In the face of climate change and energy challenges, what creative ways are you finding to forge healthy and durable lives and communities? Send submissions — five hundred words or fewer — to Orion, 187 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230, or via e-mail to email@example.com. Submissions become property of Orion.
I grew up on a farm in Iron Station, North Carolina, and as a teenager I split a lot of wood to feed the stove that kept our house warm. As a result, I quickly gained an appreciation for deadfall trees. Many times I went with my father to visit a sawmill down the road. Watching the old circle sawmill, I often thought of what it would be like to saw wood for a living. Later in life, when I began to notice the number of trees that were thrown into landfills, I decided to start a business sawing lumber from “waste” trees.
The goal of “treecyling” is twofold: to reduce waste in the landfill and to create higher end-value from what was once considered good only for firewood or mulch.
I estimate that close to 2 million board feet of lumber is wasted annually in the local landfills in the Charlotte metro area due to storms, land clearing, maintenance, or disease. This is approximately eight thousand tons of waste in the Charlotte area alone. I recycle only a small portion of this material, but reducing waste a little at a time can make a difference.
At our family farm, I process approximately 15,000 to 20,000 board feet a year of local urban lumber from private land for use in homes, sheds, barns, farms, or woodworking projects. Homeowners or tree services load up the usable wood and transport it to our mill. There is a charge for sawing and drying the wood and for further processing if needed. Waste slabs, limbs, and crooked trees that can be used for heating are provided at no cost to anyone in the community who needs firewood. I also process very large trees into slabs for use in live-edge furniture in the Nakashima tradition, which attempts to incorporate the natural form and character of the wood into the functionality of the piece.
Since my company, Edwards Sawmill & Lumber (www.sawmillnc.com), was started, we have sawed 100,000 board feet of lumber for various uses, and approximately double that amount has been used as cordwood. That’s about twelve hundred tons of wood diverted from the waste stream. I have to believe that treecycling this urban and suburban wood could, on some level, also reduce demands on our national and state forests.