.

  • Written by Cris Brack, Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
Turning a street tree into timber is much more respectful and useful than mulching it all. Author provided

Trees die. You don’t have to like it, but they do. And this comes as a surprise to some. A senior public servant once told one of us (Brack): “Trees don’t die; people kill them.”

Of course sometimes we kill trees, especially in urban areas where trees are regularly removed for reasons of safety or urban development.


Read more: Our cities need more trees, but that means being prepared to cut some down


But more concerning than the death of a tree is how we waste them afterwards. In municipalities around the world, the trees are chipped into mulch. Not just the leaves and skinny branches and bark, but the whole tree.

It’s the least valuable, indeed least respectful, thing you can do with a tree.

Turning a whole tree into woodchips for mulch is the least valuable and least respectful thing you can do to it. Author provided

In contrast, the wood can be rescued and used to craft furniture and other unique objects that honour the trees and their legacy of timber.

For those more poetically inclined, trees are literally made of our breath. By chipping them, we are wasting the breath of our past and making it harder to breathe in the future.


Read more: Trees are made of human breath


Chipping trees means releasing carbon to the atmosphere as the mulch breaks down. It’s also a waste of high-quality timbers such as oak, ash, elm and cedar, which, ironically, Australia imports by the shipload.

When made into furniture, for example, the tree is transformed, the carbon stays bound and we have something both functional and beautiful.

Katalin Sallai’s Witness Tree Bench of Kingston (2016), 600 x 450 x 2000mm, Cedrus deodara (Himalayan cedar) from Kingston, mild steel. Photo by Martin Ollman, Author provided

Urban forests can keep on giving

Salvaging quality timber is such an obvious win-win, you’d think everyone would do it. Sadly, there are many obstacles, including the difficulties of coordinating multiple public and private stakeholders and agencies.

To better understand the challenges and opportunities for urban timber rescue in Australia, we hosted a symposium at Australian National University in September 2019. Forestry researchers, public officials, craftspeople, teachers, students, conservation activists and city parks employees attended. They identified key values and concerns critical to reclaiming and distributing urban timber.

The symposium included a demonstration of how a portable (Lucas) mill could be quickly set up near a tree to cut it into useful timber. Operators can minimise waste by using bespoke cutting patterns to get the most valuable timber from each tree.

Street trees can provide valuable hardwood timber that, unlike woodchips, doesn’t release their stored carbon. Author provided Wood from a street tree is sawn and dried before the timber is given new life as a piece of fine furniture or other useful object. Author provided

Participants from California described the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s Urban Wood Rescue program. Arborists, residents and the city work together to intercept logs from the waste stream. The timber is then made available to the public.

This program benefits from public trust that stems from decades of active tree planting across the city and genuine concern for the health of the urban forest. Recognising that the recovered wood is too good to waste is a natural extension of residents’ respect for their living trees.

Craftspeople and teachers from Canberra and other Australian cities discussed how providing quality timber to school students supports their love of making and develops their skills. One participant spoke of high school students being thrilled to work with such beautiful timber. They normally make do with cheap construction pine or broken-down pallets.

Rescuing and transforming the timber can bring people together to teach, learn and create. The object then captures not just carbon but a sense of the history of the tree and the place where it lived.

This is what the Witness Tree Project in Canberra, spearheaded by Eriksmoen, set out to do. Wood was rescued from just six of hundreds of trees scheduled for removal. The timber was distributed to six local woodworking artisans and furniture makers.

Their task was to creatively reconstruct a narrative of each tree and its neighbourhood. They transformed the trees into unique objects that delivered anecdotes and collective memories of local history and culture, culminating in a public exhibition.

The bench references the dimensions of the Himalayan cedar used for its timber. Photo by Martin Ollman, Author provided

Katalin Sallai created the Witness Tree Bench of Kingston from a Himalayan cedar. The circular planter, containing a sapling of the same species, is the diameter of this tree when it was felled in 2013. The unfurling spiral arc of the bench seat describes the potential diameter of Himalayan cedar in ideal natural conditions.

Many references to Kingston, one of Canberra’s oldest suburbs, are embedded and engraved in the surface, including coins commemorating the queen’s 1954 visit. The bench is both an educational tool, describing the differences between a city tree and a rural tree, and a celebration of its own tree’s life and provenance as a witness to local history.


Read more: Loving emails show there's more to trees than ecosystem services


The recent symposium was also told of the positive effects of having living trees in our surroundings, including improved mental health, reductions in crime and better air quality. But this isn’t lost when the trees die. Recent research has shown wooden furniture and fittings in offices or homes can benefit mental health and reduce stress and sick days.

Seeing urban trees given a second life can also help ease eco-anxiety. Every tree removal can add to the sense of helplessness, but putting those trees to good use may create feelings of empowerment.

Four steps you can take

So don’t despair or whine when a tree is removed. Instead, make sure the wood isn’t squandered. Otherwise you are wasting your breath – twice!

Here’s what you can do:

  • raise awareness: tell people trees do die naturally, and city trees have shorter lives than their rural kin

  • demand action: tell your local representative that community trees are squandered on woodchips

  • buy local: buy products made from locally salvaged wood, not imported timber

  • get radical: if you’re the protesting type, chain yourself to a log to stop it being chipped.


Read more: Where the old things are: Australia's most ancient trees


Cris Brack has received funding from the Australian Research Council. He is a Member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia and the ACT Climate Change Council as well as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Ashley Eriksmoen has received past funding from the Australia Council for the Arts and the ACT government.

Rod Lamberts has received funding from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Research Council in the past.

Authors: Cris Brack, Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

Read more http://theconversation.com/when-a-tree-dies-dont-waste-your-breath-rescue-the-wood-to-honour-its-memory-125137

14 Surprisingly Easy Housekeeping Hacks That Will Impress Your Guests

Everyone wants to present a perfect house when guests come over. The problem is, no one also wants to spend the whole day scrubbing everything super clean. If you follow these smart hacks to prepare...

Giancarlo Stangherlin - avatar Giancarlo Stangherlin

Award winning, ASX-list data SIM card company promises BIG changes for travellers

FLEXIROAM’s attachable SIM card, FLEXIROAM X Microchip is shaking up the telecommunications industry, fundamentally changing the way travellers use data overseas.   According to Founder and CEO...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

Friday essay: living with fire and facing our fears

The smouldering ruins of a child's bike lies amongst a property lost to bushfires in the Mid North Coast region of NSW last month. Darren Pateman/AAPIt is only mid-November but we have to walk early t...

Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University - avatar Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University

Explainer: why homicide rates in Australia are declining

Latest figures reveal homocides in Australia are at historic lows. AAP/James RossAccording to the latest figures, homicides in Australia are at historic lows and compare well against international tr...

Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University - avatar Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University

Making space: how designing hospitals for Indigenous people might benefit everyone

Sunshine Coast University Hospital uses evidence-based design to provide outside spaces with views that Indigenous people tell us they value. Architectus, Author providedWelcome to the next article in...

Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland - avatar Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland

Vital Signs: Australia's slipping student scores will lead to greater income inequality

While no test is perfect but the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings are pretty useful for understanding the skills young people are being equipped with. www.shutterstock.comThe la...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

We're using lasers and toaster-sized satellites to beam information faster through space

The electromagnetic spectrum we can access with current technologies is completely occupied. This means experts have to think of creative ways to meet our rocketing demands for data. NASA Johnson/Flic...

Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia - avatar Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia

Grattan on Friday: Angus Taylor's troubles go international, in brawl with Naomi Wolf

Morrison would rather live with a problem minister in a key post than give a scalp to Labor. Mick Tsikas/AAPScott Morrison said it with a straight face, and repetition for emphasis. “I’m v...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Early medical abortion is legal across Australia but rural women often don't have access to it

Australian women can have an early medical termination – which involves taking two oral medications – up to the ninth week of pregnancy. Jonatán Becerra/UnsplashAround one in s...

Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne - avatar Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne

All hail apostrophes - the heavy lifters who 'point a sentence in the right direction'

Doing away with the apostrophe is not just the beginning of the end ... it's the end. www.shutterstock.comReports this week about the demise of the Apostrophe Protection Society may have been greatly...

Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland - avatar Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland

It's the 10-year anniversary of our climate policy abyss. But don't blame the Greens

In 2009, a Bob Brown-led Greens party voted against an emissions trading scheme – but they can't be blamed for what came after. Mick Tsikas/AAPFederal Labor this week commemorated a dubious anni...

Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney - avatar Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney

Morrison cuts a swathe through the public service, with five departmental heads gone

Scott Morrison has announced a dramatic overhaul of the federal public service, cutting the number of departments and creating several new mega ones, while removing five secretaries. The departments...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Tick, tock... how stress speeds up your chromosomes' ageing clock

At a molecular level, stresses and strains can make your body clock break into a sprint. Lightspring/ShutterstockAgeing is an inevitability for all living organisms, and although we still don’t ...

Szymek Drobniak, DECRA Fellow, UNSW - avatar Szymek Drobniak, DECRA Fellow, UNSW

The government wants to privatise visa processing. Who will be held accountable when something goes wrong?

The Department of Home Affairs has begun taking steps to outsource its visa processing to private service providers. This move has sparked an important national debate on transparency, accountability ...

Marina Khan, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University - avatar Marina Khan, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University

Left-leaning Australians may look to New Zealand with envy, but Ardern still has much work to do

Jacinda Ardern created an indefinable aura of promise – but just as people fall in love, some have fallen out of love, too. AAP/Mick TsikasIn October 2017, 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern became prim...

Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University - avatar Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

Scientists fear insect populations are shrinking. Here are six ways to help

Scientists need your help to protect Australia's insects and track their numbers. Joe Castro/AAPAre you planning a big garden clean-up this summer, or stocking up on fly spray to keep bugs at bay? Bef...

David Yeates, Director of the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO - avatar David Yeates, Director of the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO

Aquariums, meerkats and gaming screens: how hospital design supports children, young people and their families

This aquarium at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne helps reframe hospitals as exciting hubs of activity with things to do and friends to meet. Shannon McGrath/Advanced Aquarium TechnologiessW...

Stephanie Kathleen Liddicoat, Lecturer, Architectural Design, Swinburne University of Technology - avatar Stephanie Kathleen Liddicoat, Lecturer, Architectural Design, Swinburne University of Technology

To stop a tech apocalypse we need ethics and the arts

If recent television shows are anything to go by, we’re a little concerned about the consequences of technological development. Dystopian narratives abound. Black Mirror projects the negative ...

Sara James, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, La Trobe University - avatar Sara James, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, La Trobe University

To restore public confidence in apartments, rewrite Australia's building codes

Compliance with the National Construction Code provides no guarantee that an apartment won't leak. ShutterstockA prestige apartment building in Sydney built by a well-known developer is undergoing a ...

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW - avatar Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Ways Love and Relationships Benefit Body and Mind

Being in a happy relationship is great. You always have someone to greet you when you come home ...

The Importance of Smiling: How You Can Smile More

Happiness is something we all strive for and is often just out of reach. Of course, it’s impos...

5 Things to Do On Your Wedding Morning

After months of meticulous planning, wedding mornings usually find the bride excited but stressed ...

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...