Inspire Education Group’s (IEG) ‘Inspiring Sustainability Group’ was successful in obtaining 420 trees through the Woodland Trust, with over 100 students and staff members gathering to plant the saplings on campus grounds.

In the Association of College’s Climate Action Roadmap for Further Education Colleges, we are reminded that climate change and ecological destruction are the biggest challenges of our time. Colleges have a moral duty to act, and in September 2021, Inspire Education Group’s ‘Inspiring Sustainability Group’ was established, meeting regularly to discuss the necessary actions towards reducing emissions, improving our natural environment and reducing the consumption of resources. Considerable progress has already been made across both campuses, with efforts to meet a suite of Environmental, Carbon Reduction, Green Travel and Sustainability policies (known as the ‘Green Agenda’) seeing Peterborough College achieve an outstanding score of 90% in the Invest in the Environment accreditation in May 2021.

A recent initiative born from this ‘Green Group’ was to get Peterborough and Stamford Colleges involved with National Tree Week, the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. Each year, the public is encouraged to plant trees at the mark of the winter tree planting season, to help address the problem of biodiversity loss and to futureproof the natural environment in response to climate change. The Group applied for a grant through the Woodland Trust, and upon its acceptance, were able to obtain 420 tree and hedgerow saplings. Teaching groups and staff from all faculties were invited to get involved, with over 100 arriving suited and welly-booted to offer a helping hand! Chair of the Green Group and Chief Financial Officer at IEG, Louise Perry, said, “I am delighted to see the enthusiasm and success of our IEG team in embracing opportunities and securing resources from the Woodland Trust that improve IEG’s carbon footprint, and contribute to the objectives of the IEG Green Plan”. Chief Executive Officer, Rachel Nicholls, shared a similar sentiment; “I am so pleased that IEG continues its commitment to the environment and sustainability. It is also fantastic that we are involving a number of student groups and staff in the planting and therefore promoting the importance of looking after our planet and what can be achieved if we all play our part”.

The tree planting project coincides with Stamford and Peterborough Colleges’ decision to not print any course prospectuses for the 2022/2023 academic year. All course information is available on the College websites, but the Group is taking an active responsibility to reduce its paper consumption. As noted by WWF, “in the time it takes to say ‘deforestation’, another chunk of forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed”. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this equates to the loss of a billion acres of the Earth’s forest since 1990. Forest destruction is a crisis for the whole planet; it affects wildlife, ecosystems, weather patterns, and contributes to climate change. With these sobering facts in mind, it’s time we all played our part.