Ahh, pine straw in the flower beds. I knew I certainly wouldn’t find cypress mulch at Vivian Todd’s house, but it’s still nice to see sustainable alternatives to cypress mulch actually in use. Mrs. Todd is the incoming-president of the Magnolia Garden Club in Beaumont, TX, and she has been an outspoken opponent of unsustainable cypress mulch since she first started learning about it through the Garden Club of America and our emails.
I was pulling up to Mrs. Todd’s house at the end of my week long tour through Texas to inform folks about the destruction caused by cypress mulch, about the sustainable mulch alternatives that exist, and about how they can get involved by calling on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart to stop selling cypress mulch. Last week, I spoke with native plant lovers, student activists, reporters, a building contractor, and gardeners, and all of them understood how important and easy it is to save cypress forests of the Gulf.
As I was setting up the Mulch Matters Kit in the dining room, members of the garden club started pouring. Eventually, around 20 ladies settled in the living room to hear more about the cypress forests of the Gulf. When I got to talking about mulch and sustainable alternatives to cypress, other folks started to chime in as well. It turns out that most of them had been using sustainable alternatives all along, often even before they knew about the dangers of cypress mulch. Here are a few of the options that came:
Pine Straw- Stays in place well, very attractive, and renewable. You can rake pine needles from your yard, or buy them at a store after they’ve been raked up from the floor of a pine plantation.
Pine Bark Mulch- Lasts a long time, comes in nuggets or shredded form, and is a by-product of timber milling. Pine bark is made from the scraps of trees that are turned into lumber, turning a waste product in a beneficial mulch.
Eucalyptus Mulch- Farmed for mulch, very aromatic, insect resistant, and looks similar to cypress. If it’s the aesthetics of cypress you like, this is your substitute! Plus, it helps keeps bugs and weeds away very well.
Melaleuca Mulch- Made from an invasive species that is being removed from Southern Florida swamps and the mulch least favored by termites. Melaleuca trees are overtaking swamps in Florida and massive removal efforts are underway. One great way to dispose of the trees is to heat treat them to kill any seeds and grind them up for mulch.
Recycled Yard Waste- Free and easily available! Don’t throw away those leaves and then go buy mulch at the store. Some of the best mulch out there is right in your backyard, you just have to collect it.
Other creative choices include: sugarcane bagasse, recycled pecan shells, gravel and rocks, recycled newspapers, and many more!
The women in the Magnolia Garden Club aren’t just good gardeners though, they also understand strategy and what it takes to make an even larger impact. Members of the conservation committee had already participated in the Save Our Cypress Day of Action in November 2007, and after hearing the talk, they were fired up for more.
Everyone in the room signed postcards to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart asking them to stop selling cypress mulch. The Magnolia Garden Club is taking the message to all of their members and also enlisting other garden clubs in the area to join the cause. They’re speaking with their local nurseries and the managers of the local Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart outlets. Some folks were especially excited when I told them that I had the emails and insider phone numbers for the CEO’s of the big companies!
Please join the Magnolia Garden Club, gardeners throughout Texas, and the countless other students, moms, activists, conservationists, hunters, and others who care about cypress in calling for an end to the destruction caused by cypress mulch being sold at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart.
To get started, you can send an email, make a phone call, or deliver a letter to your local manager. Also, make sure to tell your friends! If you’d like to use a Mulch Matters Kit to educate your club and inspire action, or if you have any other ideas you’d like help implementing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To convince these giant companies to take the steps necessary for protecting the Gulf’s cypress, a huge coalition of diverse individuals and groups must call on them with one voice: Save Our Cypress!! After traveling last week in Texas, I’m more confident than ever. Join us!
Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at the Gulf Restoration Network.