13 September 2012

New Threat to Garden Wildlife?

Not long after major changes were made to the National Planning Framework to boost ‘sustainable development,’ a new change to encourage further development has been announced. There will be a one-month consultation on allowing homeowners and businesses to be able to build much bigger extensions without planning permission for a three-year period. What do these changes potentially mean for wildlife?

Gardens: Vital habitats for wildlife
“It is widely acknowledged amongst wildlife conservation organisations and others that the UK’s 15 million or so gardens provide important homes for wildlife,” says Froglife’s CEO Kathy Wormald. “Many of the creatures that are declining in the countryside, such as the Common frog, can thrive very well in a domestic garden. Another strong argument that is often put forward for encouraging wildlife gardening is that the patchwork of urban gardens covers a greater area than all the nature reserves in the country, and can therefore enormously increase the provision of wildlife friendly habitats. So how do we square this with the new Permitted Development Rights proposal by the government?”

With the changes to the Planning Framework potentially threatening to speed up development of areas of the countryside and speed up habitat loss and fragmentation, this further suggestion could eat away at vital urban green spaces. If the plans go ahead, full planning permission, currently required for extensions of more than three or four meters from the rear wall of any home, would only be needed for those reaching beyond 8m for detached homes and 6m for others. Although extensions may not go beyond half the size of a garden, if this proposal does go through and substantial numbers of homeowners take advantage of this three year reprieve, we could see a vast reduction in garden sizes - having a direct impact on our native wildlife that have increasing become dependent on these habitats. There are also suggested changes to 106 provision in new developments, which often includes the creation of nature reserves, allotments and planting trees.

“We certainly appreciate the economic difficulties that we are dealing with,” adds Kathy. “However we do not believe that the proposed changes will have a lasting effect on improving the economic situation. It will have a lasting effect on our wildlife; we won’t get these habitats back. Why is it that our natural world is always forgotten in the larger scheme of things? I’m sure that there are better ways to encourage sustainable growth, underpinned by recognizing the value wildlife brings to our lives and our economy.”
Photo: Jules Howard

10 September 2012

What YOU Can Do for Wildlife: Part 9

We’re sharing 12 ideas and tips for wildlife-friendly action in 2012, contributed by Froglife staff and Trustees. This time, it’s a bit of ethical consumption.

Idea Number 9. Watch How You Shop

Can you give a gift to wildilfe when you shop?
“Ethical consumption can be a bit of a contradiction in terms, as many would argue that consumerism plays a crucial part in causing environmental problems,” says Sam Taylor, Communications Coordinator from Froglife. “Every product takes resources to make, so the first step in doing the green thing is asking if you really need to shop. Instead, you could make something, or buy second hand.”

Where to shop?
Choosing where you shop can directly help fund conservation – for example, all profits from the Froglife shop are re-invested in the work of the charity. If you buy something for a friend and chat to them about where you got it from, you also tick off Idea Number 6. Spread the Love! Other wildlife and conservation charities have some really full catalogues too, and often include virtual gifts and sponsorship to fund conservation action.

“Shopping ethically can sometimes seem so confusing that it’s tempting to give up,” adds Sam. “It’s hard to make every purchase 100% green. But just taking a moment to wonder if the money you spend can benefit anyone else makes a difference, particularly when times are hard and each penny counts so much more.”

If you shop online, setting up a Give as You Live account and downloading their app means that stores in the scheme can donate on your behalf with every purchase. Lots of stores are signed up, including Amazon, John Lewis, B&Q and Sainsbury’s. If you pick Froglife as your charity, we can benefit from a percentage of your total spend, at no cost to you.

A Frog-friendly Cuppa
“Shopping for everyday products with a view of selecting them based on environmental credentials could be a big step forward,” adds Froglife’s Conservation Coordinator Silviu Petrovan. “Coffee production, for instance, is one of the most important drivers of deforestation in Central America, damaging crucial habitat for amphibians and reptiles, including large illegal tree cutting inside national parks. This trade involves billions of pounds annually but the people on the ground, cultivating and harvesting the coffee beans are often suffering from abject poverty. A FairTrade registered product would ensure that your money does not fund more illegal deforestation in some of the most biodiverse areas in the world to fuel the profits of a small number of greedy individuals and companies. The Rainforest Alliance logo on the coffee and tea products also means that the company adhere to environmental requirements such as the production of “shade coffee” for instance where a proportion of the trees are maintained inside the plantation.”

In the Garden
Shopping for your garden can have a direct impact on wildlife, and there are a few things to watch out for including chemical based pesticides and fertilizers, slug pellets, preformed ponds with steep sides, miles of paving, impenetrable fences and other things that could potentially poison or injure frogs, toads and other animals. The Save the Frogs campaign has some really useful advice and a lot of the advice given on the Hedgehog Street project is also relevant, as mentioned in last month’s What You Can Do Croak.

Where Did it Come From?
Thinking about where things come from before they reach the shop can also help minimise your impact on wildlife. Local, handmade, recycled, organic or simply good quality products that last longer can also help green your shopping basket.

Good luck with your choices, and do keep us posted on how you get on.

Ethical Consumer magazine and website has in depth guides on all sorts of products, and there are schemes by the Soil Association, the Rainforest Alliance and the Forestry Stewardship Council that can help inform your decisions.
You can find the Froglife shop on our website here.
Share your experiences and product ideas on Froglife’s Facebook page here.