Burned tree debris will bring new life to Texas gardens

Bluebonnet's Paul Herzog and arborist Simon Kenyon mark burned trees that pose a hazard to Bluebonnet's power lines. From this...

What do you do with thousands of trees, most of them burned to some degree, that have been cut down? If you’re Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, you recycle them. In the aftermath of the September wildfires in Bastrop County, we are making good use of the fallen trees. 

“That was one of the first decisions we made when we started clearing trees from the burn zone,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “We didn’t want all those trees to end up in a landfill somewhere, so we looked for a more environmentally friendly solution.”

We looked at a couple of options and chose Austin Wood Recycling to haul away the debris and turn it into mulch. After being run through a chipper, two passes through a grinder and spending about a year in a compost pile, the trees that were killed or damaged by fire will be sold as the company’s Texas Native Hardwood Mulch. Landscape companies will be able to buy it in bulk and consumers will be able to buy it in bags at a number of home-improvement stores and nurseries around Texas in nine months to a year.

...to this. Austin Wood Recycling's President Jerome Alder holds a handful of mulch that's ready to be spread in a garden or flower bed.

By the end of October, Bluebonnet had cleared more than 42,000 cubic yards of debris in the Bastrop County burn zone. All of that and more will end up in yards, gardens or flower beds, helping give new life to other growing things. 

The owner of Austin Wood Recycling, Mike Martin, was a successful stock trader working in the World Trade Center in the mid-1980s. Originally from Sarasota, Fla., he and his wife wanted to raise their family in the south. He considered buying several companies and settled on a small mowing and lot-clearing company in Austin in 1985.

At the beginning, Martin’s company was taking load after load to the landfill. He thought it was a wasteful way to dispose of trees and shrubs, so he bought a chipper. About 20 years later, what started with a single chipper has evolved into Austin Wood Recycling.

“There is a lot of recycling out there that makes environmental sense, but not economic sense,” Martin said. “This is the only (recycling) business that I know of that makes good economic and environmental sense. This stuff turns back into the Earth. It doesn’t make any sense to just leave it in a landfill.”

We at Bluebonnet agree.

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About Will Holford

Have you ever wondered about the future of electric use? Perhaps you’re curious about how some global or national events might impact your power, the environment or your bill? Maybe you’re just interested in what’s going on at Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. We want to share what we know, and that’s what the Bluebonnet Blog is about. Will Holford, Bluebonnet’s Manager of Public Affairs, is going to write most often for the blog. He’s been with the co-op since 2007, and has worked in communications for more than 14 years. Will enjoys learning about energy – and writing about it. He and other Bluebonnet employees (and occasional guest contributors) will get the conversation going -- about everything from where your power is generated to where it’s used, advances in technology, changes that will affect you, and interesting peeks behind the scenes at the co-op. We welcome your comments, questions and ideas. Email Will at will.holford@bluebonnet.coop.
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