What is Reclaimed Urban Wood?

On a mission to get my daughter a treat following an excellent swim lesson—until you have spent the better part of a month trying to convince your four year old to dunk herself under water under her own volition you would not understand the sense of achievement—I came across this branded into a table:

What is reclaimed urban wood?  Using the poor man’s market research, i.e. Google, I found a company in Michigan (UrbanWood.org) that is trying to save dead or dying urban trees from a date with the chipper and diverting suitable logs to more enduring use.  Michigan has a major problem with the emerald ash borer, so there are a lot of dead and dying trees to remove from the landscape, but it looks like these guys are diverting everything including on-site red oak trees that got turned into the flooring for a new home.

This concept seems new, but it really harkens back to a time when local building products were what dominated.  If you lived in the Pacific Northwest the wood of choice was fir or spruce and so on.

The table at Starbucks—yes, I have given up the frequent habit as I posted before but this was a special occasion—apparently comes from a different source.  From what I can figure out these tables are made from lumber reclaimed from buildings.  There is a long trend of this as well, especially here in Eastern Iowa, as older buildings, especially barns, get torn down the old growth beams make attractive wood for other projects.

But what is the big deal?  It’s nice that this wood is not the result of some clear cut in the Canadian boreal or Sumatran jungle—those trees are usually destined to be pulped into paper to wipe our asses or wrap our fast food.  It’s sort of annoying that it needs to be branded onto the table’s surface like some badge of honor.

Just add reclaimed urban wood to the landscape of “eco” labels like organic, natural, fair trade, rain forest certified, shade grown, union made…


2 responses to “What is Reclaimed Urban Wood?

  1. Hi there … I thought I’d give you a little more info about the ‘reclaimed urban wood’ table that you mentioned. The wood that used in those tables is sourced entirely from trees in and around the city of Chicago that have fallen or were taken down due to disease (hence ‘urban wood’, props to our friends in MI who are doing the same). There are thousands of ash trees alone that would get chipped every year, and we get to save a few hundred by making them into furniture. We also use materials from deconstructed buildings, invasive species of plants and other industrial scrap, all from the city, to make furniture for commercial clients like restaurants, hotels and offices. I’m happy to see your comment that it’s reflecting back on local materials used for local products – that’s the goal. While it IS yet another label, it’s also there to get people to think, just for a moment, about where that wood came from… and apparently it works.
    Good luck with the swim lessons!

  2. Since the emerald ash borer is taking a brutal toll on ash trees across the great lakes region I guess it’s a good thing the wood is going somewhere.

    Out west people are doing some really cool stuff with the pine affected by the pinebark beetle. The wood has a cool blue hue to it when finished with a natural sealant.

    Thanks for the comment.

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