Ray Parlour and the sweet gum tree

Estimated reading time:4 minutes, 25 seconds

Every tree has a story. To mark World Environment Day 2017 (on 5 June) Arsenal FC and Octopus Energy joined with the United Nations Environment Programme to plant a sweet gum tree outside Emirates Stadium to help tackle air pollution in Islington and demonstrate their commitment to a greener future. Edits from Nicola Baird

Ray Parlour planting the sweetgum tree on Drayton Park: “People who live in cities should never have to be far from trees and greenery, and that’s especially true in a big city like London.” (c) Octopus Energy

Islington may be a fantastic place to live but its air quality sucks. Recent citizen science monitoring by Tufnell Park parents with local Green councillor Caroline Russell found that parts of Islington were three times above the NO2 permitted levels set by the EU. See the article in Islington Gazette here.

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So it’s good news that on Monday June 5 Arsenal FC and their energy partner, Octopus Energy, teamed up with UNEP and planted a sweet gum tree outside the Emirates Stadium on Drayton Park “to demonstrate their commitment to a greener future” (as it says on the press release). It’s a big tree already and looks set to also give an amazing autumn show when it’s leaves will turn red before falling.

Excitingly the official tree planter was Arsenal legend, Ray Parlour, doing his bit for the Arsenal Foundation which inspires and supports young people (via football) in London and across the globe.

Whose idea?
“Challenger energy firm, Octopus Energy, has pledged to plant a tree for every customer who joins them on 5 June. These will be planted in the autumn at schools near Arsenal FC’s stadium as part of the community projects in Islington designed to help improve the air quality in the borough. Air Pollution levels in Islington are up to three times the legal EU limit and Arsenal FC and Octopus Energy are actively setting out to make the borough a more environmentally friendly place to live, work and enjoy.

Arsenal Deputy Stadium Manager Michael Lloyd said: “We are very proud of the work we are doing with Octopus Energy, our first official energy partner. Their promise to plant trees in the local borough highlights the positive actions we can undertake together to contribute to environmental sustainability in the community.”

Screengrab from the UN environment programme instagram account on World Environment Day 2017.

World Environment Day isn’t a big event in the UK – and this year media focus was very much on the horrible events over the weekend at London Bridge and Borough Market. But in other countries it’s a huge occasion with marches, speeches and general eco-bunny partying. Every year World Environment Day is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2017 is Connecting People to Nature with the aim of getting people outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and to think about how we are part of nature and how we depend on it.

Greg Jackson, founder and CEO of Octopus Energy says: “As a father, I care about the air my kids breathe.  The air pollution levels in London are shocking, and at Octopus Energy we are delighted to be investing in improving the local environment by pledging to plant a tree in an inner-city school in the name of every person who joins up with us on World Environment Day. Even more than that, we’ll email them a picture of their actual tree. At Octopus Energy, we are fully committed to a sustainable and environmentally friendly future, and as the UK’s largest investor in solar farms we look forward to demonstrating our continued commitment to a green future in the autumn when we plant trees for our customers.”

Arsenal Legend Ray Parlour, who supports The Arsenal Foundation’s work, attended the tree planting to mark the start of the campaign. Sam Barratt, Chief of Public Advocacy & Communications at the UN Environment Programme; Peter Silverstone, Arsenal’s Business Development Director; Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, Director of Marketing & Product at Octopus Energy; and Simon Pickett, Investment Director at Octopus Investments were also in attendance. (c) Octopus Energy

“World Environment Day should be a really important date for everyone. I am lucky enough to spend lots of my time in clean environments with lots of green space around. But people who live in cities should never have to be far from trees and greenery, and that’s especially true in a big city like London,” said Ray Parlour.

Wise words – Islington Faces is now officially even more of a Ray Parlour fan.

  • Octopus Energy is Arsenal’s Official Energy Partner. It supplies Arsenal with 100% green electricity.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola