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.

 

Happy Arbor Day

This is Arbor Day!

If there’s one day of the year that the forests of the world are thankful for, it would probably be Arbor Day. The word arbor comes from the Latin for “tree,” and on this day, communities throughout the world come together to celebrate trees and plant them together.

They provide oxygen, a home for animals and birds, carbon dioxide control, shade from the sun, windbreaks for shelter from storms, erosion control during rainstorms, and even a way to mark the seasons.

They provide shade in the hot summer months and keep our houses warm during winter. They give us food with their fruit or nuts, and we can use the extracts we make from them in medicines.

What is Arbor Day?

Arbor Day is a special day to celebrate trees and all they do for us and our planet. On this day, communities come together to plant trees and recognize their importance to our ecosystem and physical health.

We celebrate it on the last Friday in April. This year has a special significance because it is the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day and the 50th anniversary of the Arbor Day Foundation.

What is the History of Arbor Day?

Arbor Day was first celebrated on April 10th, 1872, by J. Sterling Morton, the Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland.

Morton proposed the day as a way to encourage people to plant trees. The day was an incredible success, with an estimated 1 million trees planted by school children and community members.

Since that time, Arbor Day has become an annual tradition in many countries around the world.

Today, people celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees in their communities, participating in conservation activities like forest clean-ups, and learning about the benefits of trees for people and the planet.

The Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission to promote the planting and stewardship of trees. The foundation was started in 1972 by John Rosenow, inspired by the success of the first Arbor Day 100 years before.

The foundation provides resources and support for communities to plan and carry out their own tree-planting activities. They also offer educational materials about trees, their benefits, and how to plant and care for them.

In the years since its founding, the Arbor Day Foundation has become a global leader in environmental conservation.

Arbor Day Foundation Programs and Projects

The Arbor Day Foundation carries out projects locally and globally to work towards its mission of planting trees to tackle some of the most significant issues the planet faces today.

At a local level, the foundation supports community-based tree planting activities, forest conservation efforts, and educational initiatives.

Some of their projects include a community forestry program under the name of Tree City USA, which honors towns committed to planting and nurturing trees, the Building With Trees program in which they partner with builders and developers, and Tree Line USA, a recognition program for utilities.

At a global level, the foundation promotes reforestation efforts, particularly in areas that have been impacted by deforestation. The Rain Forest Rescue program supports local partners and communities in their stewardship of the vital tropical rain forest ecosystems.

Arbor Day Foundation Fast Facts

Here are some key figures for more background on The Arbor Day Foundation and their work:

  • It was created in 1972 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Arbor Day.
  • It is one of the world’s largest nonprofit conservation organizations dedicated to planting trees.
  • There are nearly 1 million members of the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • It works with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters to plant trees in national and state forests.
  • It recognizes more than 3,400 communities through the Tree City USA program.
  • It has distributed over 4.5 million trees to members to plant.
  • The foundation has also planted over 8 million trees in US forests and over 2 million trees in rain forests.

The Arbor Day Foundation is also an excellent resource for learning about trees and information about how to plant and care for them. Their website has many fun and user-friendly educational tools to help any budding arborist up their tree skills.

Here are a few of the tools they offer:

  • Hardiness zone lookup. This tool allows you to find out what zones are best suited for different types of trees based on factors like temperature and rainfall.
  • Tree identifier. This interactive tool helps you identify different types of trees based on the characteristics and features of their leaves. It also provides information about how to care for every kind of tree.
  • Tree planting and care guide. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to plant and care for trees through all the different stages of their life cycle. It also provides tips on more specific situations, such as how to save trees that have been damaged after a storm or plant trees to stop soil erosion and conserve soil and water.

Whether you are a professional arborist or just someone looking to learn more about trees, the Arbor Day Foundation has tools and resources you can use to explore your passion for these essential and beautiful plants.

This Arbor Day, take some time to celebrate the trees in your life and plant a new one!

It’s also a perfect opportunity to get involved with the Arbor Day Foundation by planting trees, supporting their conservation efforts, or simply learning more about these amazing plants.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Arbor Day, remember that every bit helps when it comes to ensuring a healthy future for our planet.

What is Earth Day?

Friday, April 22, 2022, marks this year’s Earth Day, an annual day of action to tackle the ongoing climate crisis, promote sustainability, and demonstrate support for those working to protect the planet. Inaugurated in 1970, the event continues to grow in line with the scale of the ongoing ecological threat, with events taking place in over 190 countries.

Origin of Earth Day

Earth Day started in 1969 as an initiative to raise awareness of the deteriorating health of the environment on US college campuses. In response to concerns surrounding air and water quality in the country, Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson announced to the national media that he would be organizing teach-ins on college campuses, recruiting young activist Denis Hayes to lead the sessions.

Following a series of successful events, Hayes built a team of 85 people to promote public teach-ins across the US. Soon, a wide array of organizations and faith groups became involved. In 1970, the first nationwide Earth Day took place, with millions of Americans taking to the streets to demonstrate against the harmful effects of industrial development.

Following a successful day of action, Congress created the US Environmental Protection Agency and passed several laws designed to mitigate ecological damage, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act.

Earth Day Milestones

Earth Day has grown in size and strength since its successful launch in 1970. In 1990, Earth Day spread throughout the world, mobilizing millions of people and emphasizing the urgency of environmental action. It also lay the foundations for the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

By the time the millennium came around, Earth Day had spread to 184 countries and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to gather in Washington, DC, to express the need for decisive action on global warming.

Earth Day 2022

Today, Earth Day represents a global movement. Thanks to the widespread availability of the internet, billions of people engage with Earth Day every year. This year’s theme is “Invest in our Planet”, a slogan designed to encourage individuals, corporations, and world leaders to put money towards greener technologies and environmental projects that promote bio-diversity across the globe.

What’s New on Earth Day?

Businesses and individuals are making pledges to “Invest in our Planet” by switching to greener ways of working and reducing their carbon footprints. The Earth Day 2022 website includes an action toolkit to help people get involved with the event and make a difference in their local communities, as well as tips for investing in the planet.

As the movement’s website states, “For us, every day is Earth Day”, so actions and events will continue throughout the year to ensure environmental action does not lose its vital momentum.

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.

 

Wood Pallets: An Eco-Friendly Choice

Sustainability is an ongoing challenge for industry supply chains. Consumers often don’t recognize the enormous complexity of a reliable supply chain. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, nearly two billion pallets are in use every day in the United States.

Within the industry, there are staunch advocates for both wood pallets and plastic pallets. Each group claims their choice is the most environmentally friendly.

Researchers at Penn State University decided to take an unbiased look at the debate. They found that wooden pallets are more eco-friendly and sustainable than plastic.

Top 3 Eco-Friendly Benefits of Wood Pallets

Renewable Resource

Wood pallets are made using sustainably sourced wood. The timber is often cut for other uses and the by-products are used for pallet construction. Pallet wood does not come from old-growth forests.

The forest products industry has worked hard over the decades to become a model of sustainability. In 2020, the NWPCA and Pallet Foundation put together an Environmental Product Declaration for wood pallets.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab, the UL-certified document is a testament to the positive environmental impact of wood pallet construction. Two new trees are planted for each one harvested, and 1.7 billion trees are planted in the United States every year.

In 2007 there were over twice as many hardwood trees in the U.S. than there were 50 years earlier. Trees are a naturally renewable resource, and responsible management creates more carbon-capturing trees than it harvests.

Plastic pallets are made with petroleum products. The extraction of these non-renewable fossil fuels produces air and water pollution as well as soil contamination. The Penn State study found that plastic pallets create far more aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicity and contribute much more to global warming than their wooden counterparts.

The simple fact is that wood pallets are made of trees, not oil. They are less harmful to the environment at every step, and they contribute to a more environmentally sustainable supply chain.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The most eco-friendly products are those that can be reused. Wood pallets can be used multiple times for their main purpose and be repurposed repeatedly. Damaged pallets can be repaired or made into other shipping materials.

When a pallet is no longer viable for shipping, the wood becomes everything from furniture and home décor to mulch and biofuel. A simple search for pallet wood on Pinterest reveals hundreds and hundreds of projects that use wooden pallets that have been retired from active use.

Reusing pallet wood for home projects reduces the use of new hardwood timber, reduces the purchase and consumption of materials that are not sustainably sourced, and decreases our reliance on plastic.

Recycling pallet wood into products like mulch and animal bedding saves newly harvested timber for other uses.

Estimates are that about 93% of pallets in the United States are made of wood and that 95% of those pallets are recycled by companies, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.

Wood Pallets are Biodegradable

The recycling of wood pallets has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. That alone made wood pallets increasingly environmentally friendly and extended their useful lives.

But at some point, pallet wood is not going to be useful anymore. When it reaches the end of its lifespan, a wood pallet does the most eco-friendly thing of all: it biodegrades.

Properly treated and disposed of pallet wood decomposes. It adds nutrients to the soil, provides homes for plant and animal life, and leaves nothing behind but the fertile ground for new trees.

The small percentage of pallet wood that ends up being disposed of does exactly what we want our trash to do, it benefits the environment. After being recycled, reused, and repurposed for years, responsibly discarded wooden pallets nourish the environment rather than disrupting ecosystems and clogging our waterways.

Proponents of plastic pallets point to their durability and longevity. And they certainly can be strong and make many trips as pallets. But they’re not sustainably sourced, they’re not easily reused or recycled, and they don’t biodegrade.

Wooden pallets are an integral part of a reliable, environmentally friendly, sustainable supply chain. As consumers become aware of their complicated environmental footprint, they will be looking for companies that use wood pallets in their supply chains.

Business woman montage

Voices-Women in the Pallet Industry

March is Women’s History Month and we at Nature’s Packaging are here for it. All of the blog posts for this month were about women and their impact on forestry, forest products, and the pallet industry. For our final post of this month, we asked women in the pallet community one question:

How have women changed the pallet industry?

 

Su So-Longman – President

Pallet Central Enterprises

When I started Pallet Central Enterprises 17 years ago, it was rare to find women in a leadership role in this industry. I found such statistics exciting since I have always lived to compete and thrive in challenging circumstances.

Women have advanced light years since that beginning. Now, it is not uncommon to see some of the best pallet companies in the US, owned and operated by women. They are also plant managers, purchasing directors, and account managers among other roles. That is a testament to how involved women have become in every aspect of the pallet industry.

Women certainly possess the more traditional leadership skills, but they also bring a depth of understanding, flexibility, and true work ethic to the workplace. This is demonstrated in the loyalty and longevity of employee relationships, as well as the connections with customers and vendors.

I am proud to say that women are 80% of my in-office work family at Pallet Central Enterprises, and my management team consists of 90% women who oversee daily operations, including sales and accounting. Our national sales manager, who is also a woman, is on the board of the NWPCA.

Women of pallet industry are here to stay, and the industry is definitely better for it.


Julie DeRoush – National Director of Supply Chain

TRI-Pac North America

Women have brought a fresh perspective to the pallet industry through forward thinking and personal connection to customers. Women are largely having the day-to-day conversations with the customer base and have played an integral role in identifying and introducing innovative technology and tools that support the internal expediency and “Just-In-Time” service that customers are demanding. We are calculated risk takers and problem solvers that balance the chaos this industry tends to thrive in.


Beatrice Vasquez – President

Oxnard Pallet Company

Some strengths women have is the ability to multi-task effectively, demonstrate patience, show compassion/respect/flexibility with others (especially employees), and maintain good organizational skills. I believe our attention to detail along with all these strengths have placed an important and vital role for us within the pallet industry in helping to surge forward for more growth potential!


Kristin Kopp – VP of Communications and Marketing

48 Forty Solutions

What I have noticed from women in the pallet industry who I have had the pleasure of working with, is that they bring a sense of humility and thoughtfulness to the table. There are a lot of broader and deeper discussions taking place that might not have otherwise. Pushing the why of initiatives and results to discern “how we got here” rather than just focusing on the numbers themselves, is something I enjoy seeing. What I love most about women in this industry is there is a toughness and resilience which I think a predominantly male industry both appreciate and respect. This respect encourages pallet businesses to hire more women, softening the edges of their businesses a bit, and being open to a whole different style of thinking, feeling, discussing and problem-solving.


Carolyn Beach – Chairwoman of the NWPCA Board

Co-Owner Westside Pallets

Women in the industry are much more present.  More women are not only finding careers in the pallet industry and other industries associated with pallets, but they are more involved in the associations such as NWPCA and WPA.  It’s encouraging that it is common to see women in the pallet industry.

 

We close the month of March celebrating Women’s History and their contribution to this industry. We look forward to the continuation of women taking leadership roles in all of the trade associations (NWPCA, WPA, CWPCA) affiliated with the pallet industry.

 

Woman in a warehouse standing next to pallets and racks

Perspectives-Women in the Pallet Industry

At Nature’s Packaging we have been celebrating this March as Women’s History Month. Women provide so many unique perspectives and skills in this industry that it is absolutely true to say that we would not be where we are as a group, were it not for the wonderful women of the pallet industry.

An interesting aspect of the pallet industry is that it is still pre-dominantly comprised of family businesses.  Of course, we have witnessed many instances of consolidation in the past year, but the playbook in consolidation seems to be to keep the core in place and add in resources where needed.

Family businesses involve women in many parts of the enterprise. These duties include everything from ownership, to administration, to operations, to working the repair line. In all respects, the acumen, knowledge, and experience that women bring to the business and to this industry enriches the relationships with peers, customers, and partners alike.

It has been referenced by others in the pallet industry that women bring a more developed sense of emotional intelligence (EQ) to their relationships. That observation may be anecdotal, but it can also be true. The bottom line is that women are just as good or better in a lot of areas of business, including running them.

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) elected its first woman chairperson in 1998 (Susan Larson). It has been 24 years, but Carolyn Beach now steps into the role of Chair of the Board of Directors. Her voice and perspective are a welcome addition to the leadership roles that women are stepping into more and more within this industry. The Western Pallet Association (WPA) and the Canadian Wooden Pallet and Container Association (CWPCA) also include women in various committee and leadership positions as well.

However, as an industry we need to do more. There have been events, both online and in-person, where women have an opportunity to come together to discuss their experiences in the industry. How do we, as an industry altogether, recruit more women into the leadership roles that are so important to our associations?

Perhaps there should be more circumstances where women can come together, whether it be a live event for women only at one of our national conferences, or a regular meeting group (online or in-person). These types of regular activities will surely advance the industry by letting women know that their voices are integral to the fabric of our collective success. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking action.

Today I Learned

#TIL-Women’s History Month and The Forest Service

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. Here at Nature’s Packaging that means that each blog post this month will focus on the vital part that women play in forestry, and the forest products industries.

The first women to work in the U.S Forest Service began in the early 20th century. During the beginning, their jobs were restricted to what were viewed as gender appropriate duties for women in the workplace. Yet, these early pioneers laid the groundwork and proved time and again that their abilities far exceeded their roles as they broke existing barriers to take on new fields and responsibilities within the service.

In this Nature’s Packaging post, we will focus on the history of women employed at the U.S. Forest Service and learn how their hard work and dedication built the infrastructure of the U.S. Forest Service and slowly expanded to field services and leadership roles.

Early Pioneer-Helen Stockbridge

In the early years of the 20th century women were the clerks, secretaries, librarians, educators and research workers in the forest service. It is in these types of duties that women began building the administrative infrastructure of the Forest Service. Their work streamlined processes, expanded documentation and history of various forest regions. As educators, they informed the public about the forest service and taught conservation practices to schools and clubs. The researchers were tasked with cataloging new findings and interpreting data coming in from the field through reports and actual samples.

During her time at the Forest Service, Helen Stockbridge served as the Director of the Forest Service Library from 1904 to 1933. As director, she expanded the forest service resource library more than 4X its initial size of 3,000 items to hold a wide array of over 13,000 different materials. She accumulated a diverse base of literature and created 137 branch libraries in all the forest supervisor offices throughout the U.S.

The National Forest Service Library

Not merely a collector and curator, Helen Stockbridge also wrote, reviewed, and edited many bibliographies, field manuals, and research documents. Her important perspective as a woman in the writing of this material certainly factored into the decisions and actions on conservation taken by personnel out in the field and in leadership roles (who were in nearly all cases, men).

Now known as The National Forest Service Library, the department provides a wealth of knowledge and easy access to databases, bibliographies, and scientific research that members of the Forest Service use to analyze historical trends, do important research, and develop new forest product technologies.

Early Pioneer-Hallie M. Daggett

Hallie Daggett-Fire Lookout

While women were employed at the Forest Service since the early 20th century, they did not take on roles that involved field work. That all changed with Ms. Hallie Morse Daggett.

Field work in the Forest Service included jobs like fire lookout. This person is assigned to watch for wildfires and/or signs of wildfires in the many regional forest areas around the United States. They occupy a building known as a fire lookout tower. These towers are typically located on mountain summits to provide a proper vantage point over large areas. They are very often in remote areas of forest region that are difficult to get to and difficult to supply. The harsh weather, mountainous terrain, and remote isolation were all part of the assignment that the lookouts had to endure in order to carry out their duties.

In the early 20th century, the job of a fire lookout was thought only appropriate for men of the Forest Service. However, Hallie M. Daggett proved them all wrong.

Employed as the first female fire lookout, she took on the role and flourished. She started as a lookout in 1913 and was based in California within the Klamath National Forest, specifically at Eddy’s Gulch lookout station on Klamath Peak.

Eddy Gulch Lookout Station

Getting the job was no easy task and after much perseverance and persistence, the Forest Service opened the position to her as an experiment of sorts. This she knew as she pointedly remarked once in an interview, “…thanks to the liberal mindedness and courtesy of the officials in charge of our district, I was given the position of lookout…with a firm determination to make good, for I knew that the appointment of a woman was rather in the nature of an experiment, and naturally felt that there was a great deal due the men who had been willing to give me the chance”. Hallie M. Daggett went on to serve as a fire lookout for more than 14 seasons in the Klamath National Forest. She is the most famous female fire lookout in the history of the Forest Service. Her story and history broke the mold and inspired many women to seek out field work in the U.S. Forest Service

Women in Forestry-Milestones

  • 1913 – First Female Fire Lookout – Hallie M. Daggett
  • 1957 – First Female Forester hired – JoAnne G. McElfresh
  • 1979 – First District Ranger – Wendy Milner Herret
  • 1985 – First Forest Supervisor – Geri B. Larson
  • 1991 – First Director of a Forest Research Station – Barbara C. Weber
  • 2002 – First Chief Operating Officer – Sally Collins
  • 2007 – First Chief of the Forest Service – Abigail R. Kimball

All these firsts are important, these women and many others that work day-to-day in a diverse array of jobs deserve the acknowledgement and recognition for their invaluable contributions to the U.S.F.S., the forest sciences, and the industries that work with the Service.

To be sure, there is still more work to be done. These stories and milestones are just a small sampling of the stories of women in the Forest Service. A project started by Dr. Rachel Kline, a USFS historian, called HerStory at the United States Forest Service is designed to commemorate and recover the history of women in the Service. The project is focused on providing an oral history and perspective through recorded interviews with women who have served in the Service, and women who are currently working in Service. Please check out the interviews and great stories and help us at Nature’s Packaging to celebrate women this March in Women’s History Month.

A Few Reasons To Love Recycled and Reclaimed Wood

Whether you are someone who works on wooden DIY projects in your free time or earns a living making finding new ways to work with this wonderful renewable resource, finding a good source of raw material is essential. With that in mind, the following Nature’s Packaging post is a short list of reasons you should love recycled and salvaged wood.

Here’s Looking at You, Wood!

One of the primary benefits of using recycled, salvaged wood is that it offers a unique look aesthetically. Reclaimed wood is one of the few materials where versatility in re-use can lead to beautiful creations.

Recycled Wood Artwork

In particular, recycled wood tends to have a one-of-a-kind appearance that can’t be recreated.

Reclaimed Wood Artwork showing figure in wood pattern.

These aesthetically unique characteristics add to the attraction and can contribute significantly to wood-based art becoming sought after pieces of design and creativity. Artists often work with the various defects in the wood figure and discover novel ways to incorporate them into a new pattern and perspective.

Sustainable and Green Friendly

Recycled and salvaged wood is green-friendly. Wood is one of the most renewable and recyclable resources on the planet. The practice of silviculture is the ability to grow and manage trees for use in everything from building materials, to woodworking, to industrial uses (like pallet building).

During their development, trees continually provide oxygen in the environment, and absorb and retain carbon dioxide. Moreover, unlike some plastics or other synthetics, wood does not produce out-gassing of harmful vapors during its deterioration.

When using salvaged or recycled wood, this is an even more green-friendly option. Re-purposing salvaged wood prevents it from being unnecessarily wasted or discarded into a landfill. It also helps decrease the energy consumption that occurs when producing new materials. And recycled wood continues to sequester carbon for many years during its complete lifecycle.

Structural Stability of Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed and salvaged timber can offer a high level of structural stability. Since most of the timber has been exposed to various elements for decades at a time, the weathered wood can actually be stronger. If the wood has been salvaged from older structures, it often comes from old-growth timber. Old growth timber is more dense, stronger with a tighter grain and hardness, burns slower, and is more insect resistant.

Old growth timber compared to new growth timber by tree ring count

Old growth vs new growth timber

Wooden Pallet Recycling

Recycled wood is a key component in the sustainability of the modern supply chain. The pallet industry can proudly boast of a 95% recycle rate for wooden pallets and containers. Their full lifecycle begins with new pallets being built from the less desirable sections of raw timber (industrial lumber), thus utilizing more sections of a tree rather than wasting it. Their repeated use and repair greatly extends their utility lifecycle phase within the supply chain. And their end phase is re-purposed into end products like wood pellets for fuel, ground mulch, animal bedding and many other products. Or the pallet components can end up as a wonderful piece of art or even furniture.

patio furniture made from recycled wood pallets

Vital to the wood life cycle and a key element in sustainable practices (industrial, commercial, and personal), recycled and repurposed wood not only offers you a unique multi-purpose utility, it also contributes to a more sustainable environment. Wood makes the world a more beautiful place and truly moves the world as well.

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