Let’s face it, packaging, however essential to many businesses including ours, tends to not have a very eco-friendly profile. Back in 2006, WBC decided to do something about that and after considering lots of options, the one thing we really did not want to do was simply “write a cheque” to a carbon offset organisation. We wanted to do something we could see making a difference and which we controlled.
So after long deliberation, we decided to buy some land and start a tree-planting programme. Land in the UK proved too expensive but after a conversation with our wooden box suppliers in France, we found the perfect plots close to them in the South of France.
WHERE ARE WE PLANTING?
The plots are in South-West France with 10 hectares to the North-West of Bordeaux near Salaunes and 17 hectares South West of Bordeaux, between Salles and Lugos. We own a total of 28 hectares (70 acres). 23.5 hectares have been planted and the other 3.5 hectares are being maintained as natural forest as part of the Natura 2000 project.
When fully grown, it is our understanding that 23.5 hectares of Maritime Pine would sequester in the region of 235 tonnes of CO2. The trees are on average 25% fully grown, so a simplistic view might be that currently, they sequester close to 60 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Whilst this does not sound like a vast amount, it is significantly more than many public limited companies manage annually, so we are rightly proud of this project.
WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED SO FAR?
In 2007, we started planting a tree for every order we received. Throughout the following 4 years, we planted 25,000 trees on 23.5 hectares! That land is now fully planted.
After discussions with the local council, we decided to leave 3.5 hectares as natural forest and it was added to the neighbouring forest as part of the Natura 2000 project which is trying to preserve natural habitats wherever possible.
SO WHAT NOW?
Nothing happens fast in the world of growing trees but the 25cm high saplings have certainly grown!
In 2016, we travelled to Bordeaux to check on progress, the plots are extremely difficult to locate, but with the help of Google maps, we managed to take a close look at all the land we own.
The trees we have planted are now 7-10 years old and they vary in height between 4-10m. The soil they grow in is very important and whilst it is all sand-based, the soil varies significantly in terms of fertility from plot to plot. We have plots planted in the same year and close to each other where the trees are up to 4 metres taller.
In 2010/11 all the plots were “debrushed”. This clears all the self-seeded saplings between the rows of trees to ensure the saplings are not competing with undergrowth and self-sown trees. In 2015/16 the first thinning took place with the smaller weaker trees being removed to give more space for the stronger ones. Nothing goes to waste and the larger thinnings were sold to a local pallet maker with the smaller ones going to the local paper mill. The next thinning will be in 2020/21.
At some point we need to make a longer-term decision, do we work on harvesting at the more traditional 50 years old or opt for a more modern approach of harvesting at 25-30 years old.
Both harvests will yield a similar cubic meterage of timber, but the younger timber tends to be used for paper or wood pellets, 50-year-old trees make good straight timber and tend to be used as timber.
With carbon capture back in the news we are looking at the possibility of acquiring more land to allow us to re-launch the tree planting programme. The success of the “plant a tree with every order over £125.00” and the real progress the trees have made has made us very proud of what we have achieved and we hope we can build on it. Between January 2007 and December 2011 we planted a tree for every customer order over £125, totalling an impressive 20,500 trees. We will let you know once we are in a position to move stage 2 forwards.
If you have any questions about WBC’s Forestry Project or would like any further information about any of the social and sustainability projects we run, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our environmental policy page.