What if we could turn a local, environmental challenge into art and social change?

Apprentice nametags courtesy of @bouldertreeopp's Instagram account!

Apprentice nametags courtesy of @bouldertreeopp's Instagram account!

“Tree Debris to Opportunity” (aka #TreeOpp) is doing just that.

Earlier this year the City of Boulder, Bridge House and BLDG 61 Makerspace (located in the Boulder Main Library) were awarded a grant from the Knight Cities Foundation to help carry out their vision.

Currently, Boulder is facing two major challenges: homelessness and massive canopy loss due to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). #TreeOpp is transforming these challenges into opportunities.

Because of #TreeOpp & the Knight Cities Foundation, eight folks participating in Bridge House’s Ready to Work program will be completing a 3-month long apprenticeship under the masterful guidance of BLDG 61 Makerspace woodworking instructors where they will turn EAB-infested wood into furniture, crafts and other products that can be purchased by the community.

When we say "massive canopy loss" we aren't kidding. Ash trees make up ~15 percent of Boulder's urban canopy (all of the orange dots on the below map)—and every single one of these trees is slotted to be cut down. 


Not-so-fun fact: Boulder's not alone—EAB has been responsible for the death or decline of more than 50 million Ash trees since the 90's.

Orange marks Boulder's Ash trees.

Orange marks Boulder's Ash trees.

What's more, the wood cannot be exported elsewhere because of it's federally quarantined status. Normally, this would mean that the contaminated trees would be chopped and sent to a landfill, but the #TreeOpp program is transforming what would be considered "trash" into something that can live happily in your home.

Because of the way a local tree miller cuts and dries the wood, all traces of EAB are removed and the wood no longer poses a threat.

The Bridge House's Ready to Work program helps folks transition out of homelessness by providing paid jobs, vocational training and support services for those who are re-entering the workforce. The eight Bridge House apprentices will hone their woodworking skills, and help teach courses open to the public starting in December. This apprenticeship will help the Ready to Work folks be more marketable as they go out into the community applying for more long-term jobs. You can read some of their stories here.

You can follow #TreeOpp on Instagram @BoulderTreeOpp, and sign up for their first public woodworking classes at BLDG 61 on Nov. 26 and 27 (stay tuned for sign-up availability here). For more information about the program, visit their website here and blog here.

There will be another opportunity to help create at McGuckin Hardware between 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5. The volunteer-created decorations will be displayed in the Civic Area throughout the holiday season. Register for one of the hour-long crafting sessions here or drop-in between 11 am and 2 pm to help make a garland.

Written by: Emma Ruffin with thanks to Margo Josephs for all the info!


What can we do together that we cannot do alone?

On Sept. 27th roughly 100 of us gathered at the Impact Hub for a night of food, networking, connection, celebration and community building. When we asked "what can we do together that we cannot do alone?" we got an amazing array of responses. Here they are:


Moving beyond silos. Solutions that solve world & individuals problems. Bringing healthy foods to children through community involvement.
Build on past successes, create organically growing moving entities >> progressing, moving forward
Decreased sense of individualism, increased sense of self based on relationship to others
Support to achieve our vision of an ideal future
Collaboration requires specialities of multiple community members. Products created by individuals serve only one purpose. In order to create buildings, transit, government, etc. that serve a community, we must collaborate as a community
Coalition building and learning from one another
Ubuntu: I am myself because of others
All action beyond individual action requires community
Direct dialogue (+1)
It is a neurosis of our culture that we believe we are EVER actually alone. Unifying groups and creating communities from traditionally polarized groups can build strong communities.


We can create a safety net held strong by many—once connected, we get joy, companionship, a listening friend—a witness to our living.
We need to continue to meet as a collective on a regular basis. We need to move out of our busy silos in order to create a collective, driven movement.
Whole community engagement. Opportunity growth, joining forces—non-competative
We are never truly alone & realizing this continues the path forward towards a healthy planet and life.
A shift in society from the needs and virtues of the individual trumping those of society to the needs and virtues of the individual and community benefiting each other.


Community & growth on all levels. The need to break down & move beyond the boundaries of how we think of collaboration >> i.e. architecture expanding to include input by nature, botanists, artists… How does everything fit in the bigger picture? That bigger picture must include nature.
Sustainable, beautiful, nature-focused infrastructure
Regenerative communities (+1)
Regenerative methods of design are only discovered through community oriented design processes that are inclusive


Land use to bring people together (play football, soccer, dance, etc.)
More farming! (+1)
Communal living & looking after each other
Housing co-ops!
Environments that encourage and enable the embracing of uncertainty that’s necessary to create massive change
Regenerative community. Values, connections. Sustainable future.


Together we can plan for the future, for future generations rather than just our immediate benefit. Community long-range plans are the best for a better future.
A new narrative.
We naturally abandoned the pattern of 1 person speaking at a time
Change is constant
At this moment of transition we can call on our past of action for the future (open space, education funding, bike paths, blue line) - we can create good futures for the long-term.
Art of the possible


Intercultural reconciliation: each group can do some healing by itself, but requires building bridges with other groups to complete the healing
Understanding of each other's passions and concerns to find points of intersections which can lead to change
Global ecological revolution led by indigenous peoples and joined in solidarity by numerous social movements and allies
A culture of dignity
Training our minds & bodies  >> preparing people for action
The importance of intergenerational empowerment. Passing on lessons from generation to generation.
Role of faith communities to find collective courage


We can all agree to do something else
What can we create together? Anything. Good or bad, we have the power to choose.
Collaborative agreement to address climate change.
Culture—the things we share with family and friends at the end of the day. The things we choose to articulate.
Just do the revolutionary thing >> agree to do something
Revolution: Leave excessive trash at shops that produce them


Carpool everywhere! Especially to the mountains. Gather in specific areas where people know to go to find a carpool
Sustainable transportation. Need to work together with wider community.


Bring action out from behind closed doors, private action. Small group // community action!
Need to focus on long-term outcome. Move out from closed door discussion.


Inaturalist app
Citizen science
Utilize meetups


Community Art
Sustainable creative participatory paradigm—shifting alternatives to current realities of competitive status quo mentalities.
Visionary artist >> those compelled to create (untrained). Baltimore >> most fantastic music in the US.

LOVE (+3):

Interpersonal intimacy >> Intimacy and purpose
Create intimacy and continuity together
Connecting in love reflections to each other >> social consciousness (+1)
Empathy, belonging, intentionality, laughter
Positive collective consciousness