SapphirePine produces beautiful single-slab designs from "unusable" trees affected by the California drought.
For six years, California suffered one of the worst droughts in its history. Fortunately, above-average precipitation and snowpack resulted in an end to the “state of emergency” on April 7, 2017. By the time rain finally hit the state, however, over 100 million trees had dried out and died across the 7.7 million acres of forestland, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The trees were vulnerable to mountain beetle invasions. The bug’s presence blocks the circulation of water, and its larvae produces a fungus that renders trees unusable for “furniture purists.” As a result, the dead trees were destined to be used as biofuel for energy or sold to China, but then a group of U.S. Berkeley students stepped in.
When California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in 2015, college students Sandra Lupien and Sam Schabacker of Berkely’s Goldman School of Public Policy began brainstorming about ways to revive the trees. Eventually, it was decided the drought-ridden timber could be repurposed into furniture.
In the two years that have passed, Lupien and Schabacker founded SapphirePine, which is testing out their innovative idea. The entrepreneurs began by reaching out to private landowners and excavators in the Sierra Nevada mountains seeking to harvest and remove drought-and beetle-damaged pine trees.
Using the “damaged” yet beautiful California pines, SapphirePine is able to produce single-slab designs. Said Schabacker: “One of the silver linings around this tragedy is that these California trees are huge. Someone can literally sit at a dining room table and count the rings of the tree to figure out how old it was.”
So far, Lupien and Schabacker have created around 12 custom pieces. They also launched a Kickstarter campaign which is very close to meeting its $19,500 goal with 14 days to go. Money procured from the fundraiser will be used to purchase a truck for local deliveries, as well as buy more damaged woods and tools for the design process.
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