5 things we’ve learned from four years of #LoveYourForest

Imagine this. Tall, fragrant pine trees surround you. Twigs snap under your feet. Birds chirping and leaves rustling are the only sounds you can hear for miles around as you wander deeper and deeper into the forest. Your mind clears and your heart expands. Deep breath. Ahhh that’s nice.  

 Fresh air and secluded woodland walks provide a much-needed break from our busy livesWoodland area makes up 13% of our land in the UK and helps look after our planet, as well as our health. Trees cool the ground and give us shade in the heat and prevent flooding when it rains. They’re home to many species of wild animals, such as deer, boar, fish, rabbits and hedgehogs. Forests are the ideal place to get away from it all and get in touch with nature. 

But if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise! A 33-year-old crisp packet isn’t what you hope to see deep in a forest or woodland trail. And yet, litter lingers amongst the leaves. In fact, litter levels in the UK haven’t dropped in the last 12 years and it’s costing councils a whopping £682 million a year to clear.  

Over four years ago Hubbub branched out to the local community in the Forest of Dean to build on people’s love for the forest and, touch wood, get to the root of this rubbish problem.  

Since then, #LoveYourForest has experimented with art installations, creatures watching over the forest, created the world’s first Litter Shop of Horrorsand even converted a horse box to swap trash for treats.   

In-tree-gued what we’ve learned after all this time? Here’s 5 ways to create a successful anti-litter campaign in a rural area:  

 1) Build on pride in the area 

The Forest of Dean is a beloved place to foresters and visitors alike. Most people we speak to can’t believe anyone would leave litter in such a place of beauty. And the majority of people do want to do the right thing, which is why nearly 1200 vehicles now wear a #LoveYourForest car sticker with pride, a roadside community gallery demonstrates the love people feel towards the forest, and posters and a sculpture targeted at mountain bikers encourage those using the trails to take care of the environment they use for sport 

2) Keep it visual  

Over the years we’ve trialled placing different creatures in the trees at litter hotspots. In 2017 the Communitreesmade from litter and recycled materials, became the faces of the trees, watching over the forest. In 2018, swarms of ‘Litter Critters’, bugs made from litter, were placed in the trees. And in 2019, Litter Creatures, larger animals such as a fish and a deer, were installed. 

The idea originated from the ‘watching eyes theory’, that people are more likely to behave better when they feel they’re being watched, even when nobody is around. However, we found that these were a more effective tool when it comes to having something placed in the forest over a period of time that visualised the impact of litter in a fun way, and made the link between litter and the impact it has on wildlife. 

3) Provide rewards and incentives 

Rewards and incentives are a great way to spark the first conversation with people about litter and give them positive reinforcement for doing the right thing. In 2019 alone, The Trashconverter, our very special horse box, visited 33 community events, 29 scout & guide groups, and 9 schools across the forest, swapping litter for treats. Its eye-catching exterior and lovely array of treats have meant it has become a much-loved and widely recognised part of #LoveYourForest, and this year alone over 1300 people paid a visit to The Trashconverter, resulting in 552 bags of litter being cleared from the forest.   

A car sticker competition encouraged further engagement in the campaign using rewards. For eight weeks during the summer one lucky road-user sporting a #LoveYourForest car sticker would win an enticing prize, such as a day out at a local attraction or vouchers for a local shop. The winners were published in the Forest Review newspaper alongside an article about the campaign, thereby incentivising finding out more about the campaign through the competition.  

4) Educate the next generation  

We’re hearing it everywhere these days: children are our future. One of the most heart-warming things about Love Your Forest has been the impact that it has on the children involved. The forest is full of scouts and guide groups, so a Love Your Forest badge was created. This year 382 children were set the challenge to earn their badge with a range of activities such as carrying out a litter pick either in their community, talk to others in their community about what they have learned, think of some ideas about how to prevent litter and share these with the #LoveYourForest campaign. 

The Love Your Forest school programme offers a range of activities, from a visit from the Trashconverter, to a poster competition, to Litter Creature making workshops. We found that by talking about litter in these more interactive and creative ways, the children have engaged in the issue really positively. One school class even wrote a letter to say how much they enjoyed making the Litter Critters and how it got them thinking about how we treat waste and our environment.  

5) Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration 

Here at Hubbub we’ve found that collaboration is at the heart of creating sustainable solutions to environmental issues, and #LoveYourForest is no exception. The campaign has brought together an engaged and like-minded group of organisations. Regular stakeholder meetings ensure that everyone works together to create a campaign that fits the personality of the area. The campaign has evolved by listening to feedback in the community and addressing concerns and wishes of the local people.   

Pine-ing to do something about litter in your neck of the woods? Here at Hubbub we love to give away our ideas for free, so they can spread far and wide! Create your own #LoveYourForest campaign using our handy inspiration guide which you can download here for free. The guide includes step-by-step instructions and general advice on how to set up your own #LoveYourForest campaign, whether you want to use all of our ideas, or just one or two. We also have tons of posters and templates available to download, please email [email protected] to find out more.