Hot on the heels of Red Bull Hardline, we're proud to announce our second TFT Approved field test collaboration with the Naughty Northumbrian crew. TFT Projects Coordinator Rich Breeden recently spent the day with them and Scott MTB rider Scotty Laughland them to find out what it means to be TFT Approved and why it's so important to them.
The Naughty Northumbrian is often dubbed as the UK's wildest Enduro. That term is open to lots of interpretation but in this case it refers to not only the trails, but the rugged, biodiverse landscape of the Northumberland National Park and the accompanying space - only 2 people per sq kilometre live and work here.
This places an extra responsibility on the Naughty Northumbrian event - a responsibility that sits alongside providing an all-time experience - to make sure it collaborates with those who live and work in this valley, conserve this vitally important space and help those who visit understand why it is so important to do so: it's not always easy to see what is beyond the surface in a species rich area like this.
Finding a way to elevate this ethos in a fun way is a cornerstone of Trash Free Trails - and the Naughty team recognised that TFT Approved could be a huge leap in the right direction for events, the sports image in an increasingly turbulent environment and a fun way of turning burdens of responsibility into exciting, feel-good actions.
When the opportunity to work with us arose, DWAgency Managing Director, Tommy Wilkinson, who is a partner in the event alongside Carl Division and Barry Kemp felt this was a partnership that simply had to happen;
"Riding bikes is just great really; good for the soul and they allow us to access remote areas. Having a parent who farmed in these hills, my first consideration with Naughty Northumbrian has always been how the event impacts those lower down the catchment, wildlife, visitors, those who live here, and how we leave a positive impact. In short, I really care about my home area.
TFT approved feels like an opportunity to build that conversation. That said, we aren't perfect event organisers by any means, there are impacts beyond the average person's control (how people travel here, for example) and we still have lots to work on - there is inevitably still a tension between running a steady ship and falling on our environmental sword, which sucks, but this is a great step in the right direction"
Indeed, most of the wins the event is trialling are easy - Testing 40% of course tape as Hemp tape instead of plastic tape (Something PMBA deserve a nod of thanks for), using solar light towers, ensuring we don't place water infrastructure pressures on the local community by working with Northumbrian Water, sourcing food vendors who use local produce and support good, local farmers, re-using or using recycled materials for signage, working with a refuse company who provide slips of where trash and recyclables go, and making sure no vendors are using single-use plastic are all easy to do. Some things, such as event power provision in a valley where 98% of the buildings are still powered by diesel generators and sourcing compostable toilets that are within a two hour drive, is hard and not possible as yet. The journey is iterative, but the Naughty Northumbrian recognises the need to act as fast as possible.
Trash Free Trails Managing Director, Dom Ferris said; "Set for release in 2022, TFT Approved is a, free to use, self accreditation toolkit that enables event organisers of all shapes and sizes to MASSIVELY reduce the single use product footprint of their events and #LeaveAPositiveTrace on the trails and wild places that host them.
For an event to be considered TFT Approved, it must meet a number of criteria, with gold, silver and bronze accreditation levels providing opportunities for gradual improvement whilst still having something to celebrate.
It's vitally important to us that the TFT Approved Toolkit is as easy and enjoyable for people to use (we know how insanely busy event organisers are!) as possible. So we decided that it was necessary pilot the programme with a select number of events in 2021, in order to 'iron out the creases' so to speak! And, the Naughty Northumbrian was right at the top of our wish list as a pilot event.
Tommy, who lives in Coquetdale, adds;
"Like all riders, we ride to have fun and escape from the day to day stresses of life. However, we also see ourselves as not only doing our tiny part to be more responsible, but also as fun conservators. As new biodiversity and agricultural laws come into place, it's crucially important that we, as mountain bikers, can be seen as useful partners to farmers, land managers and groups who are seeking to improve carbon sequestration, integrate with communities, increase biodiversity and drastically reduce carbon and single use pollution.
Being part of helping TFT develop and pilot their approved event scheme is a key starting point on that journey that can only enhance our experiences in the long term".
The TFT Approved checklist and guide will be available on our website in early 2022, in the meantime we’re encouraging event organisers of all types, shapes and sizes to get in touch to pre-register interest in participating in the scheme. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.