Sacramento Tree Foundation Member Spotlight
Trees are an essential element of a healthy and livable urban environment. The urban forest creates cleaner air and helps combat the urban heat island effect by providing shade and cooling temperatures. Decarbonization is an important function of trees while they are alive, however, when trees die they become a source of carbon as they decompose or are processed. As natural carbon sinks, trees sequester carbon dioxide in order to conduct photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, trees use carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to produce glucose and oxygen. The carbon from CO2 is stored in the tree and released back into the atmosphere when the tree dies. In urban settings, trees are removed and disposed of for multiple reasons including disease and public safety. Typically, in these situations, trees are sent to the landfill, chipped into mulch, or cut into firewood – processes which release the carbon stored in trees into the atmosphere.
In Capital Region, the Sacramento Tree Foundation (Sac Tree) is working to prevent the release of carbon by dead trees by giving trees a second life through the Urban Wood Rescue program. The Program actively diverts urban trees from the waste stream and processes the wood into usable materials. Salvaging and repurposing urban wood prevents carbon sequestered in the wood from being released back into the atmosphere and contributing the impacts of climate change.
Urban wood rescue helps to keep carbon sequestered in wood
The Sacramento Tree Foundation is a community benefit organization which has been working to “build healthy, livable communities in the Sacramento region by growing the best urban forest in the nation” with the help of valuable community partners since 1982. The Urban Wood Rescue program is a recent and unique addition to the Foundation’s portfolio of programs focused on educating, advocating, and lending support to the planting, management and protection of trees in Sacramento. The addition of the Urban Wood Rescue program extends the Foundation’s focus beyond the life of a tree. The Program aims to give a second life to trees removed from Sacramento’s urban forest by processing their wood into usable materials for sale to the public.
In order to carry out the program, Sac Tree relies on tree donations from partners from the private and public sector. Sac Tree then processes the trees into usable lumber at its urban sawmill yard that boasts two mills and two kilns. Due to the fact that the Program relies on urban trees rather than farmed or mountain grown trees, it cannot meet the requirements for structural lumber found in large box stores. Instead, Sac Tree mills wood to maximize its utility. This results in unique wood pieces of a variety of dimensions and types of wood, perfect for DIY projects, furniture, accent pieces, wood art, and more. Due to the unique offerings of the program and its emphasis on sustainability, Sac Tree has witnessed growing interest in the Program since it was launched.
Sac Tree creates multiple environmental benefits for the greater Sacramento area by giving urban trees a second life. Salvaging and reusing wood not only prevents carbon sequestered in woods from being released into the atmosphere, it also diverts waste from the landfill and reduces reliance on virgin materials (the transport and processing of which also creates emissions). Urban wood is the most sustainable choice for lumber, optimizing carbon sequestration and avoidance opportunities, and uses the tree for its best and highest use.
The Sacramento Tree Foundation receives the trees for the Urban Wood Rescue Program from various entities, all concerned about decreasing their carbon footprint. Among these partners are the City of Sacramento, SMUD, PG&E and Sacramento County, all of which are CRC members. Sac Tree also receives trees from various tree services and homeowners. These stakeholders donate trees to the Program out of goodwill due to the fact they have an interest in reducing the carbon emissions related to their own operations. A partnership with the Urban Wood Rescue program provides an ideal avenue for reducing emissions related to urban tree waste.
The Sacramento Tree Foundation received the majority of the funding for the Urban Wood Rescue program from grants provided by the California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Urban and Community Forestry Program. The funds from CAL FIRE helped make the program possible and will help support the program until it is self-sustained. In addition, CAL FIRE also provided some equipment on loan in order to get the Program up and running. The Sacramento Tree Foundation also received an equipment donation of chainsaws, protective gear, and other tools from STIHL which helped make the Program possible.