The Gulf Restoration Network and Save Our Cypress Coalition continue to call on Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch in order to live up to their own environmental commitments. Cypress forests contain incredible ecological value, and they defend communities from storms and flooding. Unfortunately, these beautiful swamps are being clear-cut solely to produce garden mulch. Many positive steps have already been taken, and tens of thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved due to the efforts of the Save Our Cypress Coalition. There is, however, more that retailers and government must do to ensure full and just protection of cypress forests throughout the Gulf region and the Southeast.
The nationwide grassroots efforts are already paying off! Wal-Mart, who is no longer selling cypress mulch that is harvested, bagged, or manufactured in the state of Louisiana, is the current leader on cypress sustainability. Lowe’s has instituted a temporary moratorium on cypress mulch from “coastal Louisiana”, yet further promises and negotiations have stalled. Home Depot, a self-proclaimed environmental leader among retailers, also claims to avoid mulch from coastal Louisiana, but the company has not directly responded to the Save Our Cypress Coalition. All three companies must do more to uphold their corporate environmental policies as they pertain to endangered cypress forests.
The steps the companies have taken are a good start, but there are lingering concerns. In response to announcements made by Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot and Coalition efforts to end illegal logging, cypress logging activity has gradually come to a halt in coastal Louisiana. Thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved from the mulch machine!
Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to ensure lasting protection of Louisiana’s swamps, and success in Louisiana may lead to increased production in other vulnerable areas outside of the state. Without a transparent and credible certification program, retailers are unable to truly verify the source of their cypress products, and suppliers have proven willing to hide the real source of their mulch in the past.
Since the campaign began two years ago, the Save Our Cypress Coalition has grown, and reports of cypress logging in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and other states continue to surface. A recent Clean Water Act legal challenge in Georgia saved one cypress swamp and demonstrated that much of the cypress logging occurring today would be deemed illegal if properly examined. The retailers have done nothing to address cypress logging outside of Louisiana.
In order to live up to their stated environmental policies, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart must stop selling unsustainable and illegally harvested cypress mulch, no matter where it is logged.
Wherever you live, join GRN and the Save Our Cypress Coalition on December 4th for a Cypress Day of Action to help build on our successes for a future full of cypress forests!
Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at GRN.