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 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 (, 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.


  1. This is a great business, well done. I was reading in another blog about waste produced in the u.s. that referenced this article:
    And I was wondering if you could find a fit with a company that would salvage some of this waste organic matter to produce compost that you could sell / donate or find a partnership with some small farmers who would be interested in the finished compost.
    Sawdust has a 250-300:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio and therefore is a choice material for composting.
    Cheers from Ontario

  2. I’ve long thought about the effects of loosing traditional woodcutters and their contributions to the health of trees and fire prevention. Is there a possibility that treecycling could be expanded to serve this kind if function in drought-prone and infrastructure-starved places like California.

    If treecyclers could find a way to gain responsible access, dead, damaged, and unhealthy trees, both on our “undeveloped” land and in planted areas that can no longer be cared for properly, could be removed without the damages caused by conventionally commercial lumber companies. The activities of treecyclers could then also help reduce the extreme devastation of summer and fall fire seasons.

    Environmentally aware and responsible treecyclers — possibly combining trained volunteers with commercial or semi-commercial ventures are the only ones I would trust to take care of our land and trees responsibly.

  3. It is typical Americans who use innovation in relatively small ways that will change society. It’s like Thoreau believed: change from individuals will change society.

    My everyday neglect of cars, conservation of electricity, and ecologically sustainable attitude is all I can contribute to this until I graduate in 3 years.

    Good work!

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