On Monday 25 March Members of Soroptimist International St Albans and District were delighted to welcome Councillor Annie Brewster, Vice Chair of Hertfordshire County Council and Lead for the Queens Platinum Jubilee. Annie gave an excellent presentation on Zoom about the Queens Green Canopy project in Hertfordshire. We also heard about some great sustainability work from Zac Mather, Herts County Council Programme Manager for Sustainable Herts. Kate Belinis, President of SI Hertford and District was able to tell us about her Club’s Tree Planting. It was wonderful to welcome guests to the Zoom event from the Hertford Soroptimists, Friends of the Earth St Albans and Trees of St Albans.
Annie’s presentation is the first 8 slides and Zac’s is from slide 9 – please click here to download and view: Soroptimist Presentation QGC 28.3.22
Helen Byrne, the Club’s Planet Team lead, started the evening by setting the scene explaining the various initiatives to increase tree planting, including the Soroptimist Centenary Tree planting project and the Queens Green Canopy project. Annie Brewster, vice chairman of Herts County Council, is responsible for promoting the QGC scheme in Hertfordshire alongside the Lord Lieutenant.
Councillor Annie Brewster explained the Queens Green Canopy, part of the Queen’s platinum Jubilee celebrations, to promote the role of trees to the environment queensgreencanopy.org The Queen is particularly keen for trees to be planted to improve the environment in the most disadvantaged communities. The project had a soft launch in December 2020 with the official launch at Chelsea Flower Show in 2021. The project is now in Community Engagement phase and Planting phase. The first tree planting phase ends April 22, then there will be Platinum Jubilee Official Celebration Weekend 2-5 June and the second Planting Phase Oct – Dec 22. You can add the trees you have planted to the Queen’s Green Canopy website and can also sponsor a tree (please let is know if you do so we can add to the Soroptimist tally). The trees will be colour coded on the map by who is planting the trees (schools, community groups, royal plantings).
Annie gave an update on where we are up to currently in Hertfordshire. So far, we have planted 13,000 trees and next season we have pledges for another 30, 000 trees to be planted. There are also statement sites including Aldenham Country Park and County Hall. Annie shared pictures from the sites where trees have been planted.
Annie introduced Zac Mather from Herts County Council who is programme manager for sustainable Hertfordshire strategy. The aim to make Hertfordshire a net zero county.
Zac Mather, Herts County Council Programme Manager for Sustainable Herts explained some of the other sustainability streams being worked on across the county. Fleet Group working on decarbonising the Herts County Council Fleet. Looking at reducing food waste across the county. Air quality mapping across the county. There is a Public Sector Decarbonising Scheme which includes schools. Zac explained the sustainability ambitions for Herts Country Council, including moving away from single use products across the county. They are doing a lot of work encouraging schools to get involved and plant trees. Annie and Zac both talked about “pester power” – children are passionate about the environment and are great at “pestering” families into taking action – like planting trees! If you have a connection with any schools please ask them to get involved with the QGC.
If you want to get involved with planting trees for the Jubilee get in touch with QGC Team at queensgreencanopy@Hertfordshire.gov.uk
Q&A – There were lots of great questions (as always!) – and our speakers appreciated the knowledge of the audience.
Annie and Zac were asked about air quality, public transport and lots of issues to be tackled in moving to a zero carbon. Annie talked about a culture change at council level to invest more in building that will pay for itself over time. She explained the challenges of installing cycling lanes to improve ‘active transport’.
A great point was raised about long lasting behaviour change to maintain existing trees – it takes a long time for the new trees planted this year to sequester as much carbon as existing trees and yet we are rapidly losing mature trees to developments, storms and lack of good tree maintenance. Removing 1 fully mature tree cost £50K in terms of carbon offsetting!
Zac has set up behavioural change department at the council.
Capability + Opportunity + Motivation = Behaviour Change
There is budget for 1-2 trees for every school in Hertfordshire, including pre-schools, and there are still trees available. The issue currently is not with funding it is about finding land to plant trees on. Annie has also been pushing with Parish Councils as a lot of the green spaces off the highways is covered by Town and Parish Councils. Rewilding and green corridors are a big project in St Albans. Helen suggested this was something members could get involved in finding locations for rewilding.
After the meeting Zac sent us important tree planting guidance that has been developed in conjunction with the Woodland Trust Tree Planting Guidance QGC HCC
Helen Byrne then thanked Annie and Zac and gave an overview of Soroptimist tree planting projects: 95,000 trees have been planted by Soroptimists across the world to mark the Centenary of Soroptimist International! Please scroll down to see photos of Helen in action tree planting with the Harpenden Lions.
Kate Belinis, President of SI Hertford and District told us how her Club has been involved in tree planting. They planted a tree for their 60th anniversary. Kate is CEO of CDA Herts who planted 2 Rowan trees in the Castle grounds of Hertford Castle (see pic below of Kate in action). CDA Herts have also planted 12 Wild Cherry Trees – 10 in their Community Garden in St Albans, 1 in Presdale School in Ware and 1 in Queen’s Peace Garden. Those trees have all been pinned on map on the the QGC website.
The picture below is of our animated audience on Zoom – encouraged here by Annie to do an impression of a tree for this photo opportunity!
The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) is a unique tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 which invites people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee” – for more see the website www.lord-lieutenant-herts.org.uk/the-queens-green-canopy-plant-a-tree-for-the-jubilee
The event marked the International Day of Forests and was co-ordinated by the Club’s Planet Team, with Helen Byrne in the chair. The Planet Team organise the Club’s project work on sustainability and the environment. Soroptimists are working for an equal and sustainable future for all.
We were delighted to welcome Annie Brewster back to the Club – she has been a supporter for a number of years having most recently supported our Oranging the World event both in St Albans and at County Hall, Hertford www.sigbi.org/st-albans/orange21
In the photos below are St Albans Soroptimist Helen Byrne tree planting with the Harpenden Lions at Southdown Ponds and Kate Belinis, President of the Hertford Soroptimist Club tree planing at Hertford Castle. Truly Soroptimists in action!