Many people will say not much, it is dead, it cannot filter the air, it cannot produce any more for us. I, on the other hand, see great potential in what others call a waste. The Native Americans would use every part of a resource, letting nothing go to waste. This principal was repeated in my permaculture course. Recently I was able to take a trip to a friend’s farm and he had several trees that had been blown over. Here is my recap of what a dead tree is worth to me. Granted some uses may take time, as in drying firewood, but it all started with the single blown over tree. This single dead tree is worth roughly at least $2,220. There are probably other ways to break it down, but just as an example.
Firewood – $400
In my area of suburbia dried split firewood runs for about $60-$80 a rick. Now some people claim a rick is 3×6 where the true rick is 4×8.. Dried, split, delivered, and stacked about $100/rick in my area. 3×6 prices and it would be $500. The particular tree we cut was about 4 true ricks’ worth of wood when split and stacked.
Heating offset – $800
In suburbia we only have heat pump/electric heat. The first year we lived in the house that is all we used to heat. Our electricity bill was through the roof that winter. We then invested in a fireplace insert, which is about 80% efficient using the wood compared to the 20% of a normal fireplace. 20% is generous for most fireplaces. The 4 ricks of wood would last us about 2-3 months. With this single fireplace we are able to heat a 1,900 square foot home throughout the entire winter and never need the heat pump/electric heat.
Mushrooms – $800
Several of the branch logs can be stacked to make a mushroom colony. The going rate for dried oyster mushrooms is about $60/lb dried. The logs could produce for at least 2 years. If you get a more exotic variety of mushrooms then the profit from said mushrooms increases much more.
Mulch – $100
The branches that are too small for firewood and leaves are sent through a shredder and used for gardening mulch. A few cubic yards could be gained from the tops of a tree.
Water reduction – $50
Having a thicker layer of mulch around your plants reduces the need to water and external nutrients. This extra layer of mulch will help retain water, and reduce or eliminate the need to water your plants.
Mushroom Compost – $50
After the mushrooms break down the log, the compost that is left is one of the best compost you can buy. All of the nutrients and minerals the tree has taken up and stored over its lifetime are broken down and now available for a new generation of plants.
Sawdust – $20
Yes even the wood chips left over from cutting up the tree can be worth something. Sawdust, combine with old candle wax, and you have a fire starter. Use sawdust in worm bins to produce compost tea, compost, and worms, cat litter, or use it as animal bedding, just to name a few. You do not want to use around any animals if the tree is a black walnut. There are toxic oils in the tree which can make animals sick or even kill them.
This is just one example of how we as a society could use our resources more effectively. I have learned so much with my experiences over the years and the additional benefit of permaculture educations. I would like to help you use this as well. The possibilities of what you can do with what are otherwise waste materials is huge. Old tires, pallets, plastic pop bottles are normally thrown out. You can reuse these materials. Your lawn that produces nothing but work for you. You have to mow, some people water it, and unfortunately many people put chemicals for weeds and fertilizer. Why not turn this wasted space, costing you money, into something that can produce food, or even income, for you.