Mulch and Pallets: A Connected Life-Cycle

Mulch and Pallets: A Connected Life-Cycle

Wooden pallets can be recycled many times over. At some point though their cargo-carrying days are over. However, that is not the end of the line. It is actually the beginning of a new life cycle for a different product: hardwood mulch.

An estimated 32 million yards of mulch are produced annually, providing a large market for an important by-product of recycled pallets. The mulch business, and a growing biomass and wood pellet market are quickly helping the industry approach the goal of zero wood waste to landfills.

It doesn’t hurt that wood chips from recycled pallets are increasingly the preferred choice of arborists. A 1990 study evaluated the landscape mulch potential of 15 organic materials, including wood chips. Wood chips were one of the best performers in terms of moisture retention, temperature moderation, weed control and sustainability. Coarse textured organic mulches, like wood chips, are also the least flammable of the organic mulches.

“Wood chips are available locally in many communities. Most sources are… made from recycled pallets and other discarded wood products. It is an ideal Master Gardener-recommended product.” Master Gardener 2007

Another key driver for the growing mulch market has been the surge in demand for colored mulch. Consumer demand, specifically for an opportunity to add a low-cost, high-impact curb appeal design statement to their home, has helped the colored mulch market grow during a very challenging residential market. The color preference varies by region with the primary earth tone colors of red, light and dark brown, and black in most demand.

The wooden packaging industry is helping deliver innovative new products from wood waste, adding value to homeowners and improving the environment. Talk about an impressive life cycle.

Art Underfoot-A Texas Story of Upcycled Pallets

Pallets Inspire New Markets, New Products

Wooden pallets are typically the vehicle transporting products globally or locally. They carry products large and small – automobiles, tractors, building materials, pharmaceuticals, iPads, Smart phones, produce and other consumer goods.

Pallets are rarely seen as anything other than a transporter of goods. But at PalletCentral we are seeing a growing number of businesses looking at these platforms in a different way, and we’re not talking about stray pallet gardens shared on Pinterest or Etsy’s one-of-a-kind pallet wood creations. Below is one innovative use of pallet wood.

Art Underfoot: A Texas Story of Upcycled Pallets
Underneath all the layers of burnished coats of oil sealant lies a wood floor with a unique history. Wood that once moved the world, travelling across the globe until reaching its useful life and landing in one of many pallet yards in Houston, Texas, long associated with the city’s shipping industry, has now become art underfoot in a high-end home.

Wooden shipping pallets are typically a low-end commodity. Sometimes a pallet will get reused a few times before it ends up being scrapped or used as firewood. For Greg Schenck, president, Schenck and Company, custom wood flooring specialist in Houston, he had a better idea. He used inspiration from a ceiling while sitting at a bar at the Gage Hotel in far west Texas. The ceiling was created in a design common in southwestern construction and traditional pueblo architecture called “vigas” (round beams) and “latillas” (small straight sticks).

What Schenk thought would be a “cool floor if he could mimic the pattern on the ceiling” turned into a “labor intensive work of art.” The idea to use pallets came from seeing stacks of them at the local shipping yard. Once he made a sample for his showroom, he sold the floor. Their client was not concerned about the price; it was the look they wanted to create for their home.

Working with local pallet companies, Schenck said, “Everyone wanted to sell me new pallets. I only wanted to use the most damaged, most weathered pallets I could find. Those pallets have the most charm,” he added, “as long as they were structurally sound.”

Several truckloads of pallets later, Schenck denailed, disassembled and sorted pallet boards by color and wood species to get the right mix to create the floor. “With pallets, anything goes. You’ll get various widths, thicknesses and any species. I also wanted a good combination of colors in similar species.” He used mainly oaks – red and white oaks – and a mix of other hardwoods and softwoods.

All the boards were fumigated, and to maintain the weathered face of the boards, they were planed from the back to get a more consistent thickness. “We wanted to preserve as much character as possible but some of the boards had to be planed down so it wasn’t a trip hazard. Then some cuts on the board were distressed to match the rest of the floor,” Schenck added. On-site, the boards were glued to a plywood subfloor over the slab and face-pinned with headless pins. The “smoothing” process was accomplished with a nylon pad then a penetrating oil sealer was burnished into the floor.

The floor was extremely labor intensive and the client loved the floor so much that they bought the same flooring for their Texas ranch home.

The most appealing character of this wood floor is its history. Wood that once carried cargo from around the world or even transported local produce and pharmaceuticals makes a great story. Turning pallets into a finished flooring material is a great example of recycling, reusing or upcycling.

Pallets Move the World: Urban Coffee Farm

Pallets Move the World: Urban Coffee Farm

Urban Recycling

Wooden pallets stood at the center of attention during the 17-day Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Wood is a natural product that can be recycled, reused or upcycled in a variety of ways. Whatever you call it, the HASSELL design team used pallets donated from a local pallet manufacturer for the Urban Coffee Farm. As well as availability and cost-efficiency, the design team also selected the pallets to make a visual statement of the coffee story, understanding where the coffee they drink comes from and the journey made along the way – from plantation to café. At the conclusion of the festival, the pallets were returned to the pallet manufacturer.

About the Project

In March 2013 the Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar, designed by HASSELL architects, brought Australia’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival visitors together in an engaging learning and social environment that responded to this year’s festival theme of earth.

The core building materials of the Urban Coffee Farm were shipping containers and pallets. These materials from the transportation industry were the inspiration for the design team, to remind us of the journey made by coffee beans – from jungle plantation to city cafe. The Tasting Café and educational presentation zones were housed in shipping containers, disguised by the sculpted terrain of planted shipping pallets and crates.

The young designers group at HASSELL took advantage of Melbourne Square’s iconic Red Stairs public amphitheater to create a terraced landscape to install their farm and cafe. The space was then filled with coffee trees to give visitors a glimpse of the story of coffee – from seedling to coffee cup – while wandering through the farm. The pallets and containers used in the landscape brought to life the story about coffee, inspiring coffee drinkers to think about its origins, production and transport.

HASSELL has succeeded in transforming this space into an innovative pop-up experience that not only delivered on taste but also on design. The design team celebrated the REUSE of objects in order to serve the urban culture their coffee. A total of 125 coffee trees from a disused coffee plantation in New South Wales were used on the Farm and were later sold to someone who will replant them in Victoria. Over 2,000 tropical plants used to create the jungle effect were given back to the nursery that donated them for the duration of the Festival.

About 1,500 pallets were also donated for the Festival. These pallets were returned to the owner when the Festival ended. The three Port of Melbourne shipping containers, refitted as a bistro and kitchen, were at the end of their useful life; this was their final destination.

ReThink Pallets

ReThink Pallets

It took B sq. Design just 105 pallets, each 5” high, 40” wide and 48” long, to create the ultimate pallet garden for their annual installation at the Canada Blooms festival. The design firm wanted to do something different: rethink opportunities for humble pallets that extend their environmental life-cycle benefits. The clever use of pallets to create a small garden house and incorporating them as garden elements has given new meaning to uses for these common commercial shipping materials that would normally be shredded into mulch at the end of their traditional life-cycle.

At the end of the Canada Blooms festival, the entire installation was dismantled with the pallets returned to warehouses until their next useful life.

At the end of the Canada Blooms festival, the entire installation was dismantled with the pallets returned to warehouses until their next useful life.

B sq. Design firm is just one of many architect and design firms that PalletCentral has seen recently who are incorporating wooden pallets and using them in new ways at trade shows, in retail spaces, and in commercial and residential applications.

At the end of the Canada Blooms festival, the entire installation was dismantled with the pallets returned to warehouses until their next useful life.

Architects and designers are constantly challenged to think outside the box and create unique, cost-effective spaces for their clients. A natural option is incorporating wooden pallets into the design because they are often more readily available than other surface materials. The A.R.E. (Association for Retail Environment) is forecasting an increase in pop-up shops for retailers, industry and consumers. You will likely see wooden pallets increasingly incorporated into commercial projects across the globe. Send us your pictures of these unique and creative uses for pallets, or share a tweet to @palletcentral and we’ll feature more of these inspirational projects in the future.

9 National Parks To Visit This Fall

9 National Parks To Visit This Fall

Many forest explorers tend to favor summer when exploring national parks. Visits to these mesmerizing parks can however be glorious in autumn as well.  The landscapes tend to be much richer in spectacle displays of vibrant fall colors.  Fall is an ideal time to visit national parks for those that aren’t too keen on hot weather and for those that love to gawk at glorious landscapes.  It is especially a good time for photographers that are looking for some vibrant landscape shots.  Here are nine of the most beautiful national parks in the United States to visit in the fall.

Denali National Park – Alaska

This 6 million acre park offers visitors lots of enjoyment.  Even though you might not be able to enjoy quite as much activities during fall there is still much to do.  You can enjoy quad biking, hiking, take scenic air tours, fishing expeditions and if you can bare the cold you can even give rafting a try.  But what is truly amazing is the gorgeous scenery during fall since the wilderness trails are covered with deep reds, oranges and yellows as a result of autumn’s whimsical charm.

Glacier National Park – Montana

The National Park Service of Glacier National Park claims that fall is one of the best times to visit this gorgeous area for two reasons. First, you can enjoy uncrowded and quitter exploring and excursions.  Second, because a natural phenomenon where the trees in the west of the park will begin changing color mid-September where those on the west side of the park start changing color much later in the month.

Acadia National Park – Maine

Mid-October is the time where you can truly explore and marvel at Acadia National Parks wilderness because this is the time where fall is at its ripest and when colors are most flamboyant.  Acadia National Park is also a superb place for bird watchers and visitors can enjoy superb mountain trails and even horseback riding.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina

This national park starts showing off its fall colors in mid-September and you can enjoy the most extravagant scenes around mid-October.  You can also combine lots of other activities in your fall trip like lake paddling, waterfall spotting, hiking trails and more.

Mt. Rainier National Park – Washington

This national park is superb during fall for two reasons; you can explore the Mt. Rainer volcanoes and you can enjoy glorious fall scenery in bright oranges and yellows during mid-October to November.

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

Want to catch the Rocky Mountain National Park’s fall at its peak?  Then the best time to visit is during mid to late October.  You may even hear some serious head-butting contests from Bighorn sheep and it is a perfect place for mountain trailing.

Shenandoah National Park – Virginia

The hiking trails in this park are an absolute must around mid-October because this is when you can explore the brightest fall colors.  You can also catch the best landscape shots if you are into photography.

Yosemite National Park – California

Yosemite National Park is most popular for its gigantic sequoia trees.  The best time to explore these trees in glorious fall shades is during the first quarter of fall.

Zion National Park – Utah

If you love waterfalls and hanging gardens, then Zion National Park will definitely ignite your senses. This is also one of the most vibrant parks during fall.

Many park visitors focus way too much on summer and summer activities.  They miss out on the most dramatic and breathtaking landscape views and wilderness displays that these wonderful parks have to offer.  Fall is definitely a good time to explore some of these top national parks.

The National Parks Service is dedicated to the preservation of natural and cultural resources within the country’s national parks. Nature’s Packaging is committed to sustainably managed forests for harvesting timber and for recreational enjoyment.



Benefits of Community-based Natural Resource Management

Benefits of Community-based Natural Resource Management

It was in 1997 that the Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) project was established in Mozambique Africa, for the purpose of empowering local communities to assume some level of control over how their environments would be managed. This literally constituted a shift in power away from the central government, and into the hands of local authorities who are best equipped to maintain healthy natural resources and to make those resources sustainable indefinitely.

That first CBNRM conference brought together representatives from high levels of government, community members, and engineer types, who were all interested in preserving local environments. The discussions at that conference and in the four additional conferences since then, centered around how to deal with natural resources such as forests and wildlife, as well as developing or strengthening community-based organizations, and about how to add value to resources such as forest products.

The most recent CBNRM conference

At the 2018 version of the CBNRM conference, it was recognized that even though the resolution was 20 years into its implementation, there was still a great deal of work to be done, and that there were still significant obstacles to achieving hoped-for results. For one thing, there are still disputes over the jurisdiction of communities, and that makes it extremely difficult to manage resources from those disputed areas. However, since most of these individual communities rely heavily on natural resources such as timber and wildlife, it is essential that all obstacles be overcome, so that communities can realize the benefits of CBNRM.

There are also conflicts over land rights, with various communities squabbling over ownership and spheres of interest. This is an extremely important point, since government agencies and donors have difficulty supporting community groups which compete for the same properties. This of course, creates a great deal of confusion about community rights to natural resources, and it causes a great deal of difficulty in sustaining those natural resources so they can be used to benefit local economies.

Conflict resolution

In an effort to help resolve some of the community conflicts, and to break up the logjam which has developed over land rights, the World Bank has stepped in to support local stakeholders and their governments. Through the Integrated Landscape and Forest Management Portfolio, a number of initiatives have been undertaken so that land rights can be resolved, land usage can be planned out into the future, reforestation can take place, land restoration can be initiated, and specific areas can be protected, while tourism is concurrently being promoted.

The future of CBNRM

There’s no question that Mozambique has yet to realize the full potential of CBNRM, but at the most recent conference, government leadership was at least made aware of the fact that local economies can be improved by transforming community development, and by protecting the natural resources associated with each community. While progress has been slow over the last 20 years, a new element of enthusiasm was very much in evidence at the most recent CBNRM conference, and it seems likely that participants will now be working together much more closely to achieve the maximum benefits under CBNRM.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to worldwide sustainable forest management practices. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere and when they’re sustainably managed, they’ll continue to provide valuable resources to local economies and help fight climate change.



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