Made From Trees-Forest Products Move Markets

Every day, many of the items used in daily life were made possible by forest products industries. The type of forest products in demand the most are various types of lumber. Used to make everything from furniture to home construction to wood pallets and containers; lumber is vital to many industries.

The transportation and logistics industries use wood pallets to move nearly everything. 1.8 billion pallets are in use every day, shipping 90% of the world’s goods. 90% of those pallets are made of wood, making them some of the most important forest product-derived items in the world.

Forest Products and Processes Add Sustainability

Forest products play a major role in the supply chain. Within the subject of climate change and the impact to the environment, the supply chain is under pressure to increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. The forest products industry is at the forefront of harvesting and creating renewable resources and products that are reusable and recyclable.

As part of that process, modern logging practices are incorporating sustainable principles to help forests remain healthy and productive. Well-managed forests generate some of the most valuable resources for mitigating climate change and provide useful products that positively impact daily life.

Wood Packaging Logistics and the Supply Chain

Wood packaging used in the supply chain includes pallets, boxes, crates used to transport goods. Well-designed wood packaging keeps goods from being damaged during transit. When heat treated and stamp-certified according to international standards like ISPM-15, wood packaging ensures that goods move seamlessly between countries and facilitates international trade.

Wood Pallets in the Supply Chain

Wood pallets are a core component of the supply chain. Their functionality makes them easy to load and unload via forklifts and pallet jacks. Their durability helps protect items shipped and their design makes them easy to store for reuse.

Wood pallets set the standard for supply chain strength, resilience, and sustainability. 95% of wood pallets are recycled and reused multiple times throughout their lifecycle. Pallets, as a crucial link in the supply chain, are leading the way toward a circular supply chain that eliminates waste.

They are also increasingly popular with consumers for DIY projects as the public recognizes their versatility. When they do reach the end of their useful lifespan, wood pallets are often down-cycled into other useful products like mulch, wood pellet fuel or craft wood.

A current challenge for wood pallets in the supply chain is availability. A consistent supply of quality pallets has always been in demand. When the pandemic hit, so did a broad increase in products shipped via e-commerce. As shipping has rebounded from those initial lock-downs, demand for pallets has exceeded supply.

At the same time, delays in other parts of the supply chain were causing the price of lumber to increase. Industries that use pallets to ship products began to appreciate the wood pallet as a principal component of a stable supply chain.

Forest Products-Above and Beyond

A relatively new arrival in the world of sustainable forest products is mass timber. Mass timber is an engineered product made up of multiple pieces and layers of wood sandwiched together. The result is an incredibly strong and resilient building material that is used in the construction of large buildings that were once built with steel or concrete alone. Mass timber technology is being used to build in Canada and Europe, and is now beginning to launch significantly in U.S. building construction.

Wood Fuel Powering Industry

Burning wood for fuel is nothing new. But the processes used for this age-old forest product are changing. Rather than using traditional firewood for heat in homes, people are turning to pellet stoves.

The pellets used in these stoves are commonly made from compressing wood byproducts that would otherwise go to waste. Wood pellets contain very little water, making them light and easy to handle and transport. They burn hot and clean and are considered to be carbon neutral.

The same pellets can be used to produce steam and electricity.

Biomass consisting of wood and plant products is finding a place as a clean energy option. It can be burned directly or processed into gas or liquid fuels. While not as clean as solar or wind energy, it is vastly cleaner than fossil fuel use and is renewable.

Residential buildings and industries are turning to biomass and other renewable sources for their energy needs.

Forest products surround us in our everyday lives. Renewable forestry practices have created an industry that leads the way in a world rightly focused on sustainability and net zero carbon emissions.

Achieving Supply Chain Sustainability with Wood Pallets

Supply chain sustainability becomes more important with the passing of new climate change legislation. Companies from every sector are identifying challenges and presenting solutions to make their supply chains more environmentally friendly.

For every industry, taking action to mitigate climate change is fast becoming a primary concern. As one of the fundamental cogs in the economic wheel of trade and commerce, supply chain management can lead the way with long-term sustainable solutions.

A More Sustainable Supply Chain

For consumer businesses, the supply chain accounts for 80-90% of environmental impacts. This includes greenhouse gas emissions and air, land, water, and other ecological impacts.

Addressing those impacts to comply with climate action regulations and consumer demand is one of the great challenges facing business today. It won’t be easy, but creating a more sustainable supply chain is possible.

Nearly every major industry already has access to a crucial part of a sustainable supply chain: the wood pallet.

One of the supply chain’s most essential components, the wood pallet is also its most sustainable. Of the 1.8 billion pallets in use in the United States, 90% are made of wood.

The life cycle of wood pallets represents a gold standard in terms of sustainability. As the holder of an Environmental Product Declaration UL Certification, wood pallets exemplify the philosophy of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Strong, long-lasting, reusable, and recyclable, wood pallets may even produce a net positive carbon footprint. They store carbon dioxide throughout their life cycle and save it from release into the atmosphere.

Today, the wood pallet represents a sustainable choice. The challenge is to realize the same level of sustainability across entire supply chains and, in effect, operate at a net zero waste capacity. Recyclable pallets manufactured from renewable resources is a key choice.

Consumers are demanding that companies make decisions based on positive environmental impact. Everyone from suppliers to end users is making sustainability a priority.

A company needs a comprehensive plan for sustainability at every level. Now is the time to examine and improve processes, but where to start? That’s where good partners can be the necessary guide with insight and metrics.

The Challenges Ahead

Sustainability challenges begin with system complexity. Companies have historically ignored supply chain areas outside their direct control. This leads to gaps in information and bottlenecks that go unnoticed until they bubble up and require action.

Sustainability is measured by the environmental and human impact of every single step of the lifecycle of a product. A company that creates eco-friendly headquarters also needs to attend to working conditions, pollution, and transportation practices abroad.

Problems vary depending on the industry. One company may identify air and water pollution from suppliers’ operations. Another may find inadequate safety measures where raw materials are procured.

Companies need comprehensive information about each step in the lifecycle of their products. That includes energy providers as well as suppliers and sub-contractors.

Once detailed information is collected, planning can begin for remediation of negative impacts. Over 80% of businesses do not have the information they need improve the sustainability of their supply chains.

Consumer businesses balance affordability with reliability and sustainability at every level of operation. Instituting sustainable practices may seem costly, but they strengthen the supply chain and save money in the long-term.

Decreasing pollution, shoring up facilities against extreme weather, and making positive contributions to healthy communities all make the supply chain more durable and more efficient. Time and materials are saved by eliminating wasteful and harmful practices.

Managing Supplier Sustainability

The most challenging aspect of creating a more sustainable supply chain is working with suppliers and their subcontractors. 75% of companies do not work with suppliers to reduce carbon emissions.

Businesses are like all customers—they have influence. A company can search for suppliers that already have sustainability goals and practices in place. They can also mandate that their suppliers bring facilities into compliance with a set of practices they determine will increase sustainability.

An even better solution is to work directly with suppliers. Using clear and verified guidelines for sustainable practices, companies can help suppliers improve operations.

The company goes from demanding customer to trusted partner. The environmental and human impact of the improved relationship strengthens to a more sustainable supply chain.

How a company works with suppliers depends on what objectives are identified. Making sure that everyone is using wood pallets is an easy first step in helping suppliers become more sustainable.

Best Practices in Sustainability

The complexity of supply chain sustainability can make it seem unmanageable. Organizations like CDP, World Wildlife Fund, The Sustainability Consortium, and others offer guidance. They help companies find issues and set goals for decreasing environmental and societal impact.

Looking to wood pallets as a framework, we can see some best practices at work.

Supply chains should use, wherever possible, renewable resources. Invest in solar, wind, and other clean energy use to build infrastructure and decrease pollution. Buy recycled wood pallets from suppliers wherever possible.

Make landfill avoidance a priority. Reduce waste, reuse materials, and recycle what is no longer useful. Wood pallets can be reused up to 15 times, and can be recycled into furniture, structures, biofuel, animal bedding, or mulch.

Studies show that 95% of wood pallets are recycled into usable materials. Even the small amount that ends up in the landfill can be used as the biodegradable top cover.

Incremental Improvements in Sustainability

The global supply chain is still far from its sustainability goals. Even the wood pallet industry can do more.

Ensuring that your wood pallets are used as many times as possible should be goal number one. Widely available recycling initiatives reduce the number of pallets that go to the landfill. Encouraging or helping suppliers switch to wood pallets improves lower-tier sustainability.

Every step gets us a little closer to a circular supply chain. Waste reduction, energy conservation, and greater emphasis on processes that benefit both society and the environment all reduce long-term costs.

Wood pallets are an important part of a sustainable supply chain. Unlike plastic pallets, they are recyclable, sustainably produced, and biodegradable.

There are places in your supply chain where sustainability requires concerted efforts with far-flung partners. Implementing the use of wood pallets across your company and its suppliers is an uncomplicated, powerful way to make a difference.

Wood biomass

Woody Biomass: A Nature’s Packaging Study – Part 2

***Nature’s Packaging continues this week with Woody Biomass – Part 2***

 

How Does Woody Biomass Produce Energy?

Woody biomass produces energy through several methods:

Combustion

Combustion of biomass is one of the oldest controllable energy resources. Combustion involves burning wood to produce heat.

It is a chemical reaction during which oxygen and biomass combine under high temperatures to produce water vapor, carbon dioxide, and heat.

Combustion is a widely used process to generate electricity that is an efficient, economical, and practical energy source.

Gasification

Gasification involves converting woody biomass into a fuel gas. The combustible gas can then facilitate powering engines. The process of gasification uses a low amount of oxygen and when utilized to convert solid carbonaceous materials, it can also produce hydrogen-rich gas.

Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis is a promising way of generating energy from waste. During pyrolysis, wood is heated without oxygen to produce a liquid or solid fuel.

Biomass pyrolysis involves breaking down organic matter into simpler molecular chains using heat. This process produces not only energy but also fuels and other chemicals.  The fuels created using the fast pyrolysis process have the potential to help reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 51% to 96%.

Heating biomass breaks it down into cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose. These components can be used to produce energy through combustion or other means.

Other Products from Woody Biomass

Woody biomass is a versatile resource that can be utilized to create many different types of products, the following are just a few:

Biochar

We have covered biochar in a previous Nature’s Packaging blog post. Biochar is a form of carbon generated from biomass sources like wood chips, plant residues, and other agricultural waste products. It is created to convert biomass carbon product into a more stable form, otherwise known as carbon sequestration.

Biochar isn’t actually a single product. Instead, biochar is many different forms of black carbon that are unique in chemical and physical composition due to the original feedstock materials, creation process, cooling methods, and overall storage conditions.

Wood Vinegar

Wood vinegar is a liquid byproduct derived from the production of charcoal. It is a liquid generated from the combustion and gas of fresh wood burning in airless conditions. When the gas is cooled, it condenses and the remaining liquid is a vinegar product. Raw wood vinegar contains more than 200 chemicals

Wood vinegar is used to improve soil quality, eliminate pests, and control plant growth. It accelerates the growth of roots, stems, tubers, leaves, flowers, and fruit, but can be very toxic to plants if too much is used in application. Wood vinegar is safe for living matter and organisms in the food chain, especially to insects that help pollinate plants.

Wood-based Polymers and Composites

Recycling wood from end of life utility in packaging, construction debris, and demolition waste then combining those materials with plastics to form wood-polymer composites (WPC) creates strong wood-based products that have very wide usage capabilities. These recycled composites have very low environmental impact in terms of global warming potential (GWP), and greenhouse potential. The versatility of wood-polymer composites allow products to be created that have pre-determined strength values that correspond to their many applications.

Chemical Source Materials

In the past, it was something of a challenge turning woody biomass into fuels or other primary products. The lignin present was difficult to extract. Now through thermodynamic breakdown and chemical science, the lignin can be extracted and is quite good as a bio-polymer additive to adhesive formulas and also can be further processed into binding agents, dispersing agents, and emulsion stabilizers. Meaning that its versatility in multi-functional chemical applications makes it an excellent application in chemical manufacturing processes.

Woody Biomass in the Future

Technological advancements in the forest product sciences are finding more functional uses for woody biomass every year. Starting as a sustainable resource and source of energy that can be replenished over time, it is an environmentally friendly catalyst that is now finding new applications in materials science.

As the need for energy sources grows, woody biomass is complementary to other natural energy sources like wind and solar and ensures energy security for manufacturing and production-based industries. Thus, commercial companies are exploring many different types of bioenergy solutions.

Developing the technology to enhance the economic viability of woody biomass ensures a sustainable future for energy production. Its renewable, carbon-neutral, and lower environmental impact is an ideal attribute for future needs.

 

Wood biomass

Woody Biomass: A Nature’s Packaging Study

Developed countries, such as the U.S, rely on fossil fuels for energy. In fact, a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reveals that primary energy consumption for the year 2020 in the U.S. was equivalent to 93 quadrillion btu.

Sources of fossil fuels such as natural gas, petroleum oil, nuclear, and coal play a significant role. They’re meeting the energy demands of the U.S. and the global society. However, these forms of energy contribute to greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions.

Lowering the use of fossil fuels is vital for environmental sustainability. Fortunately, demand for renewable energy sources has been rising in recent years. This is why renewable energy resources like solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric are crucial to achieve sustainability goals and mitigate climate change.

Woody biomass is a sustainable source of energy. One of the main benefits of woody biomass is that it is a carbon-neutral fuel source. Using woody biomass can help offset emissions from other fossil fuels. This makes it a crucial part of a sustainable energy strategy.

What is Woody Biomass?

Woody biomass is material obtained from woody plants and has been an important source of energy for millennia. Some notable wood energy facilities are:

  • Commercial wood furnaces
  • Liquid fuel refiners
  • Wood pellet factories
  • Power plants

Woody biomass is a natural renewable energy source from organic materials that can serve as a greener energy source. It is an attractive energy option for homes and industries as it can help generate electricity, produce heat, and be used in the creation of bio-based fuels. These can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

Where does Woody Biomass come from?

Woody biomass material is derived from several sources. These include urban trees, logging slash and residues, and shrub prunings. Other materials include waste from wood industries and programmed forest thinning operations.

Woody plants are short rotation crops that are fast-growing. These include trees that re-sprout after every harvest. For instance, species such as willow shrubs are often cut back soon (after the first year) to allow multiple stems to grow.

In some cases, growing single stem trees for the first harvest produces woody biomass resources. These trees are then trimmed for more yield. Most wood species, however, re-sprout slowly with every harvest which means that overall yield may decline over time with multiple rotations.

What is Woody Biomass made from?

Woody biomass is organic. It’s made of materials from living organisms (plants and animals) that can be transformed into valuable energy. Common materials for making woody biomass are biomass feedstocks – wood, plants, and waste.

As mentioned above, woody biomass comes from trees and other woody plants such as shrubs. Timber is among the valuable forest products. Woody biomass is one of the tree products, woody debris, and residues. These materials may include:

  • Trees that are lower quality due to disease or growing conditions.
  • Cut residues from timber harvest (barks, small logs, branches, stumps, needles, and limbs).

A tree’s biomass constitutes around 25 to 45 percent of logging residues. These residues are less valuable in terms of forest product utility and they typically do not support the future growth of trees. Removal of this residue material from the forest can help stimulate growth of trees and ecosystems that improve the health of the forest.  These logging residues are collected and recycled into bio-energy products like woody biomass.

In addition to these traditional collection practices, woody biomass can include perennial grasses and agricultural residues. From industrial settings, woody biomass source materials can be derived from municipal solid waste, urban wood waste, and mill residues as well.

Woody Biomass as Renewable Resource

Woody biomass is a sustainable and renewable energy source that can be a viable alternative for fossil fuels.

Through the process of pyrolysis, which breaks down biomass into constituent chemical and organic matter components, woody biomass is utilized in the creation of bio-fuels. The resulting bio-fuels can serve in a variety of applications as a source of energy for both vehicles and facilities

Woody biomass is a renewable resource that can be sustainably managed. Proper management can promote carbon sequestration. It can also be used improve soil health and enhance wildlife habitat.

 

***Join us next week as we continue to learn more about woody biomass at Nature’s Packaging***

Sustainable Logging Practices

Sustainable Logging Practices

For some people, the words “sustainable” and “logging” simply do not go together. Historical logging practices were sometimes hard on forests and disrupted native ecosystems. Today, sustainable forestry practices that include logging and harvesting trees comfortably co-exists with the conservation of thriving forests.

Sustainable Logging:  The Beginning

Historical logging practices began with the axe, manual saw, and manpower. They were transformed by the introduction of powered machines. At first, as volumes of timber increased exponentially with these new capabilities, the harvesting practices remained tied to traditional practices for some time. The practice disrupted wildlife, native plant species, and the enjoyment of wild areas.

While clearcutting is still practiced today, it is more controlled and meant to optimize renewal growth.

As environmental and climate awareness began to rise, bitter confrontations with the logging industry became far too common.

In 1972, the U.S. embarked on a new path. With the passage of the Clean Water Act, environmental policies were written into law across the nation. Local, state, and federal regulations emphasized healthy forests and responsible management.

But logging couldn’t simply stop. The industry supplied, and continues to supply, much-needed timber and other forest products to consumers around the world. The harvesting of forest products provided the economic foundation for communities across the country.

Reconciling those competing needs resulted in the birth of sustainable logging practices. Old-style clear-cutting both destroyed forests and ended the economic viability of the land. Sustainable practices allow both to flourish.

Sustainable logging practices benefit everyone, from the employees of logging companies to the campers enjoying a weekend in the woods.

Sustainable forestry even has the potential to help mitigate climate change.

Sustainable Logging Overview

The main principle of sustainable logging is to balance the economic importance of forest products with the ecological importance of healthy forests. This requires a comprehensive strategy for every potential logging site.

One way to approach sustainability is to design harvesting to mirror the effects of nature. Forests are altered by wind, fire, flood, and other natural events. Trees die and are replaced in forests with no human intervention.

Sustainable forestry also depends on choosing harvesting sites wisely. Old growth forests that are not normally harvested commercially should be left alone, preserving ecosystems and habitats that have flourished in place.

For land with a history of logging, sustainable logging begins with foresters learning as much as possible about the natural patterns and existing conditions of each tract of trees.

Sustainable Logging Practices

No two tracts of land will be logged in exactly the same manner. Sustainable logging brings together a team of experts who compile a comprehensive analysis of the area. Biologists, geologists, ecologists, and more lend their expertise to each project.

Each project has its own profile. But similar sustainable logging practices are adapted for sites across the country and, increasingly, around the world.

Patchwork Logging

While a company used to clear-cut an entire forest, sustainable logging is far more targeted and precise.

Harvesting trees from a small area allows the surrounding forest to adapt to the clearing like it would to a natural event. Keeping harvested areas far enough apart maintains habitat and biodiversity.

Tree type and growth, soil conditions, and other factors determine how many trees can be harvested from an individual area. In places where fire or damaging storms are common, the overall environment may be able to regenerate a larger area.

Patchwork logging leaves trees within a harvested area to better mimic natural conditions. It also allows for the preservation of tree species that are endangered or play an oversized role in ecosystem balance.

Sustainable logging is done in cycles. Some models propose that a cycle be no shorter than 80 years. This allows the forest to recover and continuously produce harvestable trees.

Areas that have been harvested are planted with saplings. The emergence of wild grasses attracts wildlife to the clearing, and the ecosystem evolves and grows.

Selective Harvesting

Selective harvesting removes individual trees, thinning the forest to allow existing smaller trees more space and light to grow. This type of sustainable logging is especially beneficial in tropical areas that don’t have natural events that mimic areas of clear-cutting.

Selective harvesting preserves undergrowth. This helps prevent soil erosion and maintain the health of the larger ecosystem.

Both patchwork and selective sustainable logging use fewer and smaller roads and less equipment, reducing damage to the surrounding forest. Careful attention is paid to the protection of unharvested trees.

Other Benefits of Sustainable Logging

Sustainable logging offers additional environmental benefits. Harvested trees and areas are kept well away from waterways to minimize erosion and runoff. Sufficient space is left between harvested areas to provide an uninterrupted habitat for wildlife.

Sustainable logging also provides a safer working environment. Fewer people and less equipment in each area help reduce the chance of accidents.

Sustainable Logging:  Forest Management and Climate Change

Sustainable logging can play a major role in forest management. An unlogged forest is not necessarily a healthy forest. The work that goes into profiling a forest or tract of trees before harvesting provides valuable information.

That information includes soil, geography, and tree health analysis. Invasive species are documented, as are biodiversity, wildlife habitat and density, erosion, and any disease or damage present in the area.

Logging is sometimes the first step in returning a forest to good health. Removing diseased, damaged, or low-quality trees helps the higher quality trees grow. This is called an improvement harvest.

The branches and other wood left behind by this careful removal provides wildlife habitat while it decays and enriches the soil. Removing invasive trees, vines, and other plants provides better conditions for the remaining trees.

Sustainable logging practices are used and adapted by forest managers to improve the overall health of their woodlands, even if no trees are harvested for lumber.

Sustainable forestry is also becoming the focus of climate action. Sustainable logging can result in more trees as well as healthier trees able to capture more carbon.

Tropical forests are an area of particular interest for climate action. 1.5 million square miles of tropical forest are currently being selectively logged. Widespread adoption of selective harvesting practices would allow these forests to maintain much of their carbon stores and biodiversity while continuing to anchor economies.

Sustainable logging practices combine common sense, careful study, and new technologies to improve the health of forests around the world. At the same time, they provide economic stability for many communities and meet the continuing demand for lumber and other forest-based products.

 

Green Supply Chain Practices

There are multiple ways to implement sustainability practices in a supply chain. Choosing which areas to tackle first can seem complicated. But some common practices cross industries and apply to most companies.

Materials

Choose recycled or sustainably produced materials (like wood pallets). This is one of the most basic applications of the reduce-reuse-recycle framework. Every business can choose green materials at some level.

If shipping products, then choose wood pallets. Wood pallets are less expensive and 95% are reused and recycled. Shipping is already very energy-intensive. You can help reduce its impact with your choice of materials.

Purchasing

Companies make procurement choices every day. Take the time to choose suppliers in your industry that are already using green materials and processes. Try to find suppliers that incorporate sustainable practices already.

Purchasing from an environmentally responsible established supplier strengthens their position in the market and provides an incentive for other suppliers to follow the lead.

Remember hidden costs. You may pay more with a green supplier, but do you save in responsible waste disposal and/or recycling of more materials? Audit the product lifecycle and determine where costs can be re-distributed or eliminated.

Transportation

Transportation is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As energy-saving options come on the market, take a closer look at your transportation suppliers. Choose those who are investing in clean-energy options. Just like all other purchasing, balance the cost of choosing greener transportation with the overall benefit to the communities you serve, your reputation, and the stability of your supply chain.

Packaging

Packaging can be one of the largest contributors to product wastefulness. Look at the entire lifespan of your packaging. How much of it ends up in the landfill, and how much of it can be reused or recycled?

Consumers are looking for less packaging. They’re also looking for innovative disposal methods. Can you use compostable packaging? Give your customers an easy choice with clear and visible instructions for environmentally friendly disposal.

First Steps-Greening the Supply Chain

No matter how big the company, the first steps in greening the supply chain is to understand that it is complex endeavor that will require time and resources to be truly effective. A green supply chain is intentional. The strategies come from the top down and involve every part of the chain. Build a plan and tackle each issue comprehensively.

Examine each step, from the acquisition of raw materials to the last mile of delivery. The key is to make incremental changes in daily operations that are part of a larger strategic plan. Identify the weakest points and work to strengthen them.

Talk to suppliers about sustainability practices. Some will have implemented strategies that lend themselves easily to the effort. A company’s vision and plan for sustainability is part of a larger strategic plan and supplier partners that can help by virtue of their own sustainability practices are essential.

A great benefit to investing in the green supply chain is that the effects can be larger than the intended scope of the initial investment. Helping a supplier/partner to improve its sustainability practices can create a stronger, more resilient supply chain overall.

That goodwill becomes a part of your company’s legacy and reflects positively on the reputation in the business community as a good partner.

The goodwill is a small, but essential, step in creating sustainable industries that become the standard.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chain problems as a worldwide issue. We are also realizing that greening supply chains makes them both more environmentally responsible and more resilient. Taking the first steps in greening the supply chain may seem daunting, but the small steps that a company takes can make a difference.

Every company that invests in sustainable practices, like using recycled wood pallets, is contributing to a greener global business environment. Those contributions will add up collectively to help lower costs and reduce waste.

Examining the company’s environmental footprint might seem troublesome, but seeing it as an opportunity to make positive, eco-friendly changes is good for business.

 

The Value Driven, Green Supply Chain

The whole world is more aware of the supply chain than they have ever been before. Pandemic-induced disruptions brought attention to the complexity of supply chains. Most people didn’t realize the impact of conditions in faraway places on the products they buy.

Climate change brought more attention to the sustainability and environmental impact of supply chains. The combination brought worldwide scrutiny to this historically overlooked essential underpinning of the global economy.

As we face a change in the methodology of supply chain operations and the increasing demand for more sustainable practices, businesses are looking at greening the supply chain. But what exactly does that mean?

Greening the Supply Chain

The phrase, “greening the supply chain”, often refers to practices that reduce the environmental impact of each step in a supply chain. But it can also encompass health and safety, societal impacts, and quality-of-life issues.

The degree to which sustainability programs and practices could be applied in a supply chain were originally thought to be based on the complexity of operations and where astute management could enable a more hands-on approach. However, the reality is that supply chains are a collaborative effort and no one company can lay claim to a singular approach that functions effectively.

The Green Supply Chain

A greener supply chain isn’t only about environmental impact. It’s also about saving resources and money for your business. And it’s about fortifying weak links in the chain to encourage more resilience in the face of external disruption.

Consumers are demanding greater environmental responsibility from corporations. Using sustainable practices at a company headquarters is a beginning step, but suppliers and partners have to be involved and invested in the practice as well. Some industries that work in the supply chain operations are automatically inclined to increase sustainability practices through their business model. The wooden pallet industry is a prime example of an industry that incorporates productive recycling practices that are absolutely in line with sustainability principles.

Many companies fail to realize the financial impact of waste in the supply chain. These costs tend to be hidden compared to upfront savings offered by suppliers. A closer look can reveal numerous processes where cost savings are negated. Disposing of excess packaging, paying for wasted water and energy, and costly shutdowns due to poor conditions can end up costing far more than those initial savings.

Taking the time to audit and eliminate wasteful practices at each step in the supply chain can result in lower costs. More importantly, it can also result in stronger, more resilient processes.

Companies can work directly with suppliers to reduce waste, decrease environmental impact, and improve working conditions. Each of these steps forges stronger relationships between companies and suppliers.

Those relationships allow all parts of the supply chain to work toward the common goal of business having a positive impact on the community. It doesn’t matter if that community is in the United States, Bangladesh, or France. Local impact is global impact.

Complex Supply Chains and Environmental Responsibility

As mentioned previously, a challenge for companies that want to green their supply chain is that they often do not directly control key parts of the chain. Factories and producers in developed countries generally have to abide by environmental regulations.

An effort to work with suppliers to exceed local regulations benefits their workers and their communities. Those suppliers become less fragile and prone to disruption and the supply chain grows stronger.

Those suppliers are also less likely to create environmental damage. Companies that knowingly use suppliers that are harming the environment may find themselves paying for portions of costly cleanup.

This can feel like an impossible task for many businesses. Even multi-national corporations struggle with the complexity of their supply chains. There may be hundreds of steps involved in creating a single product.

Everyone wants to be environmentally responsible, but where do you start? What are some basic green supply chain practices and what are some reasonable first steps?

The 5 Types of Innovative Forest Products – Part 2

Welcome back NP readers! In the first part of our Innovative Forest Product series, we investigated these leading edge technologies in forest product science:

  1. Advanced Composites and how forest products technology like tree fiber and wood waste are being used in processes like furniture construction.
  2. Advanced Structures and how wood products are being used in architecture to lower a buildings carbon footprint and create beautiful design.
  3. Forest Biorefinery and how the biological processes associated with wood can be utilized to create fuels like ethanol and other fermented substances.

Now let’s explore more innovative forest product technologies.

Wood 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 nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a meter.

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 concepts like porosity in wood, which is the void space between cellular walls, and how to utilize it to create magnetic properties or electrical conductivity.

Our increasing ability to explore and manipulate materials at such as small scale is exciting for researchers in the engineering and technology sectors. Wood nanomaterials 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. Nanocellulose holds promising potential as an inexpensive substitute for non-renewable petroleum-based materials across virtually all manufacturing sectors.

Woody Biomass Utilization

The western United States has experienced a growing number of intense wildfires in recent years. Part of the reason for this increase relates to the fact that these forest areas contain significant amounts of small-diameter timber and overgrowth that prefers shaded conditions vs sunlight. These overgrowth forests are prone to infestations, disease, and increased risk of wildfires developing through both man-made and natural means.

Is there a solution to this dangerous problem? Much of the forestland in the US is privately owned and management is the responsibility of the landowner. As such, some land is managed through proper silviculture and management techniques. Other forestland is left to grow wild because the management process can be costly and labor intensive.

The FPL has been researching the best ways to use the by-products of this type of forestland and woody biomass utilization may offer a viable sustainable alternative. The FPL is researching how to help small and rural communities utilize the potential of woody biomass to power building heating systems and incorporate the use of small-diameter wood in large structures such as sheds, bridges, trail paths, picnic shelters, and other architecture. The goal being to help these communities find a sustainable and economically viable method to manage forestland.

The bottom line: innovative forest products are changing the world

There are numerous ways for industries and communities to utilize innovative forest and wood by-products. In future, forest product innovations will include even more sustainable processes with the goal of helping companies and communities to become more ecologically aware and have a more positive effect on climate change.

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.

 

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