some litter on your daily walk?

It’ good exercise and boy will it make you feel a small, but brilliant sense of achievement and pride.

But there are other benefits too.

An area with higher levels of litter are more likely to attract crime. Criminals believe that less pride taken in an area means they will have an easier time committing crimes.

If some people see litter around, they are more likely to litter, care less, dump their rubbish where other people have carelessly dumped theirs.

But it works the other way too. If there is no litter in an area it means that individual will feel less compelled to start littering and will make a conscious decision to do the right thing and throw their rubbish in the bin.

It brings the community closer because if a neighbour or local resident sees you picking up litter it will make them feel good, allow them more pride in their local area, dissuade them from littering and it may even inspire them to pick up litter too!

That horrible feeling of seeing rubbish all over the floor will also disappear. Lifting the mood, enhancing our appreciation of a well-kept and tidy local area allowing us to enjoy and appreciate that area more.

 

And we say, If it’s good enough of the Wombles’ then it’s good enough for us all. And if you are too young to remember the Wombles’, they were environmental heroes of the day in the 1970’s an 80’s on children’ television. A family of lovable Wombles’ living in a burrow on Wimbledon Common, making their purpose in life to keep it tidy and recycle other people’s rubbish. Employing that well versed mantra – one person trashes another person’s treasure! And the Wombles are still around today spreading that same message of, ‘Keep Britain Tidy.’

So, think about it – if you could achieve a lower crime rate, pride in your community and yourself, improve your health, encourage a more upbeat mood, a more beautiful area to walk around and appreciate just by picking up a few bits of litter along the way, you would do it wouldn’t you, we all would.

But if you disagree and think this blog is a load of old rubbish too – then on your next walk make the effort to notice every piece of litter you pass, on a grass verge or in a bush where wildlife makes it home, in a park where children play, or along the street where we all walk and wonder who much nicer it would look if the litter wasn’t there.

It might inspire you to pick up that little bit of rubbish along the way and become a litter guardian.

And whether you remember the lovable Children’s TV characters, the Wombles or not we  say make like a Womble and go on a litter pick – it will really do the trick!

 

If you would like to start picking up litter while you are out on your daily walks, here are a few pointers to help you along the way.

  • DO wear gloves. A pair of gardening gloves or something tough enough to pick up items with sharp edges is a good idea. 
  • DON’T pick up anything dangerous, especially at this time. Avoid handling needles, very heavy objects, or anything that could be contaminated with chemicals or pathogens. 
  • DO bring a strong plastic bag. Nothing worse than getting a tear in your bag half-way along your walk!
  • DON’T overdo it.  This is your daily exercise- but it’s best if it is enjoyable.  In these days of lockdown, the chances are that you can come back tomorrow and pick up some more. 
  • DO take your bag of litter home. Council bins are probably not getting emptied as often as they used to so you can help by popping it in your wheelie bin when you get back to your house. Recycle when possible. 
  • And DO observe all the important social distancing rules to keep yourself and others safe from coronavirus transmission. As always, do not touch your face, and wash your hands with soap when you get home.  

Earth Day 2020 – 50 Years of Positive Action!

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the hell you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all in a miserable home….., choose your future……, choose life.”

Nothing summed up a generation of global capitalism and consumerism, things we didn’t need, or want, keeping up with the Jones’s, or now the Kardashian’s. Life having little meaning other than the rampant greed of the 1980’s and 1990’s summed up brilliantly in monologue spoken by Trainspotting chief protagonist Mark Renton in John Hodge’s screenplay for the film.

Today, Wednesday 22nd of April sees us celebrate the 50th year of Earth Day. It is an annual event celebrated around the world to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries. And Earth Day is and always will be a very real rebellion against everything that Trainspotting speech denotes and a celebration of everything beautiful nature offers!

 

The reason why we celebrate Earth Day is that it affirms the principle of human beings as an equal part of nature and that though we have the greatest benefit of being the intelligent species, we also have the enormous responsibility of protecting the Planet – so far we have failed!

Has anything changed since that rebellion speech in Trainspotting in 1996?

Fifty-years of angry voices shouting, environmental activists marching, Millennials’ pleading with politicians and corporations to respect the planet. A school girl from Sweden turned environmental activist shaming world leaders for their shoddy green credentials and disrespect for the planet and its future generations.

Globalisation raging, ice-caps melting, droughts, floods, forest fires, earths biodiversity dying at a rate not seen for 65-million years since the annihilation of the dinosaurs! And we have just one generation – less than 12-years to start healing our planet before it’s too late!

And even knowing all this it seems the world’s super powers – the worst offenders still aren’t listening.

But the irony is that since the global pandemic Covid-19, and a worldwide lockdown we have seen the human-race fighting for its survival while nature quite rightly re-claims what is rightfully hers all along!

There have been many positive stories of how wildlife, nature, forests, ice-caps, coral reefs, rivers, air quality and the ozone layer have seen positive outcomes because the world has come to a standstill.

   

It is amazing to see that a planet so damaged can begin to heal itself – proof that when life gets back to normal it’s not too late to make the changes we need to ensure our planet’s survival.

And as Millennials have pointed out, the horror and panic that the world is feeling right now because of  the global pandemic is how Millennials feel every day worrying about the on-going destruction of the planet and their future on it.

So, we must, must, must learn lessons because our environmental mistakes have been huge – the learning curve we can embrace from this is just as big. Because the only thing worse than being the worst offender is being the worst repeat offender!

We aren’t world leaders, but we all have the capability to lead!

During pervious celebrations of Earth Day, there have concerts, festivals, tree plantings, litter picks, community recycling projects, energy conservation, growing your own or even keeping a birdfeeder full!

Because of the pandemic Earth Day 2020 with its theme of, Climate action will be different due to the lockdown and social distancing regulations.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t get involved, you can’t lead and a small environmental legacy. Click the link to see what you can do to help save your planet and become part of  that global environmental legacy! https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/

And right now, we have the  time to think about what we can do today, tomorrow and every day after that to do our bit to save the planet and make it healthy again.

No matter when or how you celebrate Earth Day, its message about the personal responsibility we all share to “think globally and act locally” as environmental stewards of planet Earth has never been more timely or important.

So why not choose…., a litter pick, a long walk,  join a conservation group, recycle more, upcycle everything, donate more, throw away less, grow you own, plant a tree, plant another tree, feed wildlife in your garden, make do and mend, buy less, value more, go vegetarian, boycott plastic  packaging, shop locally, walk more, drive less, ride a bike, volunteer, go paperless, adopt an animal, turn your thermostat down, have shorter showers, don’t have baths, start a compost heap, join a library, cook, not convenience, invest in house plants to cut pollution, car share, insulate your home, garden more, join, get involved in your community, join an environmental group, have the courage of your convictions, share your green credentials, be mindful, get mad, think outside of yourself, think longterm.

Choose your future, choose their future…, choose life…,  and choose it together!

 

 

‘Trees are the Earth’s Lungs – The Best Thing We Can Do Is Plant More Trees.’

As BTfL waited patiently in the super sunlit staffroom of St Matthew’s Church of England School for 14 year-nine children to arrive, we didn’t think it couldn’t get any sunnier. Until these lovely smiley children arrived, which made the room brighter than ever. Ready for the off to our local tree planting site at Northumberland Street, Nechells the children wore a very impressive array of very swanky wellies. We were very impressed!

Hands up, excitedly with lots of questions and facts to share about trees, it was clear these children were happy and enthusiastic, eager to help improve the air quality and aesthetics of their local area by planting trees! ‘Trees are the earth’s lungs, we need them, so it’s good to plant more and more,’ one student explained. ‘It’s the best thing we can all do for the environment,’ another student exclaimed. ‘The world needs many more trees,’ came another student. Well we couldn’t agree more and were inspire by their wonderful statements about trees.

A five-minute walk to site we pointed our previous planting site at Barrack Street Recreation Ground in November, the trees looked right at home, just like todays will too.                                                                                                                 The children arrived at site paired up into two’s and quickly assigned themselves a tree. Standing to attention spades in and the children were eager to start digging. It transpired that one of the children, Michael lived right next to the trees and could see them out of his window. ‘Well, Michael, we are trusting you will talk to the trees and look after them as their closest guardian.’ Michael looked very proud and gave us an enthusiastic nod as he pointed to where he lived knowing he would have a lovely view of the trees and would see them grown and change each season.

The trees we planted are two Acer freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’ (maple), two Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination (Chinese silver birch) and threeMagnolia kobus (magnolia with white flowers which are great for absorbing pollutants). And Michael and all the other residents would see some vibrant colour in the Autumn and beautiful flowers in the Summer.
 

As the children planted the chose names for their trees, one name stood out, ‘the tree of life,’ because planting a tree is the most important thing we can do for the environment and everyone’s life! In fact, two of the children were so impressed with planting trees they decided they would add a photograph of their tree planting to a time capsule and a memory box they had made to remind them and other people in the future of all the wonderful things they had achieved in life. Planting a tree is one of them!

‘When I grow up I am going to bring my husband and children to see these beautiful trees and I can tell them proudly I planted these trees, they kind of belong to me!’ one student told us. She was right of course; these wonderful trees will be here for many years to come – and these wonderful trees belong to all of us and we should love and appreciate everything they do. Only ever giving and never taking away!

 

There were so many wonderful conversations about trees and the children suddenly had an epiphany – we can dig, chat, laugh, stomp and straighten the tree all at the same time! So we also learnt an important lesson too – that multi-tasking really can be fun!

Please check out the photo album for this event, here

 

 

 

Its All About the Trees and We’re All About the Trees!

We’re a ‘can do’ organisation driven by the desire to build a ‘can do’ generation with the ability to turn ideas into reality.

This is the mission statement of Envision, a Birmingham Charity working with young people providing them with practical learning experiences in the world of work to empower them, give them confidence, skills, determination and value team work. Tackling social mobility through social action. It’s an amazing project and one BTfL have been very honoured to be involved in.

   

Choosing the environment as a core issue Envision approached four leading environmental charities in Birmingham to work with students promoting an environmental message, and developing a project. BTfL is proud to be one of them. It is a 13-week Community-Apprentice programme in schools across Birmingham raising awareness and funds for the charity of their choice.  BTfL were lucky enough to be chosen by King Edward Boys School in Aston and we had the pleasure of meeting the team this week and hearing all their exciting ideas.

Asking the group of 15-year nine students what made them want to wave the flag for BtfL. A simple question, with a simple answer, ‘It’s all about the trees.’ We totally agree! Trees have never been more important on the political, social and environmental agenda. And these wonderful students know it. The class listened to our presentation proudly wearing their BTfL badges.

      We started with a holistic approach asking the class to close their eyes for one minute and think of a positive experience in a green space they had as a younger child. Daniel, the team leader took charge ensuring very class members had their eyes closed so they could concentrate fully. There was a beautiful intense silence! Then came a stream of thoughts, forest school, survival school, being left in the park for five minutes after my parents forgot me, climbing and falling out of a tree, playing football, sport day! There was a sudden animation in the group as they remembered all their positive experiences in green spaces. It was lovely to watch.

We explained the students about the value of spending time around nature. It’s positive affect on our emotional and physical wellbeing. In-fact studies show that if we don’t spend time outdoors reconnecting with nature we experience Nature’s Deficit Disorder! A noticeable decline in our physical and emotional wellbeing. The answer – go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer!

‘We need more trees, it’s all about the trees, we have to plant millions more, we love and respect trees….’ The students explained. We loved their enthusiasm and explained that planting a tree is a selfless thing, planting a tree make you a good ancestor! A person planting a tree right now has nothing to gain from that tree. It’s future generations that will benefit from everything a tree can offer. It inspired the students to start writing down idea about how we can continue to get the younger generation excited about tree planting.

‘Planting trees in schools, having a mascot, a message/mission statement in an acorn, watch a seed grow from scratch, revisit the trees planted again and again.’ Ideas were thrown about the room thick and fast and as we finished our presentation and group work we understood that this class is committed to conveying a very positive message about the importance of trees and tree planting.

We are looking forward to seeing their creative ideas and celebrating a different perspective! Enjoying what the students have to offer and absorbing their positivity and enthusiasm.Because as the class quite rightly stated, ‘It’s all about the trees and we’re all about the trees!’