During the national lockdown and with the various regional tier restrictions that followed, it has given us all a bit more time to reflect on our family priorities and key leisure activities. Our normal European bike tours have not been possible, plus overseas holidays cancelled. One outcome for many of us, has been to place a greater emphasis on the UK for riding and ‘stay at home’ holidays. In particular, the local environment of the Thames Valley plus surrounding counties, where many of us walk, ride and cycle to enjoy the outdoors, gaining some much-needed recreation and exercise.

Looking at what we do within TVAM, we essentially ride for pleasure, with skills instruction to aid our enjoyment whilst honing our safe riding skills. Put bluntly, we ride around in big circular routes burning fossil fuel. At this point it’s worth stating, “and long may that personal freedom continue” as I, for one, enjoy this activity immensely. It did however make me consider what we could do to mitigate our own CO2 emissions, aka Carbon Footprint?

After doing some on-line research it seems that a large motorcycle’s CO2 emissions are around 160-200kg of CO2 per 1,000 miles, whilst a healthy mature tree absorbs around 22kg of CO2 per year.

Putting this into context against TVAM activities, I wanted a ‘ballpark’ figure to work with, so if TVAM have ~500 active members on social rides, weekends/trips away, training and track days which on average do 1,200 TVAM specific club miles p.a. that gives a club Carbon 

Footprint of around 100 tonnes of CO2 per annum. This represents a sizeable forest of trees, almost 5,000 in total, which need ~2 hectares of land (20,000 square meters, equivalent to 5 acres).

This stark fact made me realise the size of the challenge faced, in wanting to fully offset our club CO2 emissions, but nothing worth doing comes easy. I then mused on ‘eating the elephant one bite at a time’ if we could just plant a tree for every member – each year for the next 5 years. This would make TVAM the first motorcycle club in the UK (in the world?) moving toward becoming a Carbon Neutral Organisation. But  what would this cost and how to achieve it?

I was pleasantly surprised that funding the purchase of sufficient trees is not the financial issue I had anticipated. Buying in bulk (1,000) Oak saplings 2-3 ft in height (60-90cm) have a cost of less than £1 each. It turns out that the English Oak is one of the best species for fixing the maximum amount CO2 in the UK climate.

My thoughts are to align with an existing Thames Valley Woodland Charity with a similar catchment area to TVAM so that the ‘halo effect’ benefits the local community, helping with our club profile and recruitment; we plant the trees where we live or ride our motorcycles. 

So what do we do – what’s next you ask?

The TVAM Committee have looked at this initiative, making a number of constructive proposals as to how best TVAM can support and implement for 2021 onwards. Namely that this is not mandatory on the membership, it would be funded entirely by additional voluntary contributions collected and donated from the membership. In January we will create a five year carbon neutrality campaign on the website. This will allow members to donate a one-off amount or to set up a recurring annual donation. If you are an income tax payer, we should be able to collect gift aid on this amount.

Volunteers required!

I will be looking to raise a small team to actively drive this initiative forwards, anyone who feels passionately about improving our environment is welcome to get involved. You will be asked to contribute as little or as much as you can spare e.g. become a day volunteer to go out supporting our tree planting activities along with our (yet to be) chosen woodland charity partner, or man an information/donations desk at St Crispin’s. I would stress that this initiative is just at the embryonic start-up stage and it will be up to the volunteer team to create and shape our detailed activity plans. We will be working for and on behalf of all TVAM members, with responsibility to deliver results in a productive and transparent way. Once up and running, we will track our progress against annual targets and report regularly via Slipstream and/or groups.io.

If you have comments, questions, suggestions or feel you can help, please make contact with myself directly winstnig@outlook.com or via the contact box in the web shop area for CO2 Neutrality donations.

Many thanks for your support

Nigel Winstanley

First published in Slipstream January 2021