The 5 Types of Innovative Forest Products – Part 1

America’s treasured forests are brimming with resources that help society thrive. As well as offering locals and vacationers a place to hike and unwind, wooded areas provide access to goods, including construction materials, paper, packaging, and lumber for homes and commercial buildings. In some cases, forest products can even be used in medical and dietary supplements, and as fuel for vehicles. Put simply, contemporary lifestyles are infused with forests and their many resources.

Of course, efficient use of forest resources requires us to pay careful attention to issues surrounding sustainability and conservation. The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) – based in Madison, Wisconsin – is one of several research facilities promoting responsible practices in the forestry industry.

In conjunction with other government agencies and public and private companies, the FPL explores how we can continue producing essential forest products while protecting against wildfires, invasive species, and other issues related to climate change.

In this article, we’ll explore what kinds of products the FPL is currently investigating and how they’re pioneering a science-first approach to forestry. The US Forest Product Labs key areas of research include:

Advanced Composites

Wood composites are materials manufactured using many different forest materials such as tree fibers, wood flakes, wood waste, and natural bio-fibers like corn straw and poultry feathers. Wood composites can help reduce the production of waste materials and enhance the economic efficiency of forest reconstruction projects.

The FPL continues to find new ways of producing composite materials, many of which are utilized in home furnishings and major construction projects. More specifically, advanced composites are often used in interior paneling and the support structures used to erect new buildings. As well as helping to protect forests and reduce waste, composite wood is light, durable, inexpensive, and easy to work with. In future, the FPL hopes to design composites offering even better durability and serviceability.

Advanced Structures

Advanced structures are wood products commonly used in residential homes, commercial buildings, and transport infrastructure. Typically, these products offer strength, cutting-edge design, moisture control, and a range of coatings and finishes.

Lumber has been used as a vital construction material for millennia thanks to its durability and affordability. Excitingly, advanced wood structures can even help tackle climate change thanks to their ability to store carbon and be recylced. As such, wood carries a lower environmental footprint than steel and concrete. Given the clear benefits of lumber, the FPL continues to research ways of boosting its efficiency and sustainability.

Forest Bio-refinery

Wooded areas represent some of the world’s richest sources of biological chemicals and fuels. What’s more, they don’t require pesticides or fertilizer like other sources of biological by-products such as corn and rice. As such, the FPL is committed to researching how to enhance bio-refinery technologies to produce valuable chemicals and fuels for transportation.

Currently, biological products are produced by hydrolyzing wood into sugars. These sugars are then fermented to create ethanol or other fermented substances. The FPL is researching new ways to modify yeast DNA to boost the level of ethanol produced during this process.

In many ways, this research couldn’t come at a better time. As wooded land fills up with overcrowded trees and wooded waste, we’re presented with new opportunities to clean up the forest and satisfy an ever-growing need for alternative fuels. However, harvesting biomass for the production of chemicals and fuels is costly and time-consuming. As such, we must find more cost-effective ways to remove biomass from forests.

Join Nature’s Packaging next week as we reveal the last two forest product innovation types.

Carbon Sequestration

What is Carbon Sequestration?

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing carbon and storing it in a way that won’t contribute to climate change.

If you’re familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint, then you are off to a great start. A carbon footprint measures how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are due to activities like driving a vehicle or using electricity to run facilities and machinery.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere and contribute to global warming. They’re “greenhouse gases” because they work like the glass of a greenhouse: they let sunlight in but don’t allow the heat that is generated to escape back outside the atmosphere of the Earth into space. The result is that global temperatures rise, and weather patterns become more severe and less predictable.

Carbon dioxide and methane are two common greenhouse gases  that are produced by activities like burning fossil fuels or managing livestock.

But nature has developed an excellent resource to help pull carbon out of the environment.

The wonderful tree.

As trees mature, they absorb sunlight through photosynthesis and store carbon in the form of carbohydrates, which are used by the tree for growth. This carbon capture process occurs within all plants to convert sunlight into chemical energy. Trees are especially good at it because they typically have an extensive root and leaf structure.

If the tree is harvested to become a forest product like lumber, it retains that carbon—meaning that wood products act as “sinks” for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In other words, using wood helps remove carbon from the atmosphere—which can help mitigate climate change.

Wood:  A Carbon Storage Powerhouse

A tree’s roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and sap all contain carbon, and while they’re growing, they take up even more carbon dioxide.

The amount of carbon stored in any particular tree varies with its size and age, the type of wood it produces (hardwood or softwood), and how dense the wood is. You can determine the density by measuring how much space an oven-dry wood sample occupies.

The ability to store carbon in plant biomass, such as trees, makes possible the creation of a sustainable energy source.

The process of carbon sequestration involves three main steps:

  1. Capturing CO2 from the atmosphere
  2. Transporting it to underground storage.
  3. Storing the captured CO2

The quantity of carbon sequestered will depend on various factors, including climate, geography, and land management practices.

For centuries, humanity has relied on forests and wood for a multitude of products. Today, industries harvest and utilize trees for everything from construction materials to cosmetics.

However, it turns out that forest products are capable of continuing their carbon sequestration process. Instead of releasing carbon back into the atmosphere through decomposition, wood products can store carbon within their cellular structure, keeping it out of the atmosphere. It means wood products are a great source of renewable energy!

As a renewable resource, wood is a vital component of the circular economy. Wood products store carbon throughout their life cycle and can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Wood is very often one of the few materials that is produced and utilized within the same geographic region. It results in a low carbon footprint compared to many other materials (e.g., concrete, steel, plastic).

Reduce > Re-use > Recycle > Renew

Encouraging the use of wood products that sequester carbon is a small part of the larger positive impact on the environment and climate change. Another step to this equation is to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle whenever possible.

Wood is a renewable resource. Responsibly managed forests help in the fight against climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere on a global scale. And they do it at an astonishing rate. A single hardwood tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and one acre of forest can absorb twice as much CO2 as an acre of farmland.

When you purchase products like wood pallets to use in your supply chain, you support an industry that uses a renewable resource and recycles that resource millions of times a day, every day.

 

Forest Products: Science and Sustainability

America’s treasured forests are brimming with resources that help society thrive. As well as offering locals and vacationers a place to hike and unwind, wooded areas provide access to goods, including construction materials, paper, packaging, and lumber for homes and commercial buildings. In some cases, forest products can even be used in medical and dietary supplements, and as fuel for vehicles. Put simply, contemporary lifestyles are utterly dependent on forests and their many resources.

Of course, efficient use of forest resources requires us to pay careful attention to issues surrounding sustainability and conservation. The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) – based in Madison, Wisconsin – is one of several research facilities promoting responsible practices in the forestry industry.

In conjunction with other government agencies and public and private companies, the FPL explores how we can continue producing essential forest products while protecting against wildfires, invasive species, and other issues related to climate change.

In this article, we’ll explore what kinds of products the FPL is currently investigating and how they’re pioneering a science-first approach to forestry. Key areas of research include:

Advanced Composites

Wood composites are materials manufactured using many different forest materials such as tree fibers, wood flakes, wood waste, and natural bio-fibers like corn straw and poultry feathers. Wood composites can help reduce the production of waste materials and enhance the economic efficiency of forest reconstruction projects.

The FPL continues to find new ways of producing composite materials, many of which are utilized in home furnishings and major construction projects. More specifically, advanced composites are often used in interior paneling and the support structures used to erect new buildings. As well as helping to protect forests and reduce waste, composite wood is light, durable, inexpensive, and easy to work with. In future, the FPL hopes to design composites offering even better durability and serviceability.

Advanced Structures

Advanced structures are wood products commonly used in residential homes, commercial buildings, and transport infrastructure. Typically, these products offer strength, cutting-edge design, moisture control, and a range of coatings and finishes.

Lumber has been used as a vital construction material for millennia thanks to its durability and affordability. Excitingly, advanced wood structures can even help tackle climate change thanks to their recyclable nature and ability to store carbon. As such, wood carries a lower environmental footprint than steel and concrete. Given the clear benefits of lumber, the FPL continues to research ways of boosting its efficiency and sustainability.

Forest Biorefinery

Wooded areas represent some of the world’s richest sources of biological chemicals and fuels. What’s more, they don’t require pesticides or fertilizer like other sources of biological by-products such as corn and rice. As such, the FPL is committed to researching how to enhance bio-refinery technologies to produce valuable chemicals and fuels for transportation.

Currently, biological products are produced by hydrolyzing wood into sugars. These sugars are then fermented to create ethanol or other fermented substances. The FPL is researching new ways to modify yeast DNA to boost the level of ethanol produced during this process.

In many ways, this research couldn’t come at a better time. As wooded land fills up with overcrowded trees and wooded waste, we’re presented with new opportunities to clean up the forest and satisfy an ever-growing need for alternative fuels. However, harvesting biomass for the production of chemicals and fuels is costly and time-consuming. As such, we must find more cost-effective ways to remove biomass from forests.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology represents a cutting-edge field within the multi-disciplinary spheres of science and technology. Broadly speaking, it refers to the analysis and engineering of matter at the molecular and atomic scales. To put the practice into perspective, a nano-meter is equivalent to one billionth of a meter.

So, how does nanotechnology relate to forestry and wood products? Well, scientists are currently researching and developing wood-related materials and systems that comprise different chemical, physical, and biological properties than materials found on a bigger scale. Researchers at FPL, for example, are conducting studies at the nano-scale to explore under-explored components of wood.

Our increasing ability to explore and manipulate materials at such as small scale is exciting for researchers in the engineering and technology sectors. Nano-materials could be added to everything from cement to cloth products to increase their durability and sustainability. In some cases, they could even be used to produce heat-resistant materials. More specifically, nano-cellulose holds promising potential as an inexpensive substitute for non-renewable materials across virtually all manufacturing sectors.

Woody Biomass

An alarming trend in recent years, the US has experienced a growing number of intense wildfires in recent years. Part of the reason for this increase relates to the fact that US forests contain significant levels of underutilized and small-diameter wooded materials. Such overcrowded forests raise the risk of fires developing. What’s more, they’re prone to infestations and disease.

What’s the solution to this dangerous problem? Traditionally, forests have been thinned out to reduce the risk of fire and keep forests healthy. However, this process is relatively costly and could exceed the value of the forest products collected during removal.

As such, the FPL has been researching the best ways to use the by-products of thinning, helping local communities threatened by wildfires make the most of woody biomass. Currently, the FPL is looking at the potential use of small-diameter wood in large structures such as sheds, bridges, trail paths, picnic shelters, and other buildings that may benefit from a rustic look.

Forest Products = Positive Change

There are plenty of innovative ways for communities and businesses to utilize wood and forest by-products. In future, the industry is likely to shift toward even more sustainable processes, with the goal of helping companies and communities become more ecologically aware and have a more positive effect on climate change.

 

Hearne Hardwooods web homepage

Wood on the Web: Hearne Hardwoods

It’s time for the Nature’s Packaging – Wood on the Web series. In these posts, we explore interesting and unique web resources all about wood. In this blog post we look at Hearne Hardwoods, a specialty lumber yard with some very unique offerings.

Have you ever seen a beautiful piece of wood furniture and said to yourself, ‘Wow! Look at that beautiful wood grain. Where do they find pieces like that’?

Well, in some cases they find those beautiful pieces of wood at Hearne Hardwoods.

Hearne Hardwooods web homepage

About Hearne Hardwoods

Hearne Hardwoods Inc. was started in 1997 by Rick and Pat Hearne as a small, family-owned, specialty hardwood lumber company located in Oxford Pennsylvania on a historic 18th century homestead. From their simple beginning, the family grew it from a four person company with eight thousand square foot of usable space to a thriving business with eighteen employees and over fifty thousand square feet of manufacturing, storage, and a marvelous showroom. As the company has grown, so has their ability to provide unique wood products for new markets. Originally they were strictly a raw material yard providing exotic woods from around the world. Now, they have “branched” out to include manufacturing musical instrument blanks and this side of their business has grown significantly.

Hearne hardwoods strives to offer selections of some of the world’s most unique and gorgeous wood pieces from sustainably managed forests delivered to customers in a friendly, welcoming manner. All Hearne Hardwoods customers are treated with respect and warmth. The staff onsite are very knowledgeable about their inventory and are ready to help every customer with their project, big or small.

Today, Rick Hearne and his son, Brian, travel across the globe in search of the wonderful treasures of nature that inspire woodworkers and instill a sense of awe in their customers.

Hearne Hardwood Products

Hearne offers several different categories of products:

  • Raw lumber – rough sawn, random width and length with wide selection of species from Apple to Ziricote.

  • Live edge slabs – most kiln dried, some air dried. Sawn and sold as flitches (sawn from a single log and sold together). Available bookmatched.

  • Tonewoods – high quality guitar and ukele parts.

  • Lumber piles – basically means what it says. Raw materials sold as a unit.

  • Burls and Blocks – these are used for inlays, furniture pieces, gun stocks, turned pieces, etc.

  • Veneers – used to cover large areas. Great for paneling, doors, and cabinets.

  • Hardwood flooring – custom made to fit your personal style and taste.

  • You Name It! – unique pieces ideal for art, sculpture, and table bases.

Sustainability

Sustainable forest management is vital to preserving forests in general and especially when dealing with unique and exotic hardwoods from around the world. Hearne Hardwoods is pledged to procure forest products from legal sources who practice sustainable forest management.

They have invested in a rosewood plantation based in Central America that includes a nursery and a sawmill. They are committed to building a renewable resource that benefits the local populace as well. The plantations are diversified ecosystems of indigenous trees and plants that allow the local communities to prosper from the land. They have also mahogany, cedar, avocado, mango, and orange trees within the tracks of the plantation.

As part of sustainable management, the trees initially grow among corn stalks and when they grow tall enough they will provide shade for organic coffee bushes.

Another part of their commitment to sustainable management and renewable the resources is their project to replant fifteen saplings for every tree harvested. The trees are GPS tagged in a forest management plan and their positions are provided to the local government for tracking and so that future members of the community are aware of the resources and can take part in their growth and harvesting.

 

Beautiful Forest

Today I Learned: Healthy Sustainable Forestry-Part 1

Today, being sustainable and eco-friendly is something that consumers are starting to demand of the business they support, and more and more companies are catching on to this need. It’s common these days to see companies promote their sustainability campaigns and boast about them in their marketing material.

But with so much noise around sustainability, it’s getting harder for people to know whether a business is truly committed to green, eco-friendly practices and taking real action or if they’re merely greenwashing.

That is why businesses that are genuinely working to be sustainable are turning to independent third-party certifications to prove to the consumer that their practices are sound from an environmental perspective.

Having certified corporate sustainability practices can also attract potential investors and put companies ahead of their competitors. They are stating their values aloud and showing stakeholders that they’re willing to invest in them.

What is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit international organization founded in 1993 by the environmental community. It was conceived after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro the previous year.

Their mission statement is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

The FSC has developed several tools to support in achieving its mission.

  • They’ve established a clear set of agreed principles that reflect sustainable forest management practices.
  • They developed a certification system that confirms when a forest complies with the FSC standards.
  • The FSC logo has enabled a product labeling system that verifies that the wood comes from a responsibly managed source, giving consumers confidence.

These tools empower consumers to make better informed, more sustainable choices, and they help businesses meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and achieve recognition for their environmental initiatives.

Through their actions, FSC works towards fighting climate change. Their work both promotes sustainable forest management practices and the use of recycled wood materials. This way, they want to ensure that the role of forests as natural net removers of CO2 from the atmosphere is protected to make progress towards net-zero emissions.

What are the benefits of working with the FSC?

The FSC doesn’t sell or distribute products itself, but it does certify companies to independent standards for responsible forestry.

The environmental benefits of buying FSC-certified wood are clear. Less destruction of forests and wildlife habitats; more sustainable use of natural resources; strong protection for workers, local communities, and indigenous rights.

Forests are home to many animals that help create a balanced ecosystem. The FSC helps protect biodiversity through its conservation policies which ensure that forest management can preserve critical habitats while still meeting economic needs.

And they are also known for being strong on sustainable social policies, including democratic decision-making with the people most affected by the land, fair wages and safe working conditions, and respect for human rights.

What is the FSC logo?

To bring awareness to sustainable forestry management practices, the council developed an easily recognizable standard that consumers would be able to look for and use when deciding which wood products are both environmentally friendly and responsibly sourced.

Their logo has become recognized worldwide as a symbol of responsible forestry practices, good corporate citizenship, and environmental stewardship. It certifies that the product comes from an FSC-certified forest. This means that the forest is responsibly managed, it’s being restored, and the environment is being preserved or enhanced for the local communities.

It’s hard to find a more widely recognized symbol in the world of eco-friendly initiatives than that of the FSC logo.

The strength of this symbol lies in the fact that thanks to its long history and solid reputation, it provides both businesses and consumers alike with confidence that products with the logo are made responsibly without compromising on quality or social responsibility.

This way, consumers can really choose to spend their money on companies that create products through sound business practices, thus creating a sustainable future.

And for retailers and manufacturers, using the FSC logo on their products gives them credibility as an environmentally responsible company. This can provide them with an advantage over their competition, especially as consumers now demand that companies take full responsibility for their supply chain sourcing and communicate it transparently.

The FSC recognition is not limited to products sold to end consumers. Businesses also can collaborate with the FSC and have their forests or projects certified to use the FSC trademarks to promote them.

Wood On the Web: Dovetail Partners

This month, Nature’s Packaging has found another great web-based resource for you that demonstrates the versatility in the forest industry and the opportunities it creates for employment, sustainability initiatives, economic knowledge, and government policy.

Our focus this month is on Dovetail Partners website (www.dovetailinc.org), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to collaboration, problem-solving, and job creation in industries related to forest resources and wood-based products.

The Dovetail Partners Mission

Dovetail Partners are all about collaboration. Their model is to work with individuals and organizations to create new and interesting ideas, systems, models, and programs that address the decisions and impacts regarding governmental and corporate policies, use of land, and consumption choices. They also work to build programs that encourage job creation and affect job quality in resource-based industries like forest management and forest products.

Dovetail Services

Dovetail provides a range of services to organizations that really help with everything from ideation of topics to project management to data collection:

  • Idea Development – develop ideas to reach desired outcomes.
  • Project Management – team, skills, and knowledge to keep projects on track.
  • Data Collection – seek the science available to address an issue and leverage expertise and network to fill the gaps.
  • Analysis – analysis of data and information to help present a clear picture of the outcome.
  • Report Development – organizing the ideas, data, and analysis into a document that effectively communicates the desired outcomes.
  • Outreach – deliver products meant to inspire, encouraging thoughtful work into the future.

Dovetail Projects

Dovetail Partners have completed a wide variety of reports across many different sectors of industry. All of these reports are available for download at their website https://www.dovetailinc.org/portfolio.php.

Some of the most relevant to the forest products industries include:

Global Forest Resources and Timber Trade

The report is an analysis of forest resources at global level, from both supply and demand perspectives (raw material supply, trade, processing/production, consumption). The report is global in scope but focuses on the United States primarily due to audience. It includes great breakdowns of the tropical and boreal timber markets with easy-to-understand graphics and data. It ends with market trends and how political policy worldwide is impacting trade and the markets.

An Introduction to the Circular Economy

This report defines the circular economy according to the UNECE definition (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). It is a system of production and consumption, which minimizes waste, optimizes the resources used with minimal pollution, regenerates natural capital, creates opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship, and reshapes production and consumption from a life cycle and recycling perspective. The report gives examples of how it is being applied in the natural and forest resource industries sector and the opportunities created by its application.

Carbon Storage, Credit Markets, and Forests

This Dovetail report is centered on the carbon credits generated by operations in the forest resources industries, the markets that have been created and new ones developing, and how the market generally operates from source to asset. While the framework is global in nature, the report focuses on the United States in particular. It also does a great job of delineating the voluntary and regulatory markets and how they differ in scope and development.

Why Wood Pallets and Containers

Here at Nature’s Packaging, our goal is to keep you informed about the forces that will have a political and economic impact on our industry. These are subjects and topics that are being discussed, explored, and implemented by whole industries and large organizations that are customers of the wooden pallet and container industry. We must remain informed with credible, relevant data and information that allows us to remain “at the table” and even expand our capabilities to align with these initiatives. The Life Cycle Assessment is a great start, but we must do more or we will be replaced by better marketing.

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