Silent saws and a hydrogen van: branching into eco-friendly tree surgery

Reece Paterson at work. Picture by Lesley Martin

They work every day in the environment, so it’s fitting that this social enterprise is adopting a very eco-friendly approach as they branch into specialist tree surgery.

Fife-based forestry business Living Solutions are using silent saws and now have a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle that runs for 200 miles with no pollutants for their team of  arborists (or “arbs”).

The registered charity was established in September 2005, initially doing gardening work for a local housing association with a small team of volunteers. This developed to include woodland maintenance work, and a move to an industrial unit in Cowdenbeath in 2010 enabled them to start processing the trees felled into timber to sell or into products such as fencing, decking, or benches.

Conserving the environment now goes hand in hand with a commitment to train around 25 individuals a year and help them into employment.

Paul Cruise, leader at Living Solutions, said: “In recent months, our whole business endeavour has been to tender for tree surgery work, over and above our forestry contracts. Our efforts are coming to fruition and we now have our first golf course contract under our belts.

“We are seeing lively and enthusiastic apprentices coming through the door that show real passion for forestry and that is making a difference.

“To really set us apart, we have put in place a truly eco service with lightweight and silent Pellenc arborist saws with no emissions, and have just taken delivery of a new silent hydrogen vehicle from Bright Green Hydrogen. So we now have real tangible green credentials when we offer our eco-friendly ‘arbs’ service.

“Our collaboration with BGH is a really great one and means we can carry out our work with no noise or emissions near offices, on golf courses and residential homes and built-up areas and that is a real plus. We recently had a team out on the first tee at the Royal Burgess Golfing Society at Barnton, Edinburgh, dealing with overhanging trees – with a very successful outcome.

“We see this hydrogen vehicle project as a highly innovative way to tackle climate change and carbon emissions head on. It really will transform business travel in the future, as well as our environment. And it is great timing for us as we aim to offer a fully green eco-arborist service and is a huge step forward for us.”

The young arbs team, led by Reece Paterson, have taken tree surgery to a new height, using the skills they learned as part of their apprenticeship.

Reece, a former soldier, joined Living Solutions on an apprenticeship scheme in 2016. He started retraining to become a forester and quickly demonstrated talent as an arborist, starring at the Royal Highland Show last year when he scaled a 90-foot pole at speed.

He said: “Moving from the military straight into civilian life was hard at the time, especially finding the right job opportunity and training. Joining Living Solutions has been a real boost. A highlight for me is being able to train other young people and see them make the first steps along their forestry career. It takes a lot of concentration and commitment to gain the necessary skills as an apprentice but it all adds up to a hugely rewarding job in the long run.”

Each year, 16 academy students are taken on by Living Solutions and trained to recognised industry standards. Eight waged training opportunities are then available for academy students to progress into, and young trainees may be kept on for a further period as they complete their apprenticeship.

In the van: (left to right) Graham Dodds, Paul Cruise, and Reece Paterson

The Living Solutions van is an electric-powered Renault Kangoo. The hydrogen, stored in the cabin tank, is fed into the fuel cell and, when it combines with oxygen, the cell produces electricity to power the motor.

By converting the original electric model to a hydrogen-electric hybrid van, the range of the vehicle is doubled to 200 miles. The refuelling process can take place from hydrogen fuel stations, as opposed to electrical charging. This speeds up the process considerably as it is possible to fill the car with the hydrogen gas rather than spending hours on charge.

Bright Green Hydrogen chief executive George Archibald said: “We are delighted to have a local social enterprise like Living Solutions on board. As a community-focused project, this is precisely the sort of customer that we are aspiring to benefit and provide for. This agreement is a great opportunity for them to move forward with their own project development and allows them to adapt green travel into their routine.”

For more information on Living Solutions, go here

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