A path to progress

A path to progress

Insights from Jarod Brames

The topics of sustainability and wellbeing are as broad as they are long. Our sustainability efforts are focused on people and if we’re focused on creating a more sustainable environment for those people then increasing their well-being is inevitable. We are constantly striving to create better environments for our communities, our colleagues, and our customers. These groups grant us our social license to operate and taking action to make their lives better is our mission.

I believe most people would agree that, like most worthwhile endeavors, the path to sustainability is incremental. Sometimes our steps towards sustainability are gradual while at other times our steps quickly accelerate. The important thing is that we are faced in the direction of progress. There is always something that we could be doing better. So, there is always a next step to take.

Recently, one of our next steps was collaborating with Cambium Carbon. Cambium Carbon is building local, regenerative wood supply chains to enable a circular wood economy. They save fallen trees from landfills and decomposition, transforming them into valuable products with place-based impact. Their Carbon Smart Wood is locally sourced, locally salvaged, and reinvests in local tree planting. This circular economy model creates new green jobs and funding to support urban canopy restoration in the communities that need it most. 

I recently sat down with Ben Christensen, their Co-Founder and CEO, to gain a better understanding of the mission for Cambium Carbon, their operations, and how this sustainable business idea came to fruition. Following are some excerpts from that discussion. 

Wood is just history you can touch. We have wood that has watched over the national mall as every presidential inauguration has taken place; we have wood from the trees that were outside Dr. Seuss’ window that inspired the timeless children’s book, The Lorax; we have wood from the seeds of civil war battlefields, and everything in between.
- Ben Christensen, Co-Founder, Cambium Carbon

Jarod: Ben, let’s start from the beginning. Where did the idea for Cambium Carbon come from? Also, we are all familiar with the word “Carbon” but can you explain what “Cambium'' means? 

I’ve always been focused on addressing climate change, but I also grew up around wood. My dad was a construction worker and a carpenter, so I spent my youth in and out of his shop. I learned about the power and beauty of wood, and when I discovered the massive and un-talked about problem of urban wood waste, I saw an opportunity to help address climate change and also create beautiful pieces that could last and store carbon for generations. 

We picked the name Cambium because it embodies who we are. The Cambium layer is the inner tissue layer of the tree and it’s responsible for two things —helping the tree grow, and connecting different parts of the tree. We see our platform as being responsible for growing local businesses, a national urban wood movement that reduces wood waste, and our broader impact, by being the connective tissue that helps bring in national buyers to local markets. 

Jarod: The Cambium Carbon business model is an example for the Circular Economy. Can you explain your operations? 

Circular economies are inherently tricky, because they require more stakeholders than some traditional business models. We work across three large groups. 

The first is waste producers. These include cities, arborists, and developers who are taking down or processing already fallen trees. We help them quantify their impact and channel their wood waste into reuse, rather than landfill. 

Secondly, we work to support the processors who can off take that material and turn it into a durable wood product—think lumber, flooring, furniture, and everything in between! We have a software platform called Traece that helps them manage their inventory, track their wood, grow their business, and connect to the national market. 

Finally, we work with large wood products buyers—everyone from companies buying standing desks for remote employees and museums developing a new wing looking A path to progress A Q+A with Jarod Brames Director of Sustainability for hyper-sustainable flooring, to furniture companies sourcing lumber from us to transform their manufacturing. 

All of this helps us create economic growth across each sector while prioritizing American jobs. 

We picked the name Cambium because it embodies who we are. The Cambium layer is the inner tissue layer of the tree and it’s responsible for two things —helping the tree grow, and connecting different parts of the tree. We see our platform as being responsible for growing local businesses, a national urban wood movement that reduces wood waste, and our broader impact, by being the connective tissue that helps bring in national buyers to local markets. 
- Ben Christensen, Co-Founder, Cambium Carbon

Jarod: One of the things I love most about what you provide is the “local” aspect of the material and the origin story it can tell. I feel the value in this is the connection it can create to a piece of furniture, or flooring, or whatever it is that is made from this salvaged wood. Can you talk a little bit about this and also about the other data you provide to the buyers of your wood? 

Wood is just history you can touch. We have wood that has watched over the national mall as every presidential inauguration has taken place; we have wood from the trees that were outside Dr. Seuss’ window that inspired the timeless children’s book, The Lorax; we have wood from the seeds of civil war battlefields, and everything in between. Beyond these particularly iconic places, we have wood from cities and places that matter to each of us. When the tree in the front yard that you grew up in has to come down at the end of its life, you can have a piece of that history, rather than watching it go to the landfill. We help companies and colleges connect with their employees and alumni by sharing their origin stories through wood salvaged from their campuses. 

Everytime we deliver that wood, we tell the story of the tree that it came from. We also provide critical environmental data, like how much carbon is being stored, and the other critical ecosystem benefits of using this wood instead of harvesting a virgin tree from a forest. 

We take 15% of our profits and plant new local trees in communities that need them most. We work to invite our clients out to those tree plantings, helping them connect further with the communities they work in, and also share the impacts of those new trees with everyone involved in the process. We work with local community tree planting partners that focus on prioritizing tree equity and have knowledge of the types of species that are best suited for that place and will support its biodiversity. 

Addressing climate change is all about accumulation. We all have to make small choices to be better for our communities and our planet. Everyone and every company is responsible for that. 

Please visit www.cambiumcarbon.com to find out more about them, the services they offer, and how they are providing real solutions for the circular economy.

Jarod Brames
Director of Sustainability

As Director of Sustainability, Jarod Brames serves as a comprehensive resource and subject matter specialist on sustainability issues affecting Sales and Marketing, Trade Compliance, Corporate Risk, Green Building Design and Construction and Environmental & Social Responsibility topics for OFS. His primary function is to frame, develop and implement organizational sustainability and wellbeing strategies for long-term internal business support and external market communications. He is a LEED Green Associate and a WELL AP. Jarod’s curiosity about our natural systems drives him to play his role in helping OFS and its partner organizations protect those systems and protect the health & wellbeing of the people that live within them.