I first presented my thoughts to the TVAM committee at the end of 2020 on how we as motorcyclists could mitigate our carbon footprint and adopt a more socially and environmentally responsible position. The thinking centred around protecting and preserving our freedoms as a bunch of enthusiastic motorcycle riders who could be seen by the public as generating unwanted carbon emissions in the pursuit of our skills training and social riding. The proposal debated, centred around both offsetting our carbon footprint whilst also improving the local environment and amenity levels by planting trees across the region where we all live and take our outdoor recreation.

One of the key things we agreed early on was that we would not go to the full membership with any form of mandatory levy. Given that the club membership fee should be spent on existing activities, we settled on a way that members could make separate voluntary donations to ‘offset’ their own personal motorcycle miles.

Three key activities quickly followed:

  1. The publication of an article in Slipstream (to introduce the idea and raise awareness) – see January 2021 article.
  2. The January 2021 AGM highlighted the initiative and gave a brief summary to members.
  3. A TVAM web shop page was created with the opportunity for members to make voluntary donations to offset their own choice of annual mileage.*

The Slipstream article was generally positively reviewed with lots of messages of support gratefully received. Within a few short months we had donations covering approximately a third of what we expected to need as our annual budget. It still remains my personal long-term vison to find a way to ‘plant a tree on behalf of every member  each year’, with initial estimates suggesting this would move us towards achieving carbon neutrality within 5 years, however this is not club policy and is running as purely a member driven voluntary initiative.

We have had a number of challenges to deal with in the last few months

  • Validating the realistic range of modern motorcycle emissions
  • Quantifying the clubs ‘Carbon Footprint’ into a justifiable estimate
  • Navigating the various restrictions, imposed on charities, regarding fund raising for none-core activity and how to spend or pass on the donations raised to a targeted charitable trust.
  • Searching and selecting a suitable partner organisation with the correct charitable aims and expertise to ensure that we deliver successful and sustainable results on behalf of our donors.

Where are we today and what are the next steps ?

After a search of suitable organisations to partner with we were now looking to engage with ‘TOE’ (Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment). They meet all of our key criteria:-

  • Operational across TVAM’s catchment/activity area
  • Expertise and track record of delivering similar woodland projects throughout the Thames Valley region
  • Willingness to partner with TVAM and work in collaboration
  • Able to correctly handle & track any funds donated by TVAM members
  • Following the ‘Woodland Carbon Code’ and as such able to track & report verifiable performance metrics on any carbon offset achieved

The immediate activity underway is to draw up a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) to outline roles and expectations on both side. Then we will move into a more detailed planning phase.

carbon footprint

Short Term Objectives

It is our aim to carry out a pilot phase of tree planting as a demonstration to TVAM members how their donations, for carbon offset, will be used and to develop the most appropriate approach to achieving a successful, sustainable outcome. It is clear without expertise on choosing sites, correct bio-diversity species choice and management experience that many such projects can fail with many saplings never reaching maturity.

Tree planting is seasonal and best done, as in nature, during Q4-Q1, we aim to have a suitable site identified and a detailed plan in place by the end of Q3-2021.  

Once we have our MoU in place, I would like to pull together a small team to help drive this forwards, I will get back in touch with those that have already kindly put their names forward to help. If you feel motivated to support the initiative in any way (big or small) please drop me a line by email winstnig@outlook.com with your contact details so that I can get in touch.        

Nigel Winstanley

First published in Slipstream August 2021