Tree Huggers: Where Are They Now?

Is it ever going to be cool to be a tree-hugger?

Here’s a question for you: when you think of what a ‘tree-hugger’ is do you feel negative or positive thoughts?

man-2193306_1920The notion of hugging a tree, isn’t necessarily negative from an objective view point.

However, the question might require a more in-depth sociologically minded answer, rather than a simplistic treatise on the connotations of the words that make up the phrase. The reason why most people will have negative associations with the word ‘tree-hugger‘ is because of the alienating notion of loving an inanimate being.

Why would you love the tree? The tree might well be a living creature, but the fact remains that the tree will remain oblivious of your love for it. You can spend an eternity hugging the tree, but it will not show you an ounce of emotion in response to it – in other words, it won’t hug you back.

The first recorded tree-huggers did not originate in the hippy movement of 1970s America, as it is so often thought to have, but instead finds it’s roots in the Northern territories of India and the devoted actions of hundreds of Hindu people from the Bishnois sect in 1730.


The Bishnois are a sect of Hindu people, still active to this day, who follow a strict set of 29 tenets.

india-1576100_1920Although 10 of these tenets are concerned with personal hygiene and health, eight are also reserved for the sake of the planet. These eight tenets aim to preserve bio-diversity and encourage healthy animal husbandry – one of which specifically bans the killing of any animals and the felling of any green trees.

Although the Hinduism was by no means a new religion in the year 1730, the idea that certain trees were simply not to be cut down, at a time when timber was one of the most sought after building resource in the country, was not greeted with enthusiasm by those not in the sect, especially the King at the time who demanded a huge amount of wood to build a new palace.

Amrita Devi Bishnoi, a devoted Bishnoi, rallied her fellow devotees and stood against the King and his men. A total number of 363 Bishnoi joined together to protect the Khejri trees of their local area. When the King’s party came across the Bishnoi group they demanded a bribe in return for the saving of the trees. Amrita refused and stated that they would rather die than see the trees harmed.

In the scuffle that ensued some 269 Bishnoi lost their lives in a sacrifice that would later be known as the Khejarli Massacre.

Although many Bishnoi lost their lives that day, their heroic actions of standing up to physical intimidation and violence for the sake of their beliefs, have been remembered.

river-879128_1280Each year, Bishnois assemble in the village of Khejarli to pay tribute to their fallen predecessors and the action of clinging to or ‘hugging’ trees was legitimised as a method of protest against a destructive and greedy human force.

Whilst it might not be cool any more to be a self-proclaimed ‘tree-hugger’, the source of the behaviour remains entirely serious and totally admirable.

Trees of Tomorrow

British Woods are a dying breed, slowly being encroached upon by the onward march of population growth and the subsequent demand for houses.

Its not apparent to many of the population but there is plenty of places to live – amongst the trees.

It was not so long ago, that thousands of communities did just this.

Within the woods of Great Britain lie every conceivable resources that a human could need to survive. Much like Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men in Prince of Thieves, we could erect elaborate tree houses, utilising the woods rather than brutally pillaging them.

Take a trip back to 1991 and watch Kevin Reynolds’ cult classic.

time travel

Its a movie not often talked about in today’s cultural landscape.

Robin-Hood-Prince-of-ThieveThe quintessentially British story was given a radical American makeover. Robin Loxley, played by Kevin Costner, spoke with a broad Californian accent accompanied by his ‘Samaritan’ companion played by Morgan Freeman who also refused to drop his US dialect.

These strange American accents were thrown into British woods and juxtaposed with fine English actors, creating a film that was both culturally confusing yet wildly entertaining. It a gorgeous mess to behold – overlong and yet justified in its scale.

The film grossed $390m, Bryan Adams’ single became one of the biggest-selling records of all time and we all wanted to live in tree houses, so we could shout this when we are under attack:

When this movie returns to the public eye, there are rumours (started by myself) that a High Definition Remaster is in the works for a cinematic release, the demand for full-scale tree cities will sky rocket.

That is when the tide will change.

The demand for traditional brick and mortar houses will plummet. The cities will start to drain and empty, and the rope, sack and hemp industries will boom.

The internet marketers, estate agents, insurance brokers and hedge fund managers of our time will leave their penthouse suites and London flats in favour of 8-storey high forest apartments. Wireless internet will allow their online businesses to continue uninterrupted.

Conference calls will be taken in the canopies and offices will be installed in the upper reaches of the trees.

merry men

In the year 2030: we will all be Merry Men.

Trees and us.

What is your first memory of a tree? What is your first memory of a forest? Do you remember how it felt? Do you remember what emotions came up when you stared up at this majestic thing? Do you remember you remember the wonder? What ever happened to the wonder?


“So now you must choose… Are you a child who has not yet become world-weary? Or are you a philosopher who will vow never to become so? To children, the world and everything in it is new, something that gives rise to astonishment. It is not like that for adults. Most adults accept the world as a matter of course. This is precisely where philosophers are a notable exception. A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable – bewildering, even enigmatic. Philosophers and small children thus have an important faculty in common. The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder…” Jostein Gaarder Sophie’s World. 

Well, I’m not calling myself a philosopher, and I don’t want to draw that division. I just say don’t let what should be precious become mundane. Don’t let what should be amazing become boring. Don’t stop yourself feeling wonder, it is not immature, it is not stupid. It is beautiful and it lies within you.

download (8)

What’s your favourite tree? Not your favourite type of tree. I’m not talking ‘oak’ or ‘acorn’ or ‘apple’. I mean Where is your personal, one tree. The tree you love more than any other. Do you remember when you had an answer to that question? Have you ever had an answer to the question? I did, I put thought into it as well, it was a big decision, but a decision that needed to be made. It’s not a decision I need to make now. Now I often struggle to remember the last time I looked at a tree. I mean looked at a tree. Properly. In the face.

tree-faceTree’s were once our friends. Can they not be our friends again? Do they not deserve to be? They love us, I’m sure of it. I know they love us. But when love is not reciprocated it can turn violent, it can turn dangerous, it can turn deadly.

5.-Angry-Tree They have only ever tried, that we cannot deny, they have only ever tried to help us live. And we seem to have only ever tried to make it hard from them. We are the drunk, abusive husband who slaps the freshly cooked food out of the wife’s hand. We are taking the tree’s for granted. And they will take us to our grave.

A metaphor?

Let’s hope so…

Tips for Building a Sustainable Home

The satisfaction of building a sustainable home yourself must outweigh any discomforts, dissatisfaction or difficulties experienced along the way. Whether you are starting from scratch, renovating an old structure, or simply making small adjustments and improvements to your existing home, building a sustainable home is a worthwhile thing to do. Here are a few things you should consider when making a sustainable home for yourself and your family:

– Maximise Solar Gain:

The sun gives energy. Make sure you take as much of it as you can to help heat and light your home. Large windows should ideally be south facing, with smaller windows to the North. Consider looking into conservatories or garden rooms to maximise solar gain.

– Minimise Heat Loss:

Make sure your house is well insulated or that you build walls with a good U-value which help retain the heat. Windows can be double or triple glazed and don’t forget the roof, through which most of a house’s heat can be lost.

– Consider Options for Power Generation:

Can you potentially generate at least some of your own electricity? Consider solar panels, or a domestic wind turbine for power generation. Even if you are on grid now, consider your options for generating sufficient for your needs in the future using renewable sources of energy.

– Consider Options for Space Heating:

Wood burning or multi-fuel stoves can be a good option for space and even possibly water heating. Solar panels can combine with stoves in heating water, and can be integrated into a system whereby wall mounted or underfloor heating systems can be run. When thinking about space heating, think about retaining heat through thermal mass.

– Consider Use of Space:

It is all well and good planning for an ecologically friendly and carbon neutral sustainable future, but your house must suit the needs of you and your family over the years to come. A truly sustainable system will carefully take into account when and how rooms are used, and homes laid out for most easy and efficient use.

– Plan for Self-reliance:

Consider also growing some or all of the food needed for your family – an essential component of a sustainable homestead. Even in the smallest home, some food can be grown. Look into vertical gardening and pot gardening for inspiration. Plan to be more self-reliant.

– Plan for the Future:

The best laid plans can go awry, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan ahead. When building a sustainable home, you should think not just about your needs now, but also what you and your family’s needs might be in the future. Make your home future-proof.

Those are just some of the aspects to consider when building a sustainable home.

Wood Pellet Burners

Following on from last month’s post concerning biomass fuel, we felt that it was important to explore alternatives to biomass boilers. Along with biofuel burners, oil-fired condensing boilers are also becoming more and more popular as gas prices continue to rise. As well as those fuelled by wood pellets.

Wood Pellet boilers work in much the same way that conventional gas boilers do, by burning Wood Pellets to heat water which in turns heats the house through radiators. The main difference between the two is the fuel, with an Wood Pellet boiler, you will need to have a way to store the Wood Pellet and have it delivered to your home.

Wood Pellet-fired boilers are different to normal oil boilers in that they aim to recapture heat normally lost through the flue system. This dramatically increases the efficiency of the boiler, therefore reducing heating and fuel bills.

Installation of Wood Pellet boilers must comply with British Standards, as well as being commissioned at the time of installation as do all oil-fired appliances. This ensures maximum efficiency and safety.

Help to Conserve Britain’s Woodlands, Use Biomass Fuel

The use of biomass fuel is on the rise in the U.K. Instead of conventional central heating, more and more homes are switching to using wood fuel burning stoves to heat their homes, some going as far as using back boilers to additionally heat their water.

Biomass fuel use been steadily increasing in the U.K for the last 20 years and is set to carrying increasing, especially as gas and electricity prices continue to rise.

Wood-based biomass fuel has many benefits, such as:

  • Emissions – For the most part, there are no harmful emissions from burning biomass fuel. Carbon dioxide emissions are minimal compared to conventional fossil fuels and other harmful gases present in oil and gas burning are absent.


  • Incentivised Energy – The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) gives businesses and industry a financial incentive to use renewable energy to heat their buildings. Furthermore, as of 9th April this year, residential homes are now included in the RHI.  For the domestic scheme, homeowners can recoup 12.2p/kWh when using biomass-only boilers to heat their homes.


  • Reduction in fossil-fuel dependent energy production – Reduction in the use of fossil fuels is currently one of the environment’s hot topics and switching dependence to an alternative source is most certainly a step in the right direction.


  • Very much a renewable source – Biomass fuels are everywhere and are easy to grow, unlike fossil fuels of which there is only a limited supply. Some biofuels, such as wood pellets, are even made from off-cuts and otherwise unused wood shavings, so no extra effort is needed to grow them.


  • Reduces pressure on landfills – Some waste going to landfill can be used as bio-fuel and can be burnt accordingly. Th amount of waste going to landfill will also be reduce as solid waste from burning biomass is significantly less than with conventional fossil fuels.

Britain’s Woodlands Under Threat

Woodland conservation in the United Kingdom has received a lot of press coverage in the last few years. There is a growing public consciousness that we must preserve our native ancient woodlands. But those woodlands are still dwindling, under threat from both human building projects and human-caused climate disruptions, and natural threats like competition and disease. More than 1000 ancient woodlands have been threatened over the last ten years and thousands more trees are threatened not only by our actions, but also by our inaction and apathy.

In Britain, ancient forests are the richest and most diverse habitat we have, and in England, that was once covered by huge swathes of woodland, it now accounts for only around 2% of the land area. Once lost, these cannot easily be regained, if they can be regained at all. Contrary to popular belief, there is no wholesale and loophole proof protection for these precious few remaining areas of ancient forest in England. The threats from human development to ancient woodland is relentless.

Currently, woodland areas in England are threatened by large scale national developments like the high speed rail link, as well as smaller scale local projects like new roads and houses, golf courses and quarries. Fortunately, there are people, like those involved with the Woodland Trust, who are making these threats known, and making sure voices supporting the trees are heard. They, and other similar groups, lobby for small but effective changes to be made at government level, which would protect these trees, and preserve this important part of our landscape for future generations.


There are five main impacts in native woodland of development. Firstly, there is are chemical effects from human encroachment; there is disturbance caused by large-scale earthworks, traffic and heavy machinery; breaking up woodlands may mean that they are too small to exist as viable ecosystems; there can be invasion by non-native plants; and finally, there are cumulative effects which may kill off a woodland by small increments. All of these must be seen to if we are to save the ancient forests.

In Scotland, there are more areas where the native ancient Caledonian forest remains. Over one fifth of Scotland is covered in woodland, though only one third of that is native mixed woodland. Here, the threats to ancient woodland are less down to encroaching land-use, and more due to a lack of biodiversity. Large scale commercial planting in the 20th Century reduced diversity and made unnatural forests in which very few species could live. Fortunately, modern governmental policy and the guardianship of the Forestry Commission and other environmental groups have meant that the forests in parts of Scotland are not only surviving, they are thriving, and even growing. There is an aim to once more allow the native ancient forest to spread from coast to coast.

The future of British woodland is hopeful, but only if the destruction can be stopped, and the planting of trees and increasing of biodiversity continue. We must all be aware of the problems, and do our best to convince the governments to do something to ensure the survival of this most important and vital of habitats.

Recycling Wooden Pallets as Garden Furniture

In today’s consumer world, we can easily be consumed ourselves by the constant need to buy more, get more. But recycling and reusing can be good for us, as well as good for the planet. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure, and by reusing things that would otherwise be thrown away, you can make yourself what you need or want without having to take another turn on the capitalist treadmill. Sustainability can be chic as well as worthy, to see that you just have to take a look at the any beautiful and useful items people have made from used wooden crates. Here are a few ideas to get you started


– Patio Decking:

Need some outdoor living space? Make a garden room by simply making some decking from old shipping pallets, which can often be found free of charge. Finish as you wish, with paint or wood varnish or whatever you like. Little joinery is required – just a hammer and some nails. Add sand to finish for a slip-free surface.

– Table and Chairs:


From simple pallet tables and chairs that use the pallets almost as they come, to loungers that use the reclaimed wood in more interesting and complicated ways, the range of tables and chairs that can be made from old pallets is limited only by your imagination and the tools you have at your disposal. Those with a covered area, or who live in a dry climate, could build an entire outdoor lounge, complete with L-shaped sofa and large coffee table. If you are feeling daring, pallet furniture can relatively easily be finished to a high standard and used inside – a very cheap but stylish way to furnish your home. Pallet furniture makes a great conversation piece.


wooden pallet table

– Gardener’s Helpers:


Old pallets are a friend to keen gardeners. Simply hammer them together to make raised vegetable or flower beds, or compost containers. They can make a garden look amazing, and are also functional. Imagine how easy it could be to reclaim a bit of your lawn or paved area to create a raised bed for growing some of your own food. Those who are a little more adventurous have even made whole garden sheds and other garden buildings from old pallets.

– Vertical Gardening:
Those with limited garden space, or practically none at all, can use old pallets to turn any wall into a little garden. If you like to grow your own, the sky is the limit. Grow salads and herbs in layer-like shelves – not only saves on space, but also makes for easy picking.
– For Fun:
Create a romantic garden bower, or a children’s den by making simple walls from old pallets. Paint them fun colours, or grow plants up them make wonderful secret areas. Use them to make a sand pit, outdoor kitchen or play area.
A word of warning about using pallets for your projects. Be sure to check the markings on your pallets to make sure that they have been heat-treated rather than sprayed with lots of nasty chemicals. If the pallet is from Europe, it should be fine, so look out for Euro markings. Never use a pallet if it smells or is stained – these things can be used to transport anything, so steer clear if it seems a bit suspect. That said, most pallets today should be okay. Use common sense and you can have furniture for free that will last for years and bring you a lot of admiration for your style, good sense and ecological credentials. Remember, the uses of pallets are limited only by your imagination.

Save Our Green Belt!

Our cities and towns are growing, gradually the countryside is reduced and tamed by urban sprawl. But this is not a new problem, and planners in the United Kingdom have long used policies to try to curtail and contain the growing urbanisation. Designating green belts is one method planners have used. Green Belt is a term used to describe an area around a city or urban area which should not be built on, but should instead be kept open for farming, woodland, or outdoor leisure pursuits.

– History:

The necessity of curtailing urban sprawl was recognised for many years by groups advocating for the protection of the countryside, and the ‘garden city’ movement, who recognised that cities must include the provision of green spaces accessible by their inhabitants. It was not until 1935, however, that seeds were planted for the implementation of a green belt. The Greater London Regional Planning Committee proposed to create a green belt, or ‘girdle’ of green, open, recreational space around the city. The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly, however, and it was another fourteen years before the Metropolitan Green Belt was properly defined and mapped by all of the local authorities involved.
In 1947, legislation was put in place allowing Local Authorities outside London to include proposals for green belts in their new development plans. They were encouraged to do so in the historic Circular 42/55 which laid out details of green belt policy.

– Green belt policy today:

Today, around 13% of England is designated at green belt. Development is very strictly circumscribed within those areas and is covered by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In Northern Ireland, 16% of the land is greenbelt, and there is one greenbelt in Wales, between Cardiff and Newport. In Scotland there are 10 greenbelts at present, with plans for several more. The Scottish Government policy is slightly different to that of the Westminster Government, in that in Scotland, it is recognised that some types of development within green belt areas is desirable. For example, creation of community woodlands, re-use of derelict farm buildings, or re-purposing of green space for market gardening. They are very focussed not just on making and retaining these open green spaces, but also emphasize the need to maintain and enhance biodiversity within these areas.

green belt

– Benefits of Green Belt:

It is clear that cities require to be halted in their inexorable outward spread, and green belts can help with this problem. They can also stop two distinct towns from becoming one, and losing their distinct identities. They can help to maintain the setting and character of historic towns, and also assist struggling city centres, since developers must look to brown field and run-down urban sites rather than spreading outwards into green-field development. Arguably most importantly, they provide much needed green space and access to nature for city dwellers.

– Future Development:

It has been argued that green belt policy is a little out of date, and can be too proscriptive for the modern world, especially as regards ecological development. Some argue that our green space policy will have to improve to encompass whole cities, and that greenbelts will have to be better managed and of better ecological diversity as our population continues to grow.
Whatever happens, it is clear that our green belts are being stretched as the big bellies of the cities become full to bursting point. It will be fascinating to see what happens with city planning and greenspace in the future.