Reclaiming Wood, Lives, and Communities:
How do we turn a waste stream into an asset that revitalizes cities?
A collection of partners, including the USDA Forest Service, Humanim, and the City of Baltimore are using wood to solve social, economic, and environmental problems in some of Baltimore's most blighted neighborhoods.
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Wood waste is a problem in the US. According to data from the early 2000s, more wood was being sent to landfills from urban areas than was being harvested from National Forests. Wood waste generally comes in two forms: fresh-cut wood—which consists of felled or fallen trees and residues that had been growing in a community; and wood from deconstruction—that which can be reclaimed from abandoned row homes. Reclaiming this wood can create a host of environmental, economic, and social benefits. In Baltimore, a city with thousands of vacant homes, reclaiming wood can help remedy problems related to blight and unemployment, and contribute to neighborhood revitalization. Working together with a diverse group of on-the-ground partners, the Forest Service has begun to use urban wood as a way to address and solve these problems. From this perspective, we consider whether urban wood can be the conduit to help solve a complex landscape of social, economic, and environmental problems in Baltimore. And how can this model be replicated in other cities? Ultimately, this case explores whether it is possible for a holistic, diversified Urban Wood & Land Restoration Economy to:
• Support the US wood-processing and manufacturing industries
• Serve as a prototype to attract much-needed private investment and economic development to communities in need
• Enable ecological restoration
• Create livelihoods and improve lives
• Serve as a model for creating a circular, self-reinforcing economy in urban areas