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Sustainable Development: Meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs

Sounds like a fairly sensible statement? The majority of us would agree with this sentiment but in practice making the changes to the way we live today to achieve this requires a great deal of commitment and very often a financial penalty.

The Forestry Commission has started to look at the way it operates and has made the commitment to improve our environmental performance and aim to be as sustainable as we can in all our operations.

Forestry and Sustainability

Our business is forests and the trees that grow there can be a valuable tool in helping combat climate change. This is a problem that is recognised by the government as the most serious threat to sustainability that we face today.

Over its lifetime, a tree can ‘lock away’ several tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to reduce the effect this gas can have on the long-term climate. With over 60000 hectares of forest growing several tens of millions of trees, the forests of Northeast England are an important long-term carbon store.

Woodfuel boiler.Even felled trees can help reduce the carbon footprint of our modern way of living. By substituting wood in place of steel and plastic, the amount of energy used making the product can be greatly reduced.

Wood can also be used as a ‘carbon-lean’ fuel. In 2004, a wood chip fired district heating system was installed at Kielder to heat a number of buildings, including the local primary school and Kielder Castle. The wood chips are all sourced locally from the surrounding forest.

On a larger scale, roundwood and wood residue from Kielder Forest has formed part of the 300000 tonnes required annually by UK’s first wood fired power station run by SEMBCORP Utilities on Teesside.

How we conduct our business

All the Forestry Commission woodlands in North England, like the rest of the UK, have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) as sustainably managed.

To achieve this certification, the management of the forests has to meet a set of rigid social, economic and environmental criteria. When buying timber for your home or business, look out for the FSC mark that assures you the timber has come from a sustainably managed forest.

Solar powered toll machineWe are also committed to reducing the amount of energy and resources we use to conduct our business. In the longer term, new development will reflect the highest environmental standards.

Currently, we are taking steps where possible to reduce our impact. This has included replacing hydraulic oil in harvesting machines with biodegradable oil and using vegetable based lubricants for chainsaws. These oils degrade rapidly in the natural environment if any residues are left behind by forestry operations.

In a bid to reduce our 'carbon footprint', a wood-chip boiler has been installed to heat Grizedale Visitor Centre, hydro-electric and wind power have been used to power the art installation 'Skyspace' and a wind turbine and solar panels provide all the power for iconic Kielder Observatory, while at a number of sites, solar powered toll machines have been installed.

Further steps, including using paper from sustainably managed forests in publications and purchasing waymarker discs made from 80% recycled plastic, may all seem small steps, but assessed as part of a wider effort to address sustainability issues within our business, they can help to make a huge difference to reduce the environmental impact of Forestry Commission operations.

The Forestry Commission has obtained IS014001 accreditation of its Environmental Management System. The Forestry Commission's Environmental Policy Statement is available on the internet and displayed at offices and visitor centres.

Last updated: 22nd September 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.