Nature Wise

A Capital garden: how a steel company is taking action for nature

How have you decided to take action?

The creation of a biodiversity and wellbeing garden, designed to acknowledge the lengthy industrial heritage of the site and also to restore the area to a bio-productive space; introducing nesting boxes, bee hives, planters filled with pollinator friendly flowers, two ponds and a canopy with a green roof.

We see the garden as a multi-faceted tool for sustainability, it:

  • Gives nature a place to thrive
  • Is part of a wildlife corridor on site
  • Offers a real-world example of nature alongside industry
  • Is a mechanism for training
  • A clear embodiment of our sustainability aspirations
  • An inspiration for other businesses

How did you get started?

The inspiration for the garden was provided by the space itself (the Victorian walls presented an opportunity to conceive the area differently); the book ‘Islands of abandonment’ (Cal Flynn)  made me think about how places can revert to their previous states; and finally desire to do something positive and meaningful that would have internal and external benefits.

Advice came from lots of quarters; social projects Project Nestbox and the Sirhowy Bee Company, and also from gardeners within our team, alongside friends and family. We have also never stopped listening to ideas and are currently working on an edible gardening journey to share crops with our staff. 

What is a key challenge that you have faced?

The challenges came from the environment within which the garden is sited and also creating the ‘right’ balance between core business activities and maintenance. Would the bees thrive? Which plants are hardy, low maintenance and good for biodiversity? Can we allocate sufficient resource within weather windows? (we are after all, a steel company and not a botanical garden, so there is only so much time we can devote to the garden itself).  However the latter point is almost moot – where there’s a will there’s a way.

What benefits have you seen?

The benefits have been significant:

On the environment – we have returned life to a formerly barren area. The space is now full of flora and fauna, most obviously flowers, shrubs, birds, bees, insects and amphibians.  

On the workforce – I can’t think of a better project that’s communicated the values of sustainability and the importance of biodiversity, from materials re-use to eco-systems.

On the organisation – it has been a real success in convincing the outside world that we listen, think, plan and act on sustainability. This has manifested itself in improved relations with key stakeholders and customers. Banks in particular, value organisations who take their responsibilities seriously.

Do you have any words of advice for those starting their biodiversity journey?

The big takeaway from our project is no matter what resources you have – or don’t have – at your disposal, do what you can with what you’ve got. Any area can be used, waste can be upcycled. Imagination and commitment are more important than financial resources.

Capital Coated Steel is a processor of pre-finished steels and metals, offering slitting, decoiling, profiling and shearing services. A Welsh owned company established in 1972, Capital serves multiple markets including building envelope, domestic appliance, cold rooms and general manufacturing. At Capital we believe in long-term relationships, looking after our customers, supporting staff, contributing to the local community and taking our sustainability responsibilities seriously.

Not sure where to start on your own biodiversity journey? Check out our Nature Wise course to learn about the links between human activity and ecosystem disruption. Our eco-literacy training will help you develop the knowledge to enable you and your organisation to take action for nature recovery.

A Capital garden: how a steel company is taking action for nature Read More »

How does my job relate to nature?

Why holding a space for nature-connection is my dream job

Our Sustainability Trainer Sara Wynne-Pari discusses her sustainability journey.

Growing up in rural North Wales has greatly influenced my love for nature and my dedication to protecting the natural environment. Although I’ve worked across a wide variety of disciplines, nature and biodiversity have been a constant underlying theme. I enjoy helping others on their sustainability journey and being a good environmental communicator, able to understand and tailor discussions to individual needs, has been integral to my work.

This passion for both nature and communication has led me to be the lead trainer and project manager for  Nature Wise, our eco-literacy training programme. I also develop content and deliver bespoke nature-based training to help organisations improve their understanding of the nature crisis and recognise ways they can take action to reverse it. 

I’m currently studying an IEMA-accredited MSc in Environmental and Business Management at Bangor University. Although I was nervous to return to education two decades after my bachelor’s degree, I have found the experience re-energising. It is rewarding to develop my own knowledge but also great to be able to apply all the experience and insights I have gained to what I’m learning.

When I’m not working, you’ll find me exploring the beaches of Ynys Mon, waiting for the cuckoo’s return to Nant Ffrancon, looking for new swimming spots or riding my electric bike through Eryri (Snowdonia). Delivering the NatureWise course has given me an even deeper respect and connection to nature and I feel very lucky to be able to hold a space for others to explore this through the course.  

Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help participants understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provides the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

We can’t live without nature — it provides us with the essentials for life, such as clean air, water, and food, and greatly contributes to our physical and mental wellbeing. It is our best ally in the fight against climate change. 

There’s a way we can all incorporate nature into our work – of course planting trees and volunteering outdoors is important but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There are lots of other ways we can help, for example, you could become a nature champion at work, sharing tips and ideas with your colleagues; encouraging your organisation to incorporate wildlife corridors and pollinating plants around your business sites or incorporating biodiversity considerations into your procurement process. 

Unsure of how you can implement any of that in your role? Worried you don’t have the right influence, or can’t figure out the steps to getting there?

Join us for the Nature Wise eco-literacy course! We will provide you with information, ideas and inspiration. We also offer bespoke courses for any organisations who would like more tailored content.

Sara Wynne-Pari is one of our Sustainability Trainers. She leads Nature Wise eco-literacy training, regularly running Nature Wise for Work which helps you understand your human-nature relationship as it fits in with your job role, and how you can improve your work’s relationship to nature via achievable goals.

How does my job relate to nature? Read More »

Nature Wise for business – ‘Give it a go, because the clock is ticking’

Tell us about Orangebox and your role 

We design and manufacture office furniture and the company is sustainability-led. Our HQ and two factories are in south-east Wales, and three years ago we were bought out by Steelcase, a big American company. 

I joined as a furniture designer around 20 years ago, but just over a year ago I became Head of Sustainability. I’m interested in minimising our carbon footprint and I also look after our energy efficiency. 

Why is nature important to you and the businesses? 

I do a lot of cycling, I’m a keen birdwatcher and part of a conservation group. So I’m passionate about biodiversity and I’m helping Orangebox acknowledge that climate change isn’t the only big risk.  

Part of the Orangebox team volunteering at the Stump up for Trees nursery outside of Abergavenny.

How important is nature in your sector? 

Increasingly so, but we are at the first rungs on the ladder. Orangebox prides itself on being environmentally-led, but it’s always felt like we’ve been pushing. Now customers are asking how they can reduce their carbon footprint. The biodiversity and nature discussion is nowhere near as mature, but as we see more media exposure of biodiversity loss that will increase exponentially in the next 5 years.  

What do you think are the best things about nature in Wales?  

It’s the variety. I love where I live because in half an hour I can be on top of a mountain, on a cliff looking out to sea, or at Newport wetlands surrounded by thousands of starlings. 

I work in a design studio on the banks of the Taff, where I’m lucky to look onto woodland. Every time we see a species of bird we print out a picture and put it on the wall. You won’t believe how many species we’ve seen!  

Why did you choose to do Nature Wise? 

The minute I saw it, I wanted to deepen my knowledge of how ecosystems work and get a better understanding of biodiversity loss. Because I’m with Cardiff Conservation Volunteers my course was essentially free, as it was funded by GWR. 

Volunteering at Stump up for Trees.

How was the course? 

I really enjoyed it. The trainers knew the content and had passion for it, and it was just the right level in terms of complexity. 

What changes are you making, following the course? 

Personally, I’ve pledged to do more in my village and have been talking to my neighbours. But more impactful will be how I can help at Orangebox. We’re thinking harder about the materials we use and where they come from. For example, we use a lot of wood, and while that is low impact compared to plastics and metals, we still have to buy most of it from abroad. So we’re working hard on developing partnerships that allow us to source wood from well-managed forests in the UK.  

Litter Gareth collected from a local stream.

What would you say to others about why they should sign up for Nature Wise? 

Give it a go, because the clock is ticking.  


Nabod Natur – Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help individuals to understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

Nature Wise for business – ‘Give it a go, because the clock is ticking’ Read More »

'It's important for people to disconnect from work and get out in nature' Julie Longton, Associate Director (Grasshopper Communications)

Nature Wise for Business – ‘being outside and close to nature is crucial for wellbeing’

What is your job at Grasshopper Communications?

I’m a communications professional at Grasshopper, a communications agency with an office in Cardiff. Our work is all about social value, we create campaigns that change attitudes and actions in positive, lasting ways. We partner with like-minded organisations, such as renewable energy companies, environment agencies and local and Welsh Government, supporting campaigns on active travel, regeneration, net zero and conservation.  

What are the best things about nature for you? 

I work remotely and I’m usually in front of my laptop, so it’s critical I spend any free time out by the beach, or in the woods walking with my kids and spotting birds and beetles. 

I want to bring my children up so that they’re really fond of nature. Our local beach, Maenporth (near Falmouth), has lots of craggy rocks and little tunnels which kids love. We can go whatever the weather – they just love it! 

How important is nature to your sector? 

I think that for communications – for most industries – people have realised that the environment is important for staff wellbeing. The pandemic was a bit of a turning point, when we realised that we need human connection but also that being outside and close to nature is crucial for wellbeing.  

Why is nature important to you and the business? 

Personally, being closer to nature was part of the motivation for moving with my family from London to Cornwall. I wanted my children to be close to the woods and the beach, to have more work-life balance and be closer to wildlife.  

As for Grasshopper, wellbeing is a real focus for us – it’s part of our culture. It’s important for people to disconnect from work and get out in nature. In fact, this year we’re hopefully starting some team voluntary work to support a local conservation charity.  

Grasshopper Communications team on a wellbeing day.

Why did you do the Nature Wise course? 

I was keen to do it because at the time I was putting together a communications strategy for a project for Natural Resources Wales, called Natur Am Byth. The aim is to bring people closer to nature and protect endangered species. So Nature Wise was really helpful for that role, particularly for the work I was doing on how to inspire people. 

How did you find the course? 

I thought it was brilliant. The trainers were really good and it really was a two-way course with lots of discussion. Doing it over two days meant you could go away and digest it before coming back to the next phase. 

What would you say to others about doing Nature Wise?  

Go for it! Whether you’re a junior member of staff or a senior manager, it’s relevant for anyone with an interest in the environment who wants to take a more active role. 


Nabod Natur – Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help individuals to understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

Nature Wise for Business – ‘being outside and close to nature is crucial for wellbeing’ Read More »

Save our Wild Isles

The experience was organised by WWF Cymru, RSPB Cymru and National Trust Cymru together with experts from the Open University that brought to life the Save Our Wild Isles campaign and television series, demanding an immediate halt to the destruction of nature here in the UK and urgent action for its recovery.

The event outlined the challenges facing us and how everyone has a part to play in supporting this recovery – something Sylvia and Jason know first-hand from their experience teaching Cynnal Cymru’s Nature Wise | Nabod Natur course. It brought together nature ambassadors advocating on behalf of our precious grasslands, freshwater areas, woodlands and oceans in a combination of film screenings, panel discussions and interpretation boards, all accompanied by a delicious sustainable vegan meal provided by local caterers Wild Thing Cardiff.

This fantastic opportunity to network and share experiences with others working in the sustainability sector did, however, make clear just how much work still needs to be done. The statistics are deeply worrying: 30 million birds have vanished from our skies over the last 50 years and as many as 1 in 6 species is at risk of extinction here in Wales. And this is something humanity has caused: in the words of Sir David Attenborough, “this starts and ends with us”.

But all is not lost – part of the event was to promote the People’s Plan for Nature created by thousands of people across the UK in an inclusive participatory process calling for “urgent, immediate action from everyone to protect and restore nature for future generations”. The Plan is an ambitious vision which aims to bring the nature crisis and nature conservation to the forefront of decision making while maintaining the delicate balance between human and non-human needs. Add your voice now to the People’s Plan for Nature and make it too big to ignore any longer.

Save our Wild Isles Read More »

Nature Wise for Business – Working in harmony with nature

What is your role at Arup?

My focus is on two projects with Welsh Water, helping them maintain and improve sewer systems. My job includes sending out survey crews and coming up with ways to make sure the system works properly.

Is there anything you think is particularly special about nature in Wales?

I grew up in west Wales and we have fantastic beaches there – one of my favourite spots is Tresaith (in Ceredigion). I love seeing birds, seals and dolphins. Since moving to the valleys I really appreciate the waterfalls and forests, and I like walking at Garwnant (in the Brecon Beacons, near Merthyr Tydfil).

Why did you take the Nature Wise course?

I was interested because I saw it as an opportunity to link my work with my interest in nature. I like spending time outdoors, doing walking and cycling in the Brecon Beacons, so I often think about how to improve the environment.

How useful did you find the course?

It was very helpful to focus on what you can do as an individual, how I can think in a more eco-friendly way and talk to others about preserving nature for future generations. I really liked hearing success stories like the recovery of the red kite.

Why should someone do Nature Wise?

It’s great for beginners, as it explains why it’s important to look after the natural environment, sets out the problem and lays out solutions. For those with more knowledge it’s a refresher. We need policy makers to have these attitudes embedded.

What have you been doing to help nature since doing the course?

Arup’s very good at considering the impact of its actions, but I have presented what I learnt to my colleagues and that’s been a useful reminder.

Personally, I’ve been working on my garden and had been planning to dig up the tree stumps. I’ve now realised they’re a vital habitat that’s being lost. I’ve explained this to my children – it’s a good teaching opportunity! Another thing in my plan is to try to have more native plants.

What about the future?

I hope construction will use more nature-based solutions, like using wetlands. And I hope that will filter through into the general population and people will realise how important nature is, and have more of a connection.

What is your message to other engineers?

I’d say that the more we involve nature in solutions, the more durable that project will be. So let’s work with nature rather than fight against it!


Nabod Natur – Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help individuals to understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

Nature Wise for Business – Working in harmony with nature Read More »

Nature Wise – Actions for all Seasons

SPRING is a good time for…

Spotting migratory birds – seasonal nature spectacles are highlighted by North Wales Wildlife Trust

Attaching a bell to cat collars to alert fledgelings and other baby animals


20 – 31 March

Getting active during the Sustrans Big Walk & Wheel Week 

24 – 30 April

Taking part in Wales Outdoor Learning Week (Natural Resources Wales)

No Mow May

Supporting our pollinators by leaving your mower in the shed (Plantlife)

3 May

Celebrating nature’s symphony by taking part in International Dawn Chorus Day (Wildlife Trusts)

1 – 7 May

Supporting our Hedgehog population during Hedgehog Awareness Week.

March – August

Looking after nesting birds in your garden (House Beautiful)

Getting outside and connecting with nature during Wales Nature Week (Biodiversity Wales)

SUMMER is a good time for…

Making sure there is a water source for wildlife – bird bath, pond, even an old saucer in the garden

Make space for nature and reverse nature loss. (Scotland’s Nature Agency)

Getting fit and healthy whilst enjoying the sunshine by making cycling or walking a part of your everyday routine (Sustrans)

Cleaning up your local area and discovering your local Litter Picking Hub (Keep Wales Tidy / Caru Cymru)


19 – 25 June

Celebrating all the little things that run the world during National Insect Week (Royal Entomological society)

14 July

Helping to assess the health of our environment by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count (Butterfly Conservation)

22 – 30 July

Getting outside and connecting with nature during Wales Nature Week (Biodiversity Wales)

AUTUMN is a good time for…

Allowing vegetation to dieback naturally, mowing less, and leaving seedheads for birds to feed on

Gathering leaves, hollow sticks, bark, dried grass and moss to build a bug hotel (Woodland Trust)

Planting bulbs (Gardeners World)

Creating a mini pond (RSPB)

Harvesting wildflower seeds ready for next year (Kew Grow Wild)


15 – 24 September

Organising or getting involved in a local beach clean Great British Beach Clean

September – October

Sowing wildlife- friendly flowers (RSPB)

October

Checking bonfires for hibernating animals such as hedgehogs, toads and animals. (British Hedgehog Preservation Society)

November to March

Planting a tree! Follow the guide from the Woodland Trust

WINTER is a good time for…

Ensuring you provide water and high-energy food for your garden birds (RSPB)

Taking care of your compost heaps – always check for hibernating wildlife before turning! (Wildlife Trusts)


25 November – 3 December

Join the conservation sector and volunteer groups during National Tree Week to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of tree planting season (The Tree Council)

January – April

Helping the local toad population cross the road by volunteering with your local Toad Patrol

Additional links

Natures Calendar (Wales Biodiversity Partnership)

RSPB’s Actions for nature seasonal calendar

Monthly guide to nature (RSPB)

Butterflies (North Wales Wildlife Trust)  

10 Ways to Help Hedgehogs (BBC Gardeners World Magazine)

Citizen Science for biodiversity | NatureScot

Nature Wise – Actions for all Seasons Read More »

CoP15: a landmark agreement for nature

Last month the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James attended the latest Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada. A statement was released by the Minister in support of the “30×30” targets. The Minister stated: “For Wales, one of the world’s most nature-depleted nations a “drastic acceleration of action” will be needed to reach these targets by 2030.” She also declared her ambition for “Wales to be a global leader of change ensuring good environmental status for 30% of our ecosystems by 2030.” 

“Biodiversity is interconnected, intertwined, and indivisible with human life on Earth. Our societies and our economies depend on healthy and functioning ecosystems. There is no sustainable development without biodiversity. There can be no stable climate without biodiversity.”   (UNDP)  

We all have a role to play and if you are keen to learn more about what you or your organisation can do to help tackle the nature emergency we invite you to attend our online ecoliteracy course, Nabod Natur – Nature Wise. This course will teach you about how the natural environment works, the threats it faces, and how we can all help nature thrive.  

We currently have a number of online courses available and there are free places for Cynnal Cymru members or town and community councils and voluntary organisations working within specific locations. 

Interested in reading more about the conference and agreed targets? Follow the links below: 

Interested in claiming your free member space? Contact membership@cynnalcymru.com.

This post was written by Sara Wynne-Pari, Training and Development Officer.

CoP15: a landmark agreement for nature Read More »

Four ways Welsh businesses can tackle climate change

As COP26 comes to a close, many of us will be wondering what more we can do to tackle climate change.

As well as being the forum for governments to debate the way forward, it’s sparked wider discussions on the changes we all need to make.

Governments alone won’t solve the problem. Companies have a huge role to play too. Many businesses in Wales have already pledged action as part of the All Wales Plan to reach net zero or the UK Business Climate Hub (which also has useful tips on cutting emissions). Others have also added their voices to the Climate Cymru campaign, which is calling for strong commitments from government.

So what can your business do right now to make a difference? Whether you run a snack bar, solicitor’s or a steel plant, here are some key ways you can take action.

1. Tackle your energy use

At 29% of Wales’ emissions, our energy supply pumps out more greenhouse gases than any other sector – higher than transport or agriculture.

Fortunately, there’s plenty your business can do.

Switching to a green tariff will support renewables, but how about cutting how much energy you use too?

A survey by the Carbon Trust shows that 80% of SMEs in the UK are taking action on energy efficiency, with installation of LED lighting the most popular measure.

According to Business Wales, heating accounts for about half the energy used in offices. It also provides a guide to saving energy, starting with checking the building is insulated as thoroughly as possible.

One business that’s taken action on energy is Cardiff restaurant Kindle, which has installed sheep’s wool insulation and sensor controlled lighting.

2. Train your staff to be ‘Carbon Literate’

Cutting your emissions isn’t always easy.  This is where Carbon Literacy training comes in.

The course helps learners understand how climate change will affect them, and develop knowledge and skills to lower their carbon footprint.

One Welsh business that’s already benefitted is the country’s largest motor retail group, Sinclair Group. Nine senior representatives from the company recently took part, building on the firm’s existing work to cut emissions such as installing solar panels and switching to renewable energy providers.

Since doing the training, the managers have made a pledge, including giving customers access to electric courtesy cars and investing in ethical pension funds.

If you’re interested in getting your staff certified in carbon literacy, then check out our courses!

3. Protect and restore nature

We’re facing a nature crisis – one in six species in Wales is at risk of extinction – yet nature holds many of the solutions to global heating.

For example, trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and lock it up for centuries. According to the Woodland Trust, a young wood with mixed native species can lock up 400+ tonnes of carbon per hectare.

Peatlands are another important carbon sink. Globally, they store more than double the amount of carbon than the world’s forests. Draining and digging peat up to use as garden compost however causes  it to break down with time, releasing the stored carbon dioxide and methane.

One example of a firm taking action is Cardiff-based Orchard Media & Events Group, which has partnered with Coed Hills Rural Artspace, to create its own ‘Orchard’ within the existing eco-friendly community.

Your business can help too. Perhaps you can seek advice on how to create, protect or restore habitats on any land you own or manage, or switch to using or promoting peat-free compost? The Nature Wise toolkit is a great place to start.

By signing up for our Nature Wise programme, you and your staff can learn more and get support with developing your own nature action plan.

4. Pay the real Living Wage

Making the shift to low carbon will mean some big changes, and it’s important that this change is fair to everyone, including those in high emitting industries or on low pay.

One thing your business can do is sign up to be a real Living Wage employer. Earning a real Living Wage helps people to make choices – with the food they buy, the gas and energy they use. This helps people to participate in being part of the solution to tackling climate change – mentally, physically and economically.

Ready to act?

Have these ideas inspired you to do more in your business to tackle climate change?

We’re here to help turn your sustainability aims into action, providing advice, training and connections – so please get in touch if you’re ready to take the next step.

Four ways Welsh businesses can tackle climate change Read More »

Nature Wise Open Course

Nature Wise

Eco Literacy

Learn about the links between human activity and ecosystem disruption and develop the knowledge to enable you and your organisation to take action for nature recovery.

Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help participants understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

The course

Duration

Two sessions in one week
4.5 hours total

Facilitated Sessions

Tuesday
Thursday

Self Directed Learning

Optional
further learning

Certification

Subject to completion
of the course

Learning Outcomes

During the course you will learn about:

Who is this Course for?

Individuals will learn about the links between human activity and ecosystem disruption and develop the knowledge to enable action for nature recovery.

This course is available to any member of a voluntary organisation or community group in Wales (staff and volunteers). We are particularly keen to hear from non-environmental organisations.

Planning for a Successful Learning Experience

You will need access to computer with the internet to attend and participate in the online facilitated sessions.

This is an interactive course where you will be encouraged to participate verbally or in the chat messaging box.

The course includes two virtual sessions with your course-tutor(s) and fellow students. These sessions are essential to achieving your certification as well as providing a valuable opportunity to reflect on your learning and explore each topic in more depth.

To participate in the online facilitated sessions you will need access to a computer or tablet with a mic and camera as well as access to Zoom video conferencing or Microsoft Teams.

Checklist

Course Tutors

Clare Sain-Ley-Berry

Policy and Development Manager

Clare is an experienced trainer and facilitator and has been delivering Nature Wise since its inception. She has a background in delivering partnership projects for the natural environment and sustainable resource use and enjoys facilitating collaboration.

Rhodri Thomas

Principal Consultant

Rhodri co-ordinates and develops advice and training with a focus on integrated management and reporting, Environmental Management Systems and ‘Carbon Literacy’.

You can explore the course below, and see what content is featured.

Nature Wise Open Course Read More »

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