To boldly grow: University of Winchester plants trees in honour of graduating students as part of pledge for a sustainable future

18 Oct 2019

One thousand native trees - including oak, willow, beech and pine - are being planted by the University of Winchester as part of its pledge for a sustainable future in honour of students graduating this week in Winchester Cathedral.

The University has partnered with Rising Forests, an environmental business started by a Winchester second-year undergraduate, to create woodland which will create a habitat for wildlife and help reduce its carbon footprint.

The initiative underlines the University's pioneering work in sustainability and social responsibility, which this year earned it a place in the top 100 universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education 2019 University Impact Rankings and secured the National Union of Students' Responsible Futures accreditation for its commitment to embedding sustainability and social responsibility in its teaching and other activities.

The University is taking radical action to reduce its environmental impact and combat the climate emergency, including pledging to eliminate the use of unnecessary single-use plastic by the end of 2020, becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and opening a zero-waste shop next year.

"We wanted to give our graduates a meaningful gift this year," said Professor Joy Carter CBE, DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester. "These trees are symbolic of how the University has supported students to grow into the successful graduates we see today. The trees will be planted before the end of 2019, allowing them to grow with the graduates into the next phase of their lives. We hope that, as our graduates go out into the world, they will play their part in helping communities and individuals flourish, as future generations face a significantly different world. We can all make a real difference."

Rising Forests is an environmental organisation set up by Shaun Slaymaker, a second-year BA (Hons) Business Management student at Winchester, with support from the University's Inspiring Enterprise project and IncuHive, including office space, mentoring and business advice. It aims to combat global climate warming one tree at a time, working closely with farmers and landowners across the UK to grow woodland and forest areas. Existing planting locations include Cornwall, Norfolk, Snowdonia and Shropshire.

Shaun Slaymaker said: "Tree restoration and reforestation is an effective solution to climate warming, but current plans only see the planting of trees in the millions, which is enough to absorb only the last five minutes of global emissions: we need trillions. Here in the UK we have one of the lowest levels of forest cover throughout Europe equating to around 13 per cent, nowhere near where we need to be to reverse climatic disaster and destruction. We're excited to be working with the University of Winchester on this initiative which will help convert land into valuable forest and woodland areas, essential for carbon sink expansion and biodiversity growth."

The University of Winchester's graduation tree planting initiative came about following feedback from students graduating last year, who suggested that they would prefer to see the University support the environment, rather than receive a goody bag of items they might never use, which could end up in landfill.

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