It’s all about protecting nature for Hampshire-based soldier-turned-tree-surgeon Ross Man, whose firm, FutureArb, is committed to green work practices.

AS a teenage soldier, Ross Man had a head for heights – leaping out of planes while trying to separate warring Turks and Greeks in Cyprus, and a tour of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

But it was perfect training for his current job – as a tree surgeon. He explained: “Getting to the top of a tree is often the best way to sort out any problems. For me, it’s all about helping trees survive rather than destroying them.”

Forestry Journal: Members of the FutureArb team wearing their poppies with pride.Members of the FutureArb team wearing their poppies with pride.

For Ross – a committed environmentalist – protecting wildlife in the trees is very much part of his job. For him it’s crucial that resident bats are protected and that birds and badgers don’t suffer. And, nowadays, he’s putting the preservation of trees at the top of his list. A whip coming off a felled tree can almost always be used to start over again.

“Now it’s my company I can get these things done,” he added.

Ross joined the army as a paratrooper and became a PT instructor before ending up at the prestigious Merrist Wood College where he studied to get his tree surgeon tickets before setting up his three-person business – himself, his wife Lianne and groundsman Neil Saunders. At one point though he had to give up studying when his baby arrived. He said: “It was a bit of a struggle climbing all day, then studying all night with a new baby around. Just for once, trees had to come second.”

Forestry Journal: Ross, Neil and Maisy recycling Christmas trees for donations to North Baddesley Infant School.Ross, Neil and Maisy recycling Christmas trees for donations to North Baddesley Infant School.

Three years ago when he formed his own company in Hampshire, calling it FutureArb, he was determined to make it as green as it could be in practice. Ross explained: “I’m always conscious that we spend an awful lot of our time robbing ourselves of trees and not doing anything about it, and we should. We would be in real trouble without them and that’s not just from me as a tree surgeon. I value them and not just because they bring me work. What would we do without them?”

One of the firm’s green rules is that, where possible, only battery-operated machinery is used but in practice that has its snags because a chipper has an eight-hour charging session, but it only provides enough power for three hours’ work. Ross is thinking of investing in one once the technology improves.

Forestry Journal: Some of the battery-operated equipment that FutureArb uses.Some of the battery-operated equipment that FutureArb uses.

He explained: “Two-strokes put out an awful lot of smoke and we just don’t need it. And nor do the vegetation and the trees. It all helps to reduce our use of carbon and that’s really important nowadays.”

Another advantage is that, in many cases, Ross found that the noise of normal machinery worried customers’ dogs and he just didn’t want to have them blaming him for any distress.

The end result is that, having experienced most current machinery, the final verdict has been to opt for Stihl as the weapon of choice. They come into action during a further green job, which is the annual task of making use of Christmas trees. After the festivities, the trees are collected, chipped and shipped, and the biomass is sold, providing £450 for the library of a local infant school last year.

Forestry Journal: A project to help a sequoia planted by the Queen Mother, which had been suppressed by Monterey pines.A project to help a sequoia planted by the Queen Mother, which had been suppressed by Monterey pines.

More uniquely, this year there was a job of helping a sequoia planted by the Queen Mother which had been suppressed by Monterey pines. Ross said: “It’s all part of making the best of trees and for me we owe them a lot.”

But why the word ‘future’ in the firm’s title? “We were new in a flooded market so instead of the normal ‘just a surname’ we had to find a title that made us stand out. I wanted it to mark us out as being concerned for the next generation. We just try to be more helpful, more green and on top of health and safety. We just wanted to be seen as trying our best. Who wouldn’t be?”

Forestry Journal: Dismantling a birch.Dismantling a birch.

One example is the firm’s policy of offering customers any whips found on the site of a felling exercise.

Ross added: “It means we can offer the client something back – goodwill if you like. We all need a bit of that now and then.”

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