When we met with Ben Christensen, CEO of Cambium Carbon, he apologized for Zooming us from what he said seemed to be a “Harry Potter-like closet.” Immediately his humor, amicable attitude, and driven ethic came across. Christensen was ready to talk about combating climate from anywhere in the world, even if it meant a closet under a staircase.
Don’t be fooled by the IP address of the Zoom call, Christensen is a recent graduate of Yale with a Masters in Environmental Management and since then has been named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. He is big time.
pictured above is Ben Christensen, co-founder and CEO of Cambium Carbon
Cambium Carbon was founded in January of 2019 by co-founders Ben Christensen, Marisa Repka, and Theo Hooker with a mission to combat climate change. The name is derived from the part of the tree called cambium which is the actual tree ring.
Some of his success might have to do with his mindset to think long-term. He is a forward thinker with the outlook of “What is our world going to look like in 2100?”
Reforestation is one of the biggest opportunities for the United States to capitalize on as far as carbon storage goes. Cambium Carbon is ready to tackle climate action with its first model of the reforestation hub: waste to wood to trees. Urban cities all over the nation have an incredibly huge urban wood waste problem. 36 million trees fall in U.S. cities each year. To put that into perspective, that is seven times the amount of all trees in New York City. On top of that, 12.2 million tons of wood waste is disposed into landfills. 31 cities all over the U.S. applied for Cambium Carbon’s pilot program. Out of these, it will be starting with 7 cities which include Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Denver, Pittsburgh, Eugene, and New Haven.
The problem Cambium Carbon has identified is when a tree falls in a city, it goes to the landfill. More trees come out of our U.S. cities than our national forests. Cambium Carbon wants to capture that and turn these trees into their best use by creating a new cycle. If a tree falls in a city, the wood is used to make urban wood products and new tree planting is allowed.
Each city is contextually unique. Cambium Carbon’s job is to listen first, then understand the gaps of each city, create the market and demand for urban wood products, and finally optimize the opportunity to capture tree waste and turn it into its best use.
This new cycle creates a circular economy. Simply put, a circular economy is where materials are not wasted and instead utilized for the long-term. When innovating new models to combat climate change, Cambium Carbon wants to assure it not only checks all the boxes relative to climate action but is also good for the people. For example, this first model of their reforestation hub will also work with local organizations to create employment, especially aimed at those who struggle to find jobs.
When we think about replanting urban wood, Christensen directs us to also think about the co-benefits. Eighty percent of people live in urban cities, and that will continue to increase, so there are huge co-benefits for people.
Ten years from now, Christensen wants Cambium Carbon to be a leading climate solutions provider, reach 50 cities across the nation, solve problems beyond urban forestry, and redefine what it means to be a game-changing company.
When asked what is one piece of advice he had for youths joining the workforce, Ben answered with an entrepreneurial attitude.
“Not being afraid to create something new and to understand what that means...that means whatever role you’re in, building out something that is your own and learning the process of developing, funding, and growing a new idea” Christensen said.
We ended our meeting with Ben by asking our #goodmatters question: How do you believe Cambium Carbon contributes to creating a better, more positive future?
“The only way we get to a 2100 is by believing it’s possible,” Christensen said. “Climate is so intimately tied to people, and there is no climate justice without social justice, so we need to be having our solutions that systemically address both. At Cambium, we are doing our best, but have to keep pushing in order to really prioritize people as we prioritize climate action.”
At Cambium Carbon, they are working to democratize access to meaningful work. To learn more and find out how you can join the Cambium Carbon movement, visit their website at https://www.cambiumcarbon.com