Named: two new forests for Britain

After an overwhelming response from readers, Bristol and the Shetland Islands win our new woodlands
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The Independent Online

The Independent on Sunday's forest competition has been won by the city of Bristol and the Shetland Isles.

We have been overwhelmed with responses to our campaign to re-forest Britain and have received hundreds of letters and e-mails from people voting for one of the five shortlisted sites.

Shetland and Bristol will now get substantial new woodlands paid for by the Independent on Sunday and specially designed to offset the amount of carbon dioxide produced by this paper in a year.

So popular has our initiative been that several major companies have been in touch with us and are looking to follow suit by planting woodlands of their own.

The two Independent on Sunday forests will be even bigger than we originally planned: in addition to the 750 trees we promised - to offset our own carbon dioxide emissions - readers have contributed hundreds more. Each site will have at least 1,000 saplings.

The decision to split the forest came after the panel of judges agreed that both Bristol and Shetland had unique claims to the woodlands. Shetland has been almost bereft of trees since the end of the last Ice Age, some 4,500 years ago. Bristol, on the other hand, has long suffered from the cumulative effects of pollution from local industry and heavy traffic.

The panel was made up of Dan Morrell, founder of the environmental task force Future Forests, John Meehan, project director of Thames Chase Community Forest in Essex, singer and songwriter Neil Tennant, and the editor of the Independent on Sunday Janet Street-Porter.

The Independent on Sunday forest campaign was launched in February when we teamed up with our planting partners Future Forests. We decided that planting trees, the "lungs" of our planet, would make a small contribution towards the reduction of the amount of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases believed to be most responsible for global warming. Trees convert the gas back into harmless carbon and oxygen.

The woods are planted on a scientific basis: through the process of photosynthesis, the trees will absorb carbon dioxide. Every four trees are enough to offset the amount of carbon dioxide that the average person emits in a 12-month period. Many of our letters - and not just those for the winning sites - have been extremely moving. We have had Druids praying for sites while others have asked for different woods to be named in memory of local people.

But there is some consolation for those who were not successful. Future Forests will set up a feasibility study for every site that has been suggested, so not only we will have planted our own forests but we hope to have inspired hundreds of others to follow a similar path.

We have also been contacted by several companies looking to follow our own action and investigate the possibility of planting their own trees.

Among them are Orange, the mobile phone company, which plans to plant a sapling for every discarded handset customers hand in to them, and Hydro Polymers, a major PVC manufacturer in Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham. The Post Office, a number of financial services companies, car manufacturers and even restaurants have been also been in touch.

Several companies are already some way down the line. Imagination, the design company producers, are "carbon neutral"; last year they made the Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham carbon neutral. Avis is another "carbon neutral" company, and all cars sold by Mazda come with an option of a carbon offset, whereby Mazda will plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide produced by the first year's driving of the vehicle.