Mulch for Campus Day bad for the environment

by Travis Williams

Picture this: it’s Campus Day and at least one dozen pallets of cypress mulch are strategically placed throughout the campus to be poured into garden beds.

These pallets are delivered from Louisiana or Florida, a distance of at least 1,000 miles, in a semi-trailer, which gets a maximum of eight mpg. That equates to 125 gallons of gasoline being used for a one-way trip (6.38 barrels of oil), 2,400 pounds of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere (as much as what seven trees consume in a year), and at least $500 for gasoline purchases.

You shouldn’t need to calculate the expenses for the trip back to notice that the transportation of southeastern cypress mulch is expensive environmentally.

There are bigger environmental issues at stake than transportation regarding the use of cypress mulch however.

According to the Louisiana Sierra Club, the logging of cypress trees has nearly eradicated cypress forests in southeastern Louisiana. They claim that “what had once been stands of trees that were hundreds of years old had become flat treeless marshes.”

Consequently, these forests no longer function as protective buffers against hurricanes or tropical storm surges.

Reforestation as a solution is made extremely difficult due to environmental changes in Louisiana. According to an article written by Baton Rouge Environmental Policy Examiner, Mark Ford, new growth of cypress trees in the forests is made nearly impossible due to rising sea levels.

Ford writes, “Sea level rise is flooding swamps longer, making the germination of new seedlings impossible in many coastal areas.”

The same cypress mulch that is used every year for Campus Day comes from these deforested wetlands. Mulch is primarily used in gardening to control weed germination, prevent water erosion, provide nutrients, and preserve moisture in the soil.

The question is, why do we use cypress mulch?

For one, cypress mulch is often dyed to improve the aesthetic quality of the landscape.

Another reason is because it is commonly believed that cypress mulch is resistant to termite infestation and rot.

Unfortunately, the dye in cypress mulch usually wears off within a couple weeks, and the cypress trees typically used for mulch are too young to have any resistant properties.

This article was written to inform Simpson College students, faculty and administration that by continuing to use cypress mulch on campus grounds we are actively participating in the systematic deforestation of southeastern cypress forests and contributing to preventable environmental expenses caused by mulch harvest and transportation.

Therefore, on behalf of Simpson College’s Environmental Awareness Club (EAC), we are encouraging the use of local alternative mulches, such as abundant oak, hackberry, cedar and ash mulch made from storm-killed trees, available for free from the city of Indianola’s brush facility.

We encourage the members of the Simpson community to inform friends, family members and neighbors about the damage being done to cypress forests and alternative sources of mulch.

Remember, the cypress mulch industry functions only when their product is demanded by consumers, therefore, if enough people refuse to use their product then we can stimulate our local economy, reduce the economic costs of Campus Day, save the forests from further destruction and protect coastal cities from flooding.