Robert D. Jarvis
Dec 21, 2017 · 5 min read

Do you want to make a difference in 2018? Looking to commit yourself to a problem in need of solving, but don’t quite know where to start? I was there too. Until one day, a problem presented itself in a pamphlet I happened upon at my parents’ place. I like to think that fate had written it for me.

The cover of the pamphlet that broadcast the problem — flip to page 4 to see the article

The pamphlet opened my eyes to the good, the bad and the ugly. Century old urban trees ending up in the landfill at the end of their life cycles. Being tub ground into wood chips rather than up-cycled into usable wood products. Massive white oaks, American elms, silver maples, green ash, black walnuts and black cherry trunks lying in a pile, rotting away, queuing up for their spot in the grinder. The same beautiful trees that dressed our city streets and sheltered our homes, now becoming a waste problem for the City of Toronto. Rather than living on — they are costing us money and carbon emissions to process. Pairing this with a city-wide effort to replace and care for our aging canopy, and voila — a problem I was suddenly passionate about solving 😄

December 6, 2017 at 295 Unwin Ave in the Port Lands, one of the five sites the city of Toronto uses to dump the tree trunks and stems that are felled or fall naturally. In front stands Chris, a master of forest conservation and maker of fine wooden pens, assessing a massive silver maple with a 42 inch diameter. This tree has lived for more than 100 years and is full of stored carbon.

In a time when our collective challenges seem daunting, and our complicity in the status quo hard to avoid, here’s a local issue with a promising solution. My response — solve this and we can change the world.

The hardest climate to change is the climate of the mind

Today, it’s easy to feel like our collective problems are too big, that we are doomed as a species, yet here we are — life continues. If the universe has gifted us one thing amongst it all, it’s the opportunity to have a second chance. The caveat is that there is an urgency to rapidly learn from our mistakes and change — to evolve. Reducing our impact on the world is the catalyst to this change, which starts by learning to better connect with the world around us. As we all funnel into cities, there’s an amazing opportunity to come together and work collectively toward changing our habits of existence. Toronto is primed for this. We are the lucky ones. With access to great talent, diverse minds, and resources, we’re the ones with the responsibility to do better.

Just be Woodsy

Enter Just be Woodsy — a socio-environmental startup building a specialized e-commerce ecosystem: connecting urban furniture shoppers to local wood workers, wood workers to local wood and communities to the urban forest. It’s an intelligent system for the cities of tomorrow and it starts when a dying public tree has to come down - you might have seen one with a red-orange mark?

Right from the get go, managing data in collaboration with the city will be crucial: as knowing which trees are coming down and when will allow us to plan ahead. Imagine letting people know that a particular tree is scheduled to be felled in their neighbourhood. Then, picture a table made from that tree, which once adorned the park next to you. Now there’s a story worth telling. And the really cool thing? Just be Woodsy won the bid for all trees in the downtown core destined for 295 Unwin Avenue in the Port Lands until January 15, 2020.

This gives us access to 1000 cubic meters of wood, with the possibility of up to 12 000 in the next two years. Once the trees are on site, we plan to mill them and transport them to a nearby facility to dry in a state of the art radio frequency vacuum kiln. This is the most energy efficient and effective way to dry wood. The wood dries in a matter of days, as opposed to months. From there, the wood will be distributed to a network of wood workers.

Serendipitously, we aren’t alone in the wood manufacturing space. The Woodsy community is committed to mastering the most efficient way to dry wood in the world, making urban wood manufacturing very possible.

What we need to do next is build a platform that facilitates these connections. Where consumers can be connected with wood workers and orders can be carried out. This is where you come in — literally. Come over to our place and let’s get going! Orders are already being received, so the time is now. Designing and building an innovative and seamless platform to enable real connection between people, wood workers and trees is the exciting challenge ahead.

We are fortunate to have an incredible network of wood workers that do masterful work in our neighbourhoods. It’s high time to turn our attention back to our local talent rather than supporting big box. Just think, how amazing would it be to turn that beautiful ash tree that served us for decades in a city park into a beautiful dining room table for a nearby neighbour?

To complete the loop it’s imperative that Just be Woodsy raises awareness about our urban forest and replaces the resources we take. By planting a tree, organizing walks or building apps to ID and inventory Toronto trees (more on these initiatives in a later post), we are ensuring a sustainable supply, and fostering connection with the urban forest.

“I’d like to change the world. I’d like to reduce pollution by making electric cars. I would put garbage in the garbage can, use less gas, control smoke from factories, recycle, reuse, and reduce more often. We should stop cutting trees down for making paper. It will make the world better if we recycle more often and reuse more. Stop the wars and it well make the world safer. Plant more trees and do all the things that you and me can do. Walk more and ride your bike instead of driving.”

Becoming a steward

“When I was 10 years old I wrote: “I’d like to change the world”. I know now that I wasn’t alone in that thinking, and that despite the realities of our current state, there is no need to grow out of such an ambitious thought. There are many of us that want to, and can, change the world. All we need is the right medium.

So here’s to you, future team: to those that want to become stewards of our cities of the future, who want to eliminate waste, reconnect, and transform our cities into healthier, happier places — let’s come together and make change.

Let’s connect 🌳👍

Just be Woodsy

Celebrating the connection

Robert D. Jarvis

Written by

I am passionate about trees and possibilities.

Just be Woodsy

Celebrating the connection

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