Trash to Treasure
Imagine if the by-product of your daily work literally generated tons of waste. What if that waste had the potential to be a resource, maybe even a treasure, to someone else? It’s really just a matter of perspective. Every day, the branches we prune or remove from trees are chipped up and hauled away from job sites. Since day 1, we’ve been actively donating our wood chips to community gardens throughout Lexington. This adds up to about 500 tons of wood chips that Town Branch Tree Experts donates annually. Folks use wood chip mulch to improve the soil or suppress the weeds in their gardens. Other people use wood chips as a compost additive or for their landscaping purposes. However it’s ultimately utilized, we love knowing that this by-product of our work is going back to the Earth in a useful way.
With the vibrant community gardening scene in Lexington, wood chips are easy to share. It’s what to do with the big stuff that we’ve wrestled with over the years. We manage trees in declining health for as long as they’re safe and useful. Many, if not most, have been well-loved for generations. Removing a tree is something we never take lightly – especially the big, old trees, full of character and history. These trees have born witness to our daily lives and have stood tall over our homes. It can be traumatic for a homeowner, even for a whole neighborhood, when these trees come down. Dismantling a well-loved relic has a significance we take seriously. To then haul it to the dump or the burn pile, which is often a tree’s fate, feels like a tragedy. There’s so much potential remaining.
When we embarked on the search for our very own HQ three years ago, ample space was on the top of the list for this very reason. The first tree we brought back to our new yard was a 300+-year-old bur oak from the heart of the Ashland Park neighborhood. We had been managing its decline for years. The homeowner loved this tree. It was one of the reasons he and his wife purchased their home years ago. It was heartbreaking to take it down. We left a significant portion of the trunk in place to serve as a habitat for wildlife. The massive canopy wood came to rest in our backyard.
That same week, we received a request for a fundraising donation from a local charity. We get a lot of requests for fundraising donations but Town Branch Tree Experts services are a difficult thing to donate. As I looked out my office window, the bur oak branches looked back. There was the perfect solution. We put the word out to local artists and craftspeople. Within a few days, we had a developed a list of wood turners, artists, creators, makers, even a local sawmill. We share with them and they occasionally return a piece of their art to us, which we donate or gift or otherwise pay forward.
The perimeter of our property is now lined with pieces of trunks and chunks of massive branches. Many pieces easily weigh 1000 pounds. Because the fate of these pieces is yet determined, we’ve coined the term “woodwares” to keep it simple. Lexington has a thriving community of artists and we’ve been excited to make friends with a number of woodturners. Woodturning is similar to that of an artist working on a clay pottery wheel. Instead of a wheel, the artist uses a wood lathe and handheld tools to create a symmetrical shape. This process literally “turns” pieces of raw wood into something new, such as bowls, platters, baseball bats, pens, or cocktail muddlers. Other local artists use other techniques to create large, hand carved statues that grace gardens throughout our community. Yet other pieces of wood have been milled into furniture pieces and even flooring.
Creators, artists, and craftspeople make many different things with the excess materials we salvage from our work. Not only do we provide local artisans with woodwares stock for their creative endeavors, we also provide local homeowners, garden designers, and schools with wood pieces to enhance their gardens and grounds. Unique wood pieces can add character and subtle organic elements to the landscaping of a property. We’ve provided wood pieces, large and small, for playscapes, rain gardens, hugel-cultures, backyard gathering spaces, to name a few. Wood elements in a landscape have the added bonus of increasing biodiversity and inspiring both the young and old to explore their environment!
Reducing the amount of wood waste in our community is crucial. In 2014, over 11 million tons of wood were taken to landfills. Even with the popularity of composting and recycling, the volume of waste continues to increase every year. Wood is very valuable because it is a finite resource. Whether through donations of wood chips or partnerships with creative types, Town Branch Tree Experts is dedicated to reducing the amount of waste we produce. Give us a call today if you are interested in learning more about our supply of raw wood for your craft or project!