LIVE: Damon Barren – Treecycle America, Certified Urban Forestry


Damon has spent 20 years in the wood and wood products sales industry. He works with people who make things and loves the creation aspect of the business. One day on a sales call, he ran into another gentleman who was hauling large cedar boards. When Damon asked what the boards were for he discovered the man was making his own casket.

Damon was a little taken aback and didn’t know quite what to say. The man told him that the wood for the casket was from a tree he had planted at his grandmother’s house when he was six years old, after time this house eventually became his home.

The 76 year-old man had to cut the tree down because it was encroaching on his property and that’s when he decided to use the the tree to make his own casket rather than spending so much money purchasing one.

That story really stuck with Damon, he wondered, “Where’s my tree? What have I planted?”   One of the reasons Damon moved to Charlotte was because of the many beautiful trees.

He then started to wonder what happened to the trees in Charlotte once they needed to be cut down. He began researching, asking local builders and developers and learned that Charlotte, we throw away 40,000 lbs of usable trees a day. That is 9 million trees per year.

He set out to find a way to use all of that wood that was going to waste, and bought a saw mill. He started using it re-purpose trees that were being cut down and turn them into boards and lumber. He soon found out attempting to re-purpose 40,000 lbs of trees a day was impossible for one person.

The solution he created is TreeCycle America which is a collaborative network of architects, designers, sawmills, woodworkers, designers and growers, all embracing the common goal of using trees to their full potential. This group of businesses has helped generate and use lumber throughout our city that, otherwise, may have been completely wasted.

TreeCycle created a Tree ID tracking system.  When a tree is cut down, a photo is taken and recorded with a GPS location and the type of tree in order to track how each tree ends up being used once it is re-purposed.  “This is the future of urban forestry,” Damon says. Tree ID can also be used to plant trees with intention, so that the tree is protected throughout its life.

“There are culture and countries out there that don’t throw away trees,” says Damon, “Can you imagine Charlotte being that model city to show this change to the rest of our country and culture?”


TEDx Photo Intro - Damon

About the Speaker…

I am creating the next generation of Urban Forestry. With the understanding that intentional planting of the right species  can create a commodity in Urban Forest rather than a waste product. With a 15+ year background in the supply chain of commercially forested lumber and wood products I see a vision to the future of 10 billion inhabitants and the need to pay more attention to the local resource at hand, regardless where that might be.