Giving Trees A Second Life

Blog Category: Tree Care
May 30, 2019 by Wright Outdoor Solutions
close up of dark walnut brown mulch

As emerald ash borer (EAB) threatens the livelihood of thousands of ash trees across the metro and state of Iowa, the Wright Outdoor Solutions team is working with the City of Des Moines to remove ash trees that are infested and at risk of being infested by EAB. But what happens to all the wood from the tree removals?

From the thousands of trees that will be removed, Wright Outdoor Solutions will be recycling the wood waste into hardwood mulch to provide sustainable solutions. Sustainable Environmental Consultants (SEC) will then take the hardwood mulch for use in bioreactors and other edge of field conservation practices in Iowa and surrounding states.

As two companies passionate about the outdoors, we’re excited to be a part of providing sustainable solutions to our community and giving these trees a second life in the process.

Keep reading to get all the details on EAB, bioreactors and our hardwood mulch.


Emerald Ash Borer

EAB is an invasive beetle that wreaks havoc on ash trees. First discovered in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002, it was thought to have originally been transported from Asia. While the adult beetle causes little harm, only eating foliage, the larvae cause considerable damage because they feed on the inner bark. While the process can take several years, EAB has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across the country by disrupting their ability to carry water and essential nutrients and is expected to spread further. If trees are not treated at the first sign of EAB, it may be too late. To determine the proper course of action, it is best to have an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist out to the property to evaluate the tree and determine if it can be saved or if it should be removed and replaced with an alternative species. Wright Outdoor Solutions has been serving Central Iowa’s outdoor spaces since 1928 and is proud to have the most ISA Certified Arborists in the state of Iowa on staff. In addition to providing evaluation and treatment options for EAB and other tree diseases, Wright Outdoor Solutions also provides pruning, removal and replacement services to residential, commercial and municipality customers.


A bioreactor is an agricultural edge of field conservation practice implemented to reduce the amount of nitrogen leaving a farm field due to subsurface drainage by tile lines. The tile water is diverted to the bioreactor, which is an underground trench filled with woodchips. The woodchips act as a food source for denitrifying bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrogen gas as part of their respiration process in anaerobic conditions. According to Iowa State University, bioreactors have been known to reduce nitrate concentrations by 15-60% while other studies have shown some with as high as a 90% or greater removal rate. Woodchips in a bioreactor must meet specification set by the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure they are of quality to perform in functionality and longevity. A bioreactor can effectively treat water with the original woodchips for a span of 20 years after which the woodchips, or food source, must be replaced.

Once the woodchips have reached their lifespan for use in the bioreactor, they are applied to the land adjacent to the farm fields, impacting soil health by increasing the amount of carbon in the soil, which in turn benefits the health of the crops we grow. Sustainable Environmental Consultants has professional agricultural engineers on staff to design bioreactors and other edge of field conservation practices in Iowa and surrounding states. Together, Wright Outdoor Solutions and Sustainable Environmental Consultants can design and source compliant woodchips to clean up Iowa’s impaired waterways, giving trees a second life to benefit the local communities and those downstream.


Wright Outdoor Solutions is proud to produce and sell recycled hardwood bulk mulch products. All mulch varieties are produced locally from recycled tree products and stored on-site at the Wright Outdoor Solutions Raccoon River Drive facility. Wright Outdoor Solutions produces several varieties, including utility, single processed, double processed, certified playground and colored mulch. Mulch provides a wide array of benefits, including moisture retention for plants, weed growth deterrent, and the ability to return nutrients back to the ground as it biodegrades.

These sustainable options to wood waste keep organic matter out of our landfills and offer many environmental benefits which may include: erosion control, compliance with MS4 permits, absorption and filtration of stormwater, nutrient pollution reduction, carbon emission reduction, carbon sequestration and replenishment back to the soil, improved soil health, habitat restoration, and more.

This post was co-authored by Jennifer Anderson, General Manager of Wright Outdoor Solutions, and Jennifer Jensen, Manager of Sustainable Practices & Environmental Analytics of Sustainable Environmental Consultants.