Starting out as a woodworker making longboard skateboards, Seth Filippo was endlessly searching for new and interesting wood sources to make his products eye-catching and unique. After seeing beautiful trees in Eugene, Ore., going to waste, he realized that the Pacific Northwest had a huge underutilized resource in urban wood.
This in addition to a rising demand for unique and quality lumber from local woodworkers like himself, encouraged Seth to start Urban Lumber Company around this mission: “Promote environmental responsibility and greater awareness of urban forests through handcrafted hardwood design projects.”
In 2006, Seth established Urban Lumber Co. in Oregon as a one-man operation supplying raw lumber and various millwork to local clients. Starting a new business in a slow economy was difficult, but after reading Harvesting Urban Timber by Sam Sherrill, Seth said he learned a lot about the urban lumber industry and has helped lead the cause in Oregon ever since.
“I still feel like a pioneer in an emerging industry,” said Seth. “Educating the public and cities of the benefits of utilizing urban trees has been an ongoing challenge.”
Today, Urban Lumber Co. has expanded to include seven full-time employees at multiple locations across the state and provides customers with natural edged products from locally salvaged urban wood.
In addition to hard work and a true passion for reuse and woodworking, Seth says his portable sawmill is an important piece of his urban lumber salvage business. “Our mill is an integral part of the entire operation,” he said. “We cut different sizes and species every day with a different approach to each log.”
Working in cooperation with cities, parks, utility companies, private homeowners and arborists, Urban Lumber Co. obtains trees in urban areas that have been storm damaged, diseased, or wind fallen. After hauling these fallen or damaged trees with their own crane truck, Urban Lumber Co. cuts and dries the wood and creates customized lumber, slabs and even high-quality wood furniture for customers.
“Each piece of wood is unique versus traditional dimensional lumber, making every finished piece of furniture one-of-a-kind,” said Seth. Receiving and keeping material local is a priority for Seth and Urban Lumber Co. Reusing trees from urban areas for products in the same geographic area not only cuts down on costs for transportation, but it is also beneficial to the environment.
“We are keeping a valuable resource, which would otherwise go to waste either in landfills or burn piles,” said Seth. “You can find sustainably harvested or sourced lumber in many places, but it is often shipped for thousands of miles, negating its original environmental benefits.”
By utilizing local materials, Seth said that they are cutting down on the carbon footprint. According to environmental research conducted by Dr. Steve Bratkovich and Dr. Sam Sherrill of Dovetail Partners, Inc., salvaging urban trees significantly reduces the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere.
Utilizing just 10% of the 1% annual urban tree removal rate could save up to 124.1 million tons of CO² entering the air over a 30-year period. This elimination of CO² is equivalent to removing 732,000 passenger vehicles from U.S. highways every single year.
“Converting a portion of urban tree removals into solid wood products can contribute to long-term carbon sequestration and help mitigate the build-up of greenhouse gases,” the Dovetail Partners report concluded.
Urban Lumber Co. has a wide variety of clients from weekend hobbyists to businesses looking for unique décor. “Our customers value the quality, natural beauty, and the locally salvaged element of our wood products. Each tree has its own story and the wood speaks for itself,” said Seth.
Urban Lumber Co. provides hardwood products such as maple, oak, walnut, ash, and elm as well as softwoods like pine, fir and cedar. Seth and his team have made everything from tables, seating and beds as well as interior projects such as bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets. Their work can be seen in many places throughout Oregon including small retailers, breweries, restaurants, hotels and even at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium where they built multiple benches, stools and tables for the University’s renovation project.
Urban Lumber Co. is exploring opportunities in architectural products like flooring, siding and reclaimed building timbers. “I would like to see us continually grow while still keeping the quality and service that comes with a small town business,” said Seth. With Seth Filippo at the helm, Urban Lumber Co. is well on their way to making a difference.
To find out more, visit Urban Lumber Company online.
The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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