tree dump pile
Utilizing Urban Wood in Iowa

Does your community or county have a brush pile similar to the picture above? Perhaps you have taken some of your own tree debris to this site after a storm or your annual yard clean-up. Looking at this pile what are some possible uses for the wood that you can think of? There seems to be potential for some of this wood “waste”.

This page is dedicated to sharing ideas about how communities and businesses are using trees removed from their community in a way that makes the most from this natural renewable resource.

Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or enjoy the beauty of wood, there may be a local source to help you turn your ideas into reality. For areas that do not have all of the components to make the most of wood from urban trees, this is an opportunity for someone with the initiative to fill in the gaps by starting his/ her own business.

Making use of a local renewable resource by local businesses is not only good for the local economy but is good for the environment. The next time you have a project that involves wood, consider looking into local options to obtain or create the wood product you need.

  • To create recycling opportunities for wood waste
  • Create markets for wood products
  • Reduce wood disposal costs
  • Taking wood from tree removals and putting it to its highest use
  • Looking at urban trees from a resource management perspective rather than waste management


Some simple steps to take are dividing the different parts of a tree into different piles in a designated area. Place the leaves and small branches into their own pile so they can be turned into compost or shredded into mulch. 

A second pile with larger diameter branches can be processed into firewood-sized logs when time allows and enough material has accumulated. Doing this every spring would be ideal, so the wood can dry during the summer months and be ready for burning by winter. 

Another pile with longer and larger logs can be used for wood products. These sizes will depend on the companies in your area that can utilize this material. Some may be able to use shorter logs, while others will need logs to be a minimum length and diameter.

By doing some simple sorting, options for the different parts of a tree can then be more easily available for different markets in your area.


The dynamics within each community are likely to be different throughout Iowa. Finding partners with a like-minded mission to get the most out of urban trees will be rewarding for the community. 


Developing a plan that uses urban tree waste is a step toward becoming a sustainable community. First, trees are a renewable natural resource. Second, by sorting trees into different potential product categories, some of the wood will be diverted into wood products that keep the carbon “locked-up”, which helps combat rising greenhouse emissions. Third, finding local businesses to make local products from these trees reduces the carbon footprint such products have on our environment. Instead of harvesting wood from a rural area, hauling the logs to a sawmill for processing and then hauling the lumber to a manufacturer overseas, why not do everything within a community built network? Keeping this natural resource within the community strengthens the business environment and keeps money within the local economy, which ultimately benefits its citizens.

Iowa Community Examples
Community Wood Utilization Grant
Contact Information

Aron Flickinger
Forestry Program Specialist
502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319
P 515-725- 8455