The Value of Your Work in Our Industry

Your Work Is Valuable

...To Our Global Environment
As an active participant in our global forest products industry, have YOU ever reflected on how valuable YOUR efforts are to improving our global environment?

Your job may center in consulting, in equipment manufacturing, in equipment sales, in wood product manufacturing, or in the sales and marketing of wood products. All of your efforts tied together are having a tremendous benefit on the overall global environmental position in the world.

Stop and reflect a moment about one major factor. Trees are made out of carbon. Scientists are currently reaching a consensus on the ways that human activities throughout the world have affected our natural greenhouse. Almost all agree that the world is warming significantly because of increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air. If we hope to slow and eventually halt this global warming process, a challenge exists to control the atmospheric concentrations of heat trapping gasses. Carbon dioxide is still a particular problem since it's concentration is now growing at over 0.5% per year.

All told, human activities give rise to some 7+ billion tons of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide annually. This looks like a mere blip on the screen when the earth's carbon cycle moves 400 billion tons of carbon around each year but it is enough to throw the natural cycle out of equilibrium, driving the atmospheric carbon content steadily upward by about 25% since pre-industrial times.

We in the forest products industry have a significant impact on reducing this growing percentage of carbon in the air. Reflect a moment on how trees grow. Trees grow by absorbing carbon dioxide. It takes almost 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide to generate one pound of wood. Carbon dioxide is trapped in various forms besides growing trees. It's trapped in the oceans and trapped in other natural plants. But a major residual amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees. Carbon dioxide is released into the air by a number of different methods. All petroleum consuming facilities and mobile equipment generate carbon dioxide, so do forest fires and the burning of fuel wood (for heating, cooking, etc.)

Over half of the world's annual forest harvesting volume each year releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of wood for heating and cooking by people throughout the world. A recent United Nations study indicates that of the major wood producing regions in the world, the U.S., and Canada rank as one of one of the lowest in fuel wood consumption at 17%. The percentage of the annual harvest going into fuel wood for some selected countries are: New Zealand @ 0.5%; Chile @ 37.5%; and Brazil an astounding 71.3%.

We in the North American forest products industry are carbon stewards in that we convert a tree into a usable building product or other related products that last for a very, very long time. Wood has been used in creating buildings for thousands of years. There are a number of well-preserved wooden structures in Europe that are over 800 years old. There are houses and commercial buildings in New England which are over 400 years old and very well preserved. Some of the communities in the Western U.S. have buildings over 200 years old. Have you ever reflected on the fact that by producing a building product or a piece of furniture we are trapping carbon for a very, very long time? In fact, probably longer than the normal life span for an average old growth Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine tree.

When we take a 70 year old tree and convert it into a building product we are extending the carbon preservation time frame at least another 150+ years. Homes and buildings are preserved through proper routine maintenance, painting and repairs. By preserving the building or furniture item we are trapping the carbon rather than releasing it again into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. We have over 110 million housing units in the U.S. and Canada. Given an average of over 10,000 BF/house and a density of 1600#/MBF we in the U.S. and Canada have trapped over 880 million tons of carbon in our housing units alone. Each year we in North America produce 50 billion BF of lumber and 27 billion SF of structural panels. This amounts to over 54 million tons of carbon trapped into buildings, furniture, etc. in North America annually.

Recent advances in Cross-laminated Timber (CLT) technology and mass timber buildings will also be a key driver in reducing the carbon dioxide footprint in the world. By replacing structural steel and concrete, the wood products used in these buildings will sequester more CO2. Here is a link to our Website Links page where you can find CLT and mass timber tower related videos, conferences, articles and papers.

Forests, without proper management are consumed by forest fires and with dead/down timber release significant volumes of carbon dioxide back into the air. Only by trapping carbon dioxide in a piece of wood product and utilizing the wood product into a building or furniture, can we as a society prevent the re-release of the carbon dioxide. We in the forest products industry should be very proud of our mission; that is planting trees and converting standing mature timber into usable products used by consumers throughout the world for a relatively permanent use.

In your conversations with people outside our industry, try to relate to some of these issues to expand their knowledge of how valuable our industry is to our global environmental picture.


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