It began as an idea to get rid of Christmas trees in an ecological way. But as we planned the shredding event more and more possibilities emerged, and when it happened 14 January had turned into a major event. Sustainable Girton had asked the National Trust ‘Black Gold’ project to bring the big shredder. The Black Gold team offered to handle publicity, and thus the event came to the attention of the County Council. We had also invited the Cambridge Carbon Footprint group to join us, and they teamed up with The Energy Saving Trust. It also seemed natural to involve the Master Composters. Unexpected visitors included representatives of HDRA (who initiated the Master Composters programme) and of CCORRN, which has supported Sustainable Girton since our inception. So there was quite a party!
The day began at 9am with the arrival of the shredder which we set up in the corner of the front drive of the school. Matt Vernon from the NT also unloaded a collection of compost bins and a lively wormery, as well as display boards which we set up outside the school doors.
Matt, Jane and Alan chat in front
of the display

How many Master Composters does
it take to assemble a game?
Tony Croft (South Cambs Recycling Officer) arrived with a challenging recycling game; the main challenge being how to erect it properly. By our starting time of 11am we had already had several “customers” and we had a goodly team of helpers (19 in all) to take trees for shredding and to guide people round the exhibition.
Outside we had the composting display and several games for young and not-so-young visitors. By kind permission of the School we also had access to the foyer and hall, and here we had other activities:

  • A competition for the best decoration made with recycled materials, which produced a stunning display.
  • A children’s competition run by Cambridge Carbon Footprint (CCF).
  • A “carbon footprint” survey (also run by CCF) to enable people to assess their own environmental impact. Entrants received a free low-energy light bulb to encourage good habits!
  • A personal presence of “Green Father Christmas” who received unwanted gifts and other items which can be distributed to charity.
  • A visit from “Captain Green” who helps the council recycling projects and was offering two £50 vouchers to the ecologically-aware.

Visitors were delighted
with the competition display

Andy was on hand to calculate your “carbon footprint”(photo © Richard Devanney)
In the early afternoon Councillor John Reynolds dropped in to pose for photos and enthuse about the way the project was going.
Trees arrived by a variety of modes of transport including wheelbarrows and bikes. The shredding went steadily on, and by the end of the day we estimate that we produced 4 tons of shreddings from well over 50 trees. We were very pleased that many people wanted to take their shreddings home with them, and a grateful resident received the remaining ton or so.

Father Christmas had a hard job judging the excellent entries to the children’s competition.

First prize to Rudolph
At the end of the day Santa judged the decorations competition, and decided that the best was a reindeer (perhaps Santa was a little biased here?) made from cardboard with very attractive twig antlers and a red bottle-cap nose. Highly commended were a yogurt-pot angel which showed an appreciation of shapes and textures, and a wonderfully complex decoration including a Santa asking not to be disturbed until next Christmas eve. He also chose two second runners-up. So hearty congratulations to:

  • Alice Duncan (overall winner)
  • Peony Bracey (joint first runner-up)
  • Alexander Pitt (joint first runner-up)
  • Henry Duncan (joint second runner-up)
  • Nathan and Leonie Tancell (joint second runner-up)

Santa also drew the Carbon Footprint raffle, and we congratulate Lucy Bett and Jamie Dunkley on their wins.

The two first runners-up (photos © Richard Devanney)

A large number of items were donated for charity
We had requested a donation of £1 to the School for each tree shredded; in the event we received £100 and we are very grateful to all who gave. The wonderful donations for charity will also raise a great deal more when we deliver them to Oxfam and other charities.
Santa loaded all the donations into his Green Float, for distribution to Oxfam and other charities.
We are very grateful to the School, and in particular to Stuart, the Caretaker, who cheerfully cleared up the mess we made. Our thanks are also due to all the volunteers who joined us to make this such a successful day. To Master Composters Philippa, Stuart, Barbara, Irene, and Alan; to Council members Tony and Victor; and to Kay (CCORRN), Richard (EST), Andy and Ro (CCF) and Jane (HDRA); and not least to Matt (NT) we are hugely grateful. And also to all those people who were already saying: “Now, when you do this next year, …”

All photos © DR de Lacey except as indicated