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Leon Kaye headshot

This Furniture Maker Has an Idea for California’s 102 Million Dead Trees

By Leon Kaye

California is slowly recovering from a painful drought due to several months of plentiful rain and snow, and has reversed most of the statewide water restrictions. Nevertheless, the state’s landscape will long suffer from this painful legacy: over 102 million dead trees, most of which are in the Sierra Nevada mountains and surrounding foothills, are scattered across California’s forests. Trees that died off during the drought were joined by others that became weakened and succumbed to pests such as beetles.

No easy answers exist for coping with all these dead trees. If you happen to be camping at a state park or national forest in the Sierras, there is plenty of fuel for pit fires. Some conservationists have suggested clearing that wood and using it for biomass energy. Most of these dead trees standing or lying around, waiting for nature’s cycle to take its course. But none of those options is ideal, as one way or another, they allow for more emissions to enter the atmosphere.

A pair of furniture makers have another idea: transform that wood into functional objects that are also climate-friendly.

Sam Schabacker and Sandra Lupien founded SapphirePine, a product line of contemporary furniture that showcases this wood’s nature beauty. The company salvages dead native conifers, which include ponderosa, coulter and foxtail pines. That wood, in addition to being lightweight yet sturdy, also offers aesthetic appeal due the streaks of blue and grey often interspersed within the grain.

SapphirePine is currently taking custom orders for dining tables, benches and coffee tables. The company also has launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise funds for a van and tools its co-founders say are needed to increase both quality and production.

Image credit: SapphirePine

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye