Last I participated with Tulane University faculty and alumni in creating an outdoor reading corner at the Sophie B. Wright School in New Orleans. The plan was to dig up the grass and replace it with sod and plant flower beds and mulch them. When I arrived on scene, the first thing I noticed was bag upon bag of CYPRESS MULCH! As someone working on the Save Our Cypress campaign and knowing the importance of cypress trees, I couldn’t support a project that was mulching a garden with the very trees I am fighting to protect. Tulane has made commitments to not use cypress mulch on campus, but apparently the decision had not filtered to all levels. The head of the project assured me that the intent had not been to buy cypress mulch; rather, they had asked for the best mulch the gardening shop had to offer. I decided to call the nursery and ask to exchange the cypress mulch for a sustainable alternative. The woman at the nursery was surprised that I wanted to exchange the cypress mulch for pine bark. She had been misinformed, and she was repeating the myth that cypress is better at repelling bugs than other mulches. I explained that the insect repellant properties of cypress only developed in old-growth trees and that the trees being used for cypress mulch were too young to have this property. And, in any case, cypress mulch drives the destruction of coastal wetlands forests and the habitat and flood protection they provide. She said I could bring back the cypress mulch. My friend, Lindsay, and I loaded up my Subaru Outback with as many bags of mulch as it could fit, twenty-three in total, and headed off for the West Bank. A worker at the nursery helped us unload the cypress mulch and replace it with pine bark. While we unloaded the car, we talked to him about why we were returning it. Namely, cypress trees are one of our best natural defenses and prevent the fast-paced erosion of the wetlands. He knew about the issue and knows cypress mulch is no good. We asked him to pass along his knowledge to his employer. The bags of pine mulch were not only bulkier for the same quantity but they also cost half as much. After loading up the pine bark, we headed back to Sophie B. Wright School. To debunk another myth, cypress mulch is not all that aromatic. My car has the pungent smell of pine bark-no trace of cypress to be found. Although twenty-three bags isn’t much in the scheme of things, the people working on the reading corner now know more about the issue and why we felt it was important to return the mulch. To do your part; please join us on the November 17th International Day of Action to ask Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot to stop selling cypress mulch. Tell them why it’s important to you that these trees are not destroyed. Get a group of friends together, makes some signs, print out some fliers, and stand out in front of these stores-educate your fellow consumers on why they shouldn’t buy cypress mulch. When you get a chance to talk to the manager of the store, you can present him or her a cypress seedling to adopt – after all, its parents are ground up in their garden department and its tough being a young cypress these days (most of them don’t make it). It’s a fun way to educate customers, employees, and managers while putting pressure directly on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart. Amy Medtlie is an Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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