Excelsior for the Animals

Excelsior for the Animals

If you happen to visit our neighbors at the Oregon Zoo in the next few weeks, you might not think much about the wood shavings some of the animals are using as bedding. But as with most seemingly ordinary things, there is actually a not-so-ordinary story behind this natural material, and it starts at Cornell Farm.

Each spring, we receive a large shipment of garden statuary, which arrives in huge cardboard boxes tightly packed with a shipping material commonly known as excelsior or wood wool. These red aspen wood shavings — one of our team members once described them as “spaghettified wood” — do a great job of preventing objects from shifting and breaking during transit, but many times they are simply discarded once a box has been unpacked. That seems like a waste to us, and so we set out to find another use for this material this spring.

Historically, we have used excelsior as composting “brown material” or even as a mulch in our gardens, but this year, we were struck by a moment of inspiration when unpacking a statue of two sleeping puppies that looked as though they had simply dozed off on a bed of excelsior. Suddenly, the question occurred to us: Would other animals actually use the excelsior as bedding? A few emails to the Zoo confirmed that, yes, they would!

After a bit more coordination, we packed up our excess of excelsior in a truck last week and drove it over to the Zoo, where a group of volunteers helped to unload our donation. We are excited to report that these wood shavings are already being used across the habitats of many different animals, including Bob the orangutan pictured above! We are proud to have not only found a more sustainable second life for this humble shipping material, but to have supported the commendable animal care efforts of the Oregon Zoo and their important work of conservation and education. If you see a few primates getting cozy on a bed of wood wool in the coming weeks or stop to admire any of the garden statues around the Farm that were once tucked into this excelsior themselves, we hope you’ll be reminded of the impact we can have as community when we cooperate to find new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle to make a difference for the planet.

As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home, and we are proud to call them our neighbors. Committed to conservation, the Zoo is working to save endangered California condors, northwestern pond turtles, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, and northern leopard frogs. To learn more, visit oregonzoo.org/conserve. Beyond our recycling efforts and relationships with likeminded organizations and companies that value sustainability, Cornell Farm’s planet-friendly promise informs our exclusive use of organic fertilizers and remedies, our commitment to sourcing locally whenever possible and only carrying plants grown without the use of neonicatinoids — including a robust selection of natives — and more.