Why Bettys is aiming to plant millions of trees across the world
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 July 2017
Tree planting plays a vital role in protecting landscapes here and abroad. Samantha Gibson of Bettys & Taylors explains their mission.
It was an episode of Blue Peter that started it all – the then MD of Bettys & Taylors, Jonathan Wild, was approached by his two young children, Chloe and Daniel, who had been learning about deforestation from the children’s TV programme. Upset to see the rainforest in flames and animals fleeing their home, they wanted to know how they could help. In a bid to comfort them, Jonathan made a promise he wasn’t sure that he could keep – he told them: ‘if you plant one tree then I will find a way to plant 999,999 more’. And so it was that Chloe and Daniel were joined by their classmates on a cold, February day in 1990 to plant a hornbeam tree opposite Bettys in Harrogate with a stone plaque underneath pronouncing it as the ‘first of a million’. The promise had been set in stone and Trees for Life was born.
From the beginning it was clear the difference that the business could make through tree planting – its first project was in the Shone Valley region of Ethiopia which was suffering drought and famine due to the effects of deforestation. But the help of Yorkshire Tea drinkers was needed and they didn’t disappoint. Their support by sending in tokens from Yorkshire Tea packs to release funding was overwhelming. Bettys & Taylors reached their million target in 2000 and have continued to plant and protect trees around the world ever since.
So far, something like three million trees have been planted and work is going on in the countries from which Bettys & Taylors source their tea and coffee, including a long term project to plant one million trees with 4,000 tea farmers in Kenya. As well as sequestering carbon, these trees will provide the farmers’ crops with shelter from the sun and wind, will improve the soil and provide fruit for food and sale.
And here in Yorkshire their tree planting is playing a vital role in protecting local landscapes. A new project to plant 20,000 trees with the National Trust in the Yorkshire Dales is a response to the issues that changing weather patterns are causing to our communities. But, hand in hand with their conservation projects goes the need to encourage the next generation to appreciate how they can have a positive impact on their environment in the future.
To do this, the business is supporting tree planting in schools both nationwide with the Woodland Trust and close to its cafe tea rooms with environmental charity, Groundwork. As well as planting trees in school grounds, children are venturing into local woods to build dens, enjoy snowdrop and bluebell walks and gather seeds to plant. They are also helping wildlife by building bird boxes and making feeders which help the birds through difficult winter months.
‘Getting the children to work together, listen to each other and take responsibility as they undertake practical outdoor sessions is as important as getting the trees in the ground,’ says Ian Johnson who runs Bettys’ Seedlings at Schools project with Groundwork. ‘Some children who may struggle in the classroom flourish outside because they have the flexibility to move around and take on more physical tasks. For practical learners, hands-on activities such as tree planting bring out their natural abilities. It‘s good to see these children sharing their skills with others and growing in confidence as they help their classmates.’
Chloe and Daniel Wild may now have grown up but the family business is still ensuring that children play their part as the promise from all those years ago keeps driving Trees for Life into the future.