Decreasing Your Canine Carbon Pawprint with Insect based mostly Meals / Public Information Service

Lowering Your Dogs Carbon Pawprint with Insect based Food / Public News Service

By Claire Elise Thompson for Grist.
Broadcast version by Suzanne Potter for California News Service reporting for the Grist-Public News Service Collaboration

Cats and dogs eat a lot of meat. In the U.S., they gobble up about a quarter of the calories derived from livestock. If they were counted as a country, America’s pets would rank fifth in global meat consumption. Producing all that food generates about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, not to mention the land, water, and other resources required to farm animals. 

As pet ownership rises, Americans increasingly see their critters as family members. An ensuing trend toward premium and “human-grade” diets has further stressed the carbon-intensive livestock industry. But it also represents a pattern that may bode well for the planet — pet food generally tends to mirror shifts in consumer preferences for people, with a growing emphasis on things like health, quality, and sustainability. As eco-friendly alternatives (particularly alternative proteins) establish themselves in our grocery aisles, the pet aisle may not be far behind. One particular ingredient is emerging as a promising option for our furry friends: insects. 

Insects have gotten a lot of attention in the past decade or so as a mega-efficient, protein-rich superfood of the future. A number of cuisines, particularly in Asia, Africa, and South America, have included insects for thousands of years, but many people remain squeamish about the idea of eating bugs. Dogs don’t have the same hangups. 

Anne Carlson, the founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, discovered this when she began experimenting with bringing insect protein to the pet food industry. She started with cricket treats — which dogs went crazy for — then worked with scientists and veterinarians to determine if crickets and “grubs,” or black soldier fly larvae, could provide complete nutrition for dogs. Studies showed that they could, and that the bugs also offered an array of compelling health benefits. (Her team is pursuing similar research for cats.) But Carlson was always looking at it from the angle of curbing emissions. For her, it was a personal matter. 

In 2016, after a stint working for a big pet food company, Carlson was pondering her next move. A conversation with her then-college-aged daughter gave Carlson a new outlook on her career when her daughter said she didn’t want to have kids. “Her reason was she was worried about what the world was going to be like by the time they grew up,” Carlson says. “And she was talking about climate change.” 

Carlson felt a pressing sense of responsibility to be part of creating a world in which her daughter would want to raise children. “I actually decided right then that no matter what I did, it was going to be fighting climate change,” she recalls. She founded Jiminy’s later that year. Today, the company offers dry and wet dog food and treats made of insects; its products are available in around 1,400 pet stores nationwide and online through popular retailers like Chewy. Although several other companies now offer insect protein treats, Jiminy’s remains the only company in the U.S. selling bug-based dog food. 

We talked to Carlson about her journey to bring a more sustainable form of protein to the pet market, and what she sees as the future of the industry. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

Q. Tell me about the Jiminy’s origin story. How did you get the idea to launch an alt-protein company for pets? 

A. A little bit after that conversation [with my daughter], I got approached to lead a pet food company. They were framing it as a sustainable alternative for pets. It was grass-fed beef. I absolutely fell in love with this idea of sustainability and pets, but I was like, “You know what? Cows are never gonna be the answer.” I started thinking, “What could be a protein source that would be sustainable for pets? And could it be humane as well?” Because that would be awesome. When you look at traditional protein, it’s pretty terrible from a lot of different perspectives. 

I started throwing different types of protein sources onto a page. I actually put an insect on the page. I don’t know why. I don’t know what inspired me to do it, but I kept coming back to it. Then I saw that the U.N. had done a study saying that insects could be the answer to world hunger. 

I ordered roasted crickets online. When I got them, I fed them to my dogs to see what they would do. And the drool started right away. I knew I had something that was gonna work. When you think about a dog — I don’t know, do you have a dog? 

Q. I do! 

A. You know if the drool starts, they’re really loving something. And it was flowing freely. Of course, I had to try it, too. I tried the crickets — and they tasted good! It was a little scary the first time I put it in my mouth, but once you get past that, you’re like, “Oh, it tastes like a sunflower seed.” It’s nutty, it’s earthy. We were kind of off to the races at that point. 

Q. So you were inspired by the U.N. study about insects as a solution for human diets, and you translated that to pet food. How did that work? 

A. We started with the crickets, because they are the easiest to wrap your head around. We like to call them the gateway bug — but when you look at it, you can see it is a fantastic protein source. It has all of the amino acids that you need to be a complete protein. When you’re working with dogs, you’re looking for 10 essential amino acids, and this delivers it in the quantities that you need. So I knew it was a good protein source, but then you start digging into it and you’re like, “Oh, but it also has minerals and vitamins and fiber.” All of these other things make it into even more than just a protein source. It really is a superfood. 

And what I loved about working with the dogs is that I felt like I could have a huge impact quickly, if I was able to make a food that was complete and balanced that they could eat every day. Because if you think about it, if I were to make something for people — like, say I make a breakfast bar. Best-case scenario, even if you ate it every single day, I’d only be impacting about 7 percent of your eating occasions. But if I make a food for dogs, I can impact 80 to 90 percent of their eating occasions with one product. 

Q. That makes sense. Speaking of the impact, could you give me a quick rundown of some of the benefits of farming insects instead of livestock? 

A. You bet. It’s kind of fun, actually. Let me just give you sort of an analogy here: If you had an acre of land and you put cows on it, at the end of a year, you’re gonna get 192 pounds of protein. If you had chickens, you get 265 pounds of protein. But if you had crickets? Sixty-five thousand pounds of protein at the end of the year. And grubs, over a million pounds of protein. [Statistics come from a lifecycle assessment by insect producer EnviroFlight.] And there’s a lot of reasons why. They have a shorter lifespan. For crickets, it’s approximately six weeks. They also reproduce at a super-high rate. So if you think about a cow, it’s having one to two babies at a time and it takes nearly a year to gestate, but grubs are laying 500 eggs at a time. 

[Read more: Scientists are “milking” microbes to create cow-free dairy products.]

The other thing that’s really cool is that there’s no waste. You’re using the entire animal. They’re roasted and ground and the entire animal is used. Even their bedding [and excrement] is used. That’s what they call frass, which is this amazing fertilizer. 

Q. Jiminy’s is a pioneer and remains the only U.S. company offering complete-diet dog food made from insect protein. What were some of the challenges getting started? 

A. The biggest challenge was proving that it was safe for the dogs. You could look at the nutritional analysis on it, but there was still a question as to whether or not the dogs could actually digest it. We worked with Iowa State and AnimalBiome to do a bunch of studies, and they were all published and peer reviewed. And all of that went into proving that it was safe to use in a food. 

When we started, we focused on treats. In order to do the food, we had to do all those studies — we knew it was really important to be able to prove that it was truly digestible and it had utility. And the great news is, what we found is that it is as digestible for dogs as chicken or beef. The other thing we were able to prove is that, because it’s got that fiber that comes from the exoskeleton, that feeds the good bacteria in the dog’s gut. It’s also hypoallergenic — for dogs that have food allergies, oftentimes this is a great solve for them.

Q. What has been the reaction from pet owners in the five years that Jiminy’s products have been on the market? 

A. It’s kind of funny, it’s really shifted. At the beginning, when we would say we’re making dog treats with cricket protein, almost always, it was like, “Wait, what?” You’d have to explain that cricket protein is a thing. Now, people are like, “Oh, cool, I’ve heard of that!” And sometimes they’ll ask us, “Oh, were you on Shark Tank?” Because there were a couple of companies making [insect-based] products for people on Shark Tank — and we’re like, “No, that’s not us! But yeah, it’s like that!”

The other thing that’s really shifted is, during the pandemic, more people adopted pets. And the people who adopted pets had more time to research what they were going to give to their pets – what kind of food. And one of the other things that’s been happening is pet ownership is starting to shift younger and younger, which is great for us. Millennials and Gen Z are closing in on 50 percent of the pet ownership in the U.S. — and they just get it. When we say we’re working with insect protein, they’re like, “That’s so cool!” And when we talk about the sustainability, they’re like, “Yes, that’s important to me.” When we say we’re reducing the carbon pawprint, it just makes sense. They know what we’re talking about. 

Q. What’s your vision for where the pet industry could be in 10, 20, or 30 years? 

A. It needs to change so much. There needs to be sustainability across the board. I do see some great things that are happening in certain areas. Petco now has this [refill option] for cat litter; you can actually bring your own container and scoop the litter into your own container and take it away, rather than getting another plastic container. I think that’s a great example of innovation in another category within pets. But I’d love to see rethinking of the materials that are used for leashes and collars. I mean, think about going into one of those superstores and how many different types of products there are, and then think about how much plastic there is. We need to get away from these materials that can’t be reused or recycled. And I’d like to see other proteins being used that are sustainable as well — getting away from the cow and the chicken that is just so problematic. 

Q. What about your daughter? Has she shared her thoughts on the company, and how your vision has impacted her? 

A. She hasn’t said absolutely that she wants to have kids, but she’s more open to the idea than she was before. I think there’s more hope. She sees what we’re doing, she sees what others are doing. And we’re trying to [approach sustainability] not just from the products that we make, but we’re trying to make sure that everything we do is moving in the right direction. We’re moving our packaging to sustainable packaging. We’re offsetting [our shipping] by planting trees. We planted over 65,000 trees already. Everything that we do, we try to put it through the lens of, is this the best solution? Is this the best answer, when we think about climate change? 

Claire Elise Thompson wrote this article for Grist.

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North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality hosts a virtual public information session today on changes the state is considering to boost the number of electric trucks traveling its roads, and phase out the use of greenhouse-gas-spewing diesel guzzlers.

Trucks and buses make up around 3% of road traffic, but emit 26% of North Carolina’s smog and 32% percent of particulate matter and other hazardous air pollutants.

Jeff Robbins – executive director of CleanAIRE NC – said exposure to air pollution is known to increase asthma, heart attacks, increase COVID-19 risk and other conditions, and says the health of North Carolinians depends on shifting to electric heavy-duty vehicles.

“Fine particulate matter, PM 2.5, ozone, nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide,” said Robbins. “Reducing the emission of dangerous air pollutants is critical to the health of North Carolinians.”

Last fall Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 271, which tasks state regulators with beginning the rule-making process for the Advanced Clean Truck program.

In-person public hearings on the rule will be held this month in Charlotte, Burlington and Pembroke, followed by a virtual hearing on February 21.

Opponents argue clean-trucks standards will raise prices on consumer goods and harm the trucking industry.

The state argues that North Carolina can benefit from the global market transition to electric trucks by requiring manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles over time.

“It’s a twofold approach to get rid of combustion engines and move toward electric vehicles that help do their part in reducing emissions,” said Robbins.

The new rules will apply to delivery vans, box trucks, garbage trucks, semi-tractors and other vehicles weighing at least 8,500 pounds. So far at least nine other states have either adopted or proposed a version of the Advanced Clean Trucks program.

Disclosure: CleanAIRE NC contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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By Elizabeth McGowan for Energy News Network.
Broadcast version by Edwin J. Viera for Virginia News Connection reporting for the Solutions Journalism Network-Public News Service Collaboration

The hands-on solar panel lesson for rookies at Sankofa Community Orchard in mid-January might have been a bust if student Mary Lewis hadn’t shown up with her A-game — and her F-150 pickup truck.

When the team was short a power drill, Lewis scurried to her trusty toolbox. Then, for a tape measure. And yet again for exterior screws.

The 58-year-old’s preparedness proved integral to completing the installation of a six-panel array designed to power the water irrigation system at the urban agricultural venture on the city’s south side.

Lewis, owner of a home repair business, was one of 15 enrollees in a week-long class this month geared at diversifying the clean energy workforce. 

Richmond resident Richard Walker brainstormed the free solar training to ensure that Black residents and other marginalized communities aren’t left behind as renewable energy booms in Virginia. It’s a more recent offshoot of a nonprofit, Bridging the Gap, the 63-year-old founded more than a dozen years ago.

In June 2019, he debuted the training program as an environmental justice experiment in a church basement in majority-Black, rural Union Hill to counter Dominion Energy’s proposal to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through Buckingham County.

“We’ve been remiss in educating folks about green energy in our neighborhoods,” Walker said about his early attempts to heal a rift over the gas pipeline in a community where his family has deep roots. “This is where people need to be exposed to these possibilities.”

He moved subsequent trainings to the state’s capital, where Walker has partnered with Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building and its Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.

Lewis, also a real estate agent and investor, is enthusiastic about sharing what she absorbs with her network of personal and business connections.

“This is something I believe in,” Lewis said. “Solar just seems like a natural next step.”

Lewis and her classmates spent most of the week of Jan. 10 hunkered down in a training room at the Annie Giles Community Resource Center near downtown Richmond sponging up photovoltaic fundamentals from newly minted instructor Duane Cunningham.

The intensive course covers the ABCs — arcs, breakers, and charge controllers — but also delves into the intricacies of components, sizing principles, mechanical design, performance analysis, and troubleshooting.

Last year, Walker hand-picked Cunningham because of the 46-year-old’s electrical engineering degree, IT-heavy background, and ability to translate technical gobbledygook into comprehensible concepts for laypeople. 

The California native settled in Hampton, Virginia, three years ago to begin work as a data center manager for a defense contractor affiliated with Langley Air Force Base.

Cunningham was receptive to Walker’s overture because overseas travel for the military through 2016 had exposed him to how countries as varied as Germany, Australia, and Kuwait were embracing renewable energy. The two met because Cunningham also volunteers for a separate, youth-oriented nonprofit in Buckingham County. 

Walker had recruited author and professional trainer Sean White, a Californian with decades of international experience, to teach the initial Solar 101 class in Union Hill. As well, White taught follow-up classes in November 2019 and last October.

Cunningham enrolled in the October class and absorbed every detail. To qualify to teach, he had to ace the gold standard exam offered by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Passing it gives newcomers clout and access to jobs anywhere.

What troubles Walker is that of the 30-plus graduates in the first three sessions, Cunningham is the only graduate to even attempt the exam.

Enrollees have consistently been a cross-section of men and women ranging in age from their early 20s to late 50s. Some have college degrees and established careers, while others had struggled in the job market after being released from prison.

“That’s still part of the learning curve,” Walker said. “We don’t have a placement rate yet because the glitch is the folks we get in the training class don’t seem to have the confidence to take the test.”

‘I can see solar as a career path’

Cunningham is determined to alter that pattern. 

“I grew up in Compton, so it’s not foreign to me where they have come from,” Cunningham said about his early exposure to hardscrabble California. “I have family members who are incarcerated and friends who have lost their lives making bad decisions.”

Each day, he sandwiched pep talks between reviews that summarized lessons into bite-size nuggets and dissected sample exam questions.

“It all begins up here,” Cunningham said, tapping his temple. “They all have the ability to pass the test. I told them that if I’m going to give you 100% here, I need to know you gave yourself a chance.”

Student Reggie Davis is receptive to such an opportunity. He figures it’s kismet that the invitation to join Cunningham’s class arrived when he began noticing how rooftop solar was flourishing in his Richmond neighborhood.

For the last five months, the 53-year-old has honed his landscaping skills as part of the city’s workforce development program. It’s geared to help unemployed and formerly incarcerated residents transition to jobs.

“I’m grateful to be exposed to this,” said Davis, who buried his nose in his notes each evening as a refresher. “Now I don’t want to limit myself. I can see solar as a career path instead of just a job.”

He appreciated Cunningham’s willingness to apply solar lessons to real-life situations.

“Yes, we’re learning a lot, but once I got the verbiage down, it’s really not that hard,” he said. “Duane’s reviews made me more comfortable. He wanted this information to stick.”

Davis, raised in Florida, New York, Illinois, and Louisiana, landed in Richmond in the late 1980s to major in business at Virginia Union, a historically black university.

That degree — and a starting spot on the basketball team — never materialized as a “detour” dealing cocaine and other drugs turned into convictions that sent him to state prison for close to 12 years.

“I’m through with that life,” he said. Since his 2003 release, he worked at Hewlett-Packard for a decade before starting his own lawn care business.

Davis knows that despite the solar industry’s earnest efforts to attract more people of color, it’s rare to find Black men such as himself in that workforce.

He praised Walker for punching through those barriers.

“We need people like Richard to not only bring us into a new world,” he said about his classmates, “but to bring them, the solar developers, to our world.”

Cunningham had helped to install the first three panels at Sankofa last autumn. Davis piggybacked on that start by applying his new knowledge to add another trio of flush-mounted panels atop a shipping container and a shed.

The farm, situated on roughly two acres of parks and recreation land near Reedy Creek, is designed to address social and racial imbalances from the ground up, said Duron Chavis, food activist and executive director of The Happily Nature Day, a nonprofit.

Enormous colorful murals serve as backdrops for dozens of fruit trees, fruiting shrubs, vegetable plots, and a beekeeping operation. The harvests are destined for the community. Gardeners distribute 4-by-6 foot raised beds and soil so neighbors can grow their own food too.

Chavis’ goal is to be a model of climate change resiliency by incorporating low-impact systems to collect rainwater, manage stormwater runoff, and harvest energy from the sun. 

Carving a niche in central Virginia

Personal setbacks motivated Walker, a professional mental health counselor, to invent Bridging the Gap as a job conduit for Virginians wrestling with addiction, incarceration, and chronic homelessness.

After serving concurrent, two-year federal and state prison sentences for cocaine possession and fraud years ago, nobody would hire him. And he faced such rejection with a bachelor’s degree.  

Walker opted to fold green workforce development and environmental justice into his nonprofit’s mission after watching yet another Black community — his own — be saddled with the threat of polluting fossil fuel infrastructure.

He can trace at least five generations of his family back to Union Hill, where free Blacks and former slaves settled in Buckingham County after the Civil War. It’s about 70 miles west of Richmond.

In January 2020, a federal appeals court put the kibosh on a compressor station that had divided neighbors when Dominion sited it in Union Hill. About six months later, the utility giant pulled the plug on the entire questionable pipeline project that would have bisected Virginia for roughly 300 of its 600 miles. It would have pumped hydraulically fractured gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. 

While Walker’s solar training went dormant during the pandemic, he couldn’t bear for it to be a casualty of COVID-19. 

A large grant from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation allows him to issue $1,000 scholarships to each enrollee. More recently, he’s attracted smaller sums from sources in Alexandria and Charlottesville and is intent on pursuing federal dollars.

If the General Assembly approves an $80,000 appropriation allotted to the Virginia Community College System as part of the state budget by Del. Jeff Bourne, a Democrat from Richmond, Walker would have access to that money for more training. 

Longtime backers include the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, and programs under the University of Richmond umbrella.

“I want to carve my niche in central Virginia as the program that provides free training,” said Walker, aware that competitors charge enrollees. “If I can get full-time instructors, what I can do is limitless.” 

Hiring White was expensive but gave the class credibility. Now that Walker has permission from White to adopt and adapt his original class curriculum, he can save some money and promote home-grown talent. As well, he has added a unit on energy efficiency to keep the class fresh.

To dovetail with the eight to 10 classes he proposes offering annually in Richmond, he’s collaborating with Bridging the Gap colleagues to open a Green Jobs Workforce Center this spring in Buckingham County’s Dillwyn, near Union Hill. Its wheelhouse will be training in solar, plumbing, electrical wiring, fiber optics, and heating and air conditioning.

“Solar has taken flight, but related jobs haven’t been open to communities of color and low-income Virginians,” Walker said about addressing inequities. “Training can lead to decent-paying jobs in these fields.”

Lewis, the recent graduate with an established career, isn’t intrigued by “getting on people’s roofs to install solar panels,” but is toying with the idea of sales.

Her desire to explore solar’s intricacies in Walker’s class was piqued because she put a four-panel, 100-watt system on her garage roof several years ago. She’s thrilled by the drop in her electric bill and, now, has the know-how to expand. Next, she wants to install a ground-mount system to power her house in Chesterfield County, south of Richmond.

In class, the go-getter peppered Cunningham with questions from her front-row seat.

“It has been a super class because it’s gone so deep and I’m kind of sorry the week is coming to an end,” Lewis said. “I wish I would’ve known all this 15 years ago because I’d be reaping the benefits now.”

Lewis is accustomed to navigating around obstacles. For instance, 15 years ago when she owned a dump truck company, she accepted a dare from one of her drivers to earn a commercial driver’s license. She practiced and studied until she passed the test. 

That same tenacity is motivating her to sign up for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners exam. Walker’s program covers the fee and students have 10 tries to pass the 85-question, multiple-choice exam.

When reached by phone the week after the class ended, Lewis was headed to a church to replace a bathroom urinal. She’s been diligent about studying, she said, and is scheduling a test appointment later this month.

“When I start something, I’m going to finish it,” Lewis said. “I’m just not a quitter.”

Elizabeth McGowan wrote this article for Energy News Network.

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By Sakshi Udavant for Next City.
Broadcast version by Edwin J. Viera for New York News Connection reporting for the Solutions Journalism Network-Public News Service Collaboration

Urban areas in US cities are estimated to lose an average of 36 million trees every year. This results in economic losses of up to $786 million and risks having an adverse impact on already worsening climate change.

The worse part? Many of these trees are considered “waste” and sent off to landfills. “More wood from cities goes into landfills than is harvested from US National Forests,” says J. Morgan Grove, a research forester at Baltimore Field Station, USDA Forest Service. “40% of this wood can be reused for furniture, flooring, outdoor play areas, mulch, compost, soil improvements, bioenergy and even carbon sources for growing mushrooms.”

That’s what “reforestation hubs” are doing: Saving urban trees from heading to landfills by finding new ways to repurpose the wood. These wooden products can be sold to fund further tree plantations. This cycle reduces urban wood waste, saves money, helps increase forest cover, and most importantly, keeps carbon out of the environment.

“If we recycled all the trees that came down in US cities each year, roughly 20 million tons of carbon could be kept out of the atmosphere, equivalent to taking over four million gas-powered cars off the road for a year,” says Ben Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Cambium Carbon, a New York-based startup working on reforesting America by creating the aforementioned wood repurposing-reforesting cycle.

Reforestation Hub, an initiative by The Nature Conservancy (a global environmental organization) and American Forests (a US-based forest conservation nonprofit), estimates up to 133 million acres of formerly forested lands in the United States could be reforested, absorbing 333 million metric tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to keeping 72 million cars off the road. That’s why the organization calls it “a low-tech, scalable and proven solution to climate change.”

Creating a Circular Economy

Organizations like Cambium Carbon play a huge role in making this circular economy possible. For instance, Cambium Carbon works at three critical points: 1) saving the trees from ending up in landfills when they’re first cut down or have fallen, 2) collaborating with millers and sawyers who can use the “wasted” wood, and 3) working with architects, builders and furniture brands who provide the market to incentivize salvage. This way, fallen urban trees go from being a “landfill filler” to a valuable commodity that creates resources for increasing the declining forest cover in US cities.

The organization claims to have diverted more than 45 tons of wood from landfills, moving about 291,000 board feet of wood or roughly 489 tons of finished product. They’re now starting a new furniture line with Sabai Design, a sustainable furniture brand in Philadelphia, and planting new trees with the Sacramento Tree Foundation and the Baltimore Tree Trust. Their goal is to plant one billion new trees across the U.S. by 2030, the team mentioned in an interview with Next Pittsburgh.

Cambium Carbon is not alone. Other organizations like Cities4Forests and the Arbor Day Foundation are working with local officials to create the nation’s first reforestation hubs by 2022 through a TNC Natural Climate Change Solutions Accelerator Grant.

Is the Solution Worth the Costs?

While collecting fallen trees from urban spaces and using them to make locally-sold wooden products sounds like the perfect idea to reduce wastage and make supply chains more sustainable, all of this is easier said than done.

One drawback is that the barriers and costs of these alternative wood waste programs may outweigh the benefits, says Melissa McHale, associate professor of Urban Ecology and Sustainability, UBC Faculty of Forestry. “Many cities lack the space to store, sort and process the wood waste, and the cost of creating a space like this, in terms of dollars and time, is prohibitive,” says McHale, who also served on the leadership team for the United States Forest Service’s Denver Urban Field Station (USFS DUFS). “Many cities do not have the ability to maintain and remove all of their problem or dead trees and depend on private companies to do so. Private companies, especially the smaller businesses, often do not have the time and equipment needed to remove a tree whole and transport it wherever it needs to go.”

Fortunately, several organizations are stepping up with resources and ideas to make the wood repurposing process more efficient. For instance, Reforestation Hub maps out “relatively low-cost and feasible options to restore forests.” The web-based tool highlights several key areas for affordable reforestation like large open patches within forests, croplands with challenging soils and post-burn landscapes. It also offers handy access to reforestation resources like links to find a professional forester, find your state’s urban and community tree coordinator and access published articles on cost-effective tree planting.

Beyond helping the planet for years to come, initiatives like these also support local communities. Cambium Carbon has created a national network of local producers and national buyers to purchase locally salvaged, locally milled wood, which further funds local tree planting. For example, the communal tables in the entrepreneurship hubs on Towson University’s campus are made of wood that would have otherwise gone to waste. Similarly, the trellis in the Visit Baltimore HQ office was made using “waste” now repurposed into what the team calls “Carbon Smart Wood.”

“It’s a big opportunity to put people first and to have projects that are not just good for the planet but are really good for communities,” CEO Ben Christensen said in an interview with the Arbor Day Foundation. “[We’re] creating systems that are helping to address problems like lack of employment and helping to support economic recovery coming out of COVID.”

Cambium Carbon has employed 25 workers while also creating additional employment and partnership opportunities for several local carpenters and woodworkers through their sales and inventory management platform, Traece. Since the wood is sourced, repurposed and sold locally, workers in the region find more projects (like working on the Towson University tables) and resources (companies buying the new wooden products) to generate revenue that they wouldn’t have access to if the fallen trees just went to a landfill.

Sakshi Udavant wrote this article for Next City.

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