Why Wood Pallets are the Best Choice for Supply Chain Sustainability

Wood pallets are the modern equivalent of the Swiss army knife in supply chain operations. Pallets function as protection, transportation, and storage unit for countless numbers of items that ship all over the world, every day. Their versatility in design and ease of construction is unmatched by any other piece of material handling equipment in the daily operations of logistics and shipping.

Beyond their functional ability, wood pallets are seen as a best choice for companies when they want to achieve sustainability measures in their supply chains. Wood pallets have a number of key factors that make them the best choice in this regard.

In this Nature’s Packaging series over the next few weeks, we’ll dive deeper and take a focused look at what makes the wood pallet such a great choice when it comes to sustainability goals.

Below are the 5 key factors that will be discussed in the upcoming blog posts here in NP. Feel free to incorporate these into your messaging and help your customers understand why wood pallets are the best choice to help them achieve their supply chain sustainability goals.

  1. Renewable resource: Wood is a renewable resource, meaning it can be replanted and regrown, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials.
  2. Recyclable and biodegradable: Wood pallets can be recycled or broken down naturally, unlike plastic or metal alternatives. This reduces the environmental impact of the pallets at the end of their useful life.
  3. Durable and reusable: Wood pallets are durable and can be used multiple times, reducing the need for constant replacement, and minimizing waste.
  4. Cost-effective: Wood pallets are often less expensive than other materials, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact.
  5. Widely available: Wood pallets are widely available, making them easy to source and implement in supply chain operations.

Wood pallets offer a sustainable, cost-effective, and widely available solution for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact and achieve their supply chain sustainability goals. Join us next week for a look at wood as a renewable resource. See you there.

The Wood Pallet Specification-A Quick Review

A wood pallet specification is a document that outlines the design, construction, and performance requirements for wooden pallets used in the transportation and storage of goods.

These specifications are critical for ensuring that pallets meet the necessary safety and performance standards, as well as facilitating efficient logistics and supply chain operations.

What are the key elements of a wood pallet specification?

  • The size and weight of the pallet, including both overall dimensions and the size of individual components such as deck boards and stringers.
  • The type of wood used in the construction of the pallet, including both the species and grade of wood.
  • The type of fasteners used to assemble the pallet, including both the size and material of the fasteners.
  • The load-bearing capacity of the pallet, including both the maximum weight and volume that the pallet can safely support.
  • The type of forklift and handling equipment that the pallet is designed for, as well as any special handling or storage requirements.

The type of protection required for the pallet, for example if it needs to be heat treated for export outside the country.

In addition to outlining these technical requirements, a wood pallet specification should also provide guidance on quality control, testing and inspection procedures, and any relevant safety and regulatory standards.

Why is a pallet specification useful for both the customer and supplier?

  1. It provides a clear and consistent set of standards for the design and construction of wooden pallets, which can improve safety and performance.
  2. It allows manufacturers and suppliers to understand and meet the specific needs of their customers. This can lead to more efficient logistics and supply chain operations.
  3. It also facilitates better communication between different parties involved in the supply chain including warehouse operators, transportation providers, and end-users.

The responsibility for creating a wood pallet specification typically falls on the manufacturer or supplier of the pallets. This can be done individually or collectively with industry associations, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders.

A wood pallet specification should be updated regularly, as industry standards and regulations change over time, as well as keeping up with the new technology and advancements in the field. It is also important to consider updating it in response to any changes in customer or industry needs.

Wood pallet specifications are critical for ensuring the safety and performance of wooden pallets used in transportation and storage. They should include key elements such as size and weight, type of wood, fasteners, load-bearing capacity, handling equipment, and protection requirements. The manufacturer or supplier should create these specifications and update them regularly to ensure they meet the latest standards and customer needs.

Sustainable Forest Management and Wood Pallets

The wooden pallet and container industry has embraced sustainability as both a core practice within the operating processes of the industry, and as a key value add to our customers in helping them achieve their own sustainability goals in their supply chain.

As more and more companies in this industry utilize data to provide insight and tell a story about their commitment to sustainable practices; the knowledge, data, and practices have a trickle-down effect from the largest companies in the industry to the small mom and pop pallet yards that are the backbone of the industry.

As a whole, we realize that the benefits of sustainability go beyond merely integrating into our customer’s goals, data, and marketing. There is real potential to be a leading light in the reduction of emissions and the science of carbon sequestration.

These topics can have real financial consequences for our bottom lines that will have a profound effect on our industry. And rest assured, if it becomes clear that our business processes are fully in line with the economic benefits of carbon capture and carbon credits, then our industry will be transformed by investments from some very large companies.

The industry is now witnessing the effects of attention from investment groups that realized how critical the pallet industry is to the supply chain and have begun consolidating assets to gain an edge.

But let’s take a step away from industry affairs for a moment and focus on another aspect of sustainability and how it can affect our industry. Most of the time, we are focused on the “downstream” effect of our sustainable practices and the value added by them. In this particular Nature’s Packaging post, we want to look “upstream” at sustainable practices in a critical area of the forest and forest products realm that adds value to our industry.

Sustainable forest management has been covered by Nature’s Packaging in previous posts, so we won’t delve into it as it benefits a forest itself. In this NP post, we want to summarize how sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry in particular.

As we move forward globally with initiatives designed to save and manage forest from a more ecological and holistic perspective, the ability to source raw materials will change. With that change will come a change in our core products, the wood pallet and container, as well. As an industry, we must be ready for changes in policy and regulation that will inevitably be a part of that process.

The benefits of sustainable forest management must be weighed against the ability for our industry to do business in a meaningful way and remain profitable.

To that end, let’s review some of the ways sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry:

  1. Ensures a steady supply of wood:  Sustainable forest management practices aim to maintain or increase the health and productivity of forest ecosystems over the long term. This helps to ensure that there is a continuous supply of wood available for the wood pallet industry.
  2. Reduces costs:  Sustainably managed forests are typically more efficient and cost-effective to log than forests that are not managed sustainably. For example, selective logging practices, which involve removing only certain trees from a forest rather than clear-cutting the entire area, can help to reduce costs and minimize waste.
  3. Enhances the reputation of the industry:  Sustainably managed forests are generally seen as more environmentally friendly, and the wood pallet industry can benefit from this positive reputation. Using sustainably sourced wood can help to attract customers who are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions.
  4. Protects against future risks:  Climate change and other environmental pressures pose significant risks to the wood pallet industry. Sustainably managed forests are more resilient to these risks, as they are better able to adapt to changing conditions and continue to provide a reliable source of wood.

These are succinct points that offer a broad perspective to you as a reader. Essentially, they address supply, costs, marketing, and the environment as it relates to the pallet industry. It is your challenge to contemplate the implications of each of these points and decide where (and when) your company, and the industry, need to focus.

Sustainable forest management offers a range of benefits for the wood pallet industry, how will you add those benefits and create value for your business and the industry?

The Philosophy of the Wood Pallet

Where would the world be without pallets? When it comes to pallet philosophy this is one of the key questions that we ask ourselves as we sit cross-legged on a small stack of pallets.

Not really, but it’s a great image to contemplate if you’ve met some of us.

The reality is that pallets have revolutionized the way we do commerce. The unit load and the pallet are the cellular organism of the system we call the supply chain and our role as an industry is to provide essential services to our customers.

Even a pandemic couldn’t stop the pallet industry from doing the important work of keeping the supply chain running in spite of such a black swan event.

When companies are looking for a sustainable solution that fits their business processes, the wood pallet is a key piece of the puzzle.

There are several reasons why wood pallets are often the preferred choice for shipping products through the supply chain:

  1. Durability: Wood pallets are durable and long lasting. This makes them a good choice for shipping heavy or bulky items that need support.
  2. Strength: Wood pallets are strong and able to support significant weights, making them suitable for a wide range of shipping needs.
  3. Versatility: Wood pallets are versatile and can be used for a variety of shipping applications, including air, sea, and ground transportation.
  4. Recyclability: Wood pallets are manufactured from renewable resources and can be recycled or repurposed when they reach the end of their useful life.
  5. Cost-effective: Wood pallets are generally more cost-effective than other materials, particularly when they are used for longer periods of time.
  6. Widely available: Wood pallets are widely available and easy to source, making them a convenient choice for many supply chain operations.
  7. Customization: Wood pallets can be easily customized to meet specific shipping needs, such as size, weight, or handling requirements.

Overall, wood pallets offer a combination of durability, strength, versatility, and cost-effectiveness that make them a popular choice for shipping products through the supply chain.

The wooden pallet and container industry is ready to step into the light as a resource for sustainable solutions. The industry is committed to being a part of the solution to climate change issues and having a positive impact on the environment. Our business processes are designed with the principles of reduce, re-use, and recycle as part of their daily operations.

Technology is changing the way the supply chain operates and what new insights are available. Pallets are one of the few platforms that travel from origin to destination in the chain, and are being tapped in new ways for their value through data, analytics, and novel KPI’s.

Our industry loves to build and experiment, and we are ready to integrate new technologies and test them in the supply chain.

2023 is going to be a great year for our industry and we at Nature’s Packaging truly believe that wood can change the world, one pallet at a time.

Circular Design – How Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Can Be Part of Product Design

The principles of circular design are integral to the concept of a circular economy, a new economic model that values sustainability and efficiency. Many products don’t return to the manufacturer in today’s linear economy, nor would they arrive in a recyclable condition. Sustainability wasn’t a priority when mass consumption became the norm, and many products were never designed for systematic reuse. The economic system today follows the “make, take, discard” product lifecycle, but circular design provides an opening for a sustainable economy.

Circular Design – A Definition

Circular design entails a fundamental shift from wastefulness toward sustainability from the product’s conception to its fabrication. Everything is designed for reuse multiple times instead of designing for failure or obsolescence. It’s a change that maximizes economic efficiency since products and their components are recycled instead of thrown away. Circular design enables innovation in ways that the linear economy can’t provide and entails the following principles.

Circular Design Principles

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the four principles of circular design are:

  • Understand
  • Define
  • Make
  • Release

The result is a new product lifecycle designed for sustainability with each iteration. It incorporates the three “R’s” principles – reduce, reuse, and recycle – and supports the creation and manufacturing of products that can be reused time and again.

Understand

The first principle is to understand where the most significant opportunities are ready and available. Not every product or service lends itself to circular design because the business doesn’t operate on a sustainable model.

Understanding the current product design, its shortcomings, and its lifecycle gives business leaders a direction when adopting circular design. The idea is to construct products and processes that are regenerative and restorative instead of destructive and wasteful. Changes in the model can include a more robust connection from fabrication to services where downstream recycling is regenerative and/or restorative and maintains a viable product (read: pallets) that is reusable throughout its lifecycle.

Define

The defining principle articulates the specific business processes that can benefit from circular design. The supply chain is a perfect example. The challenges in supply chain operations may differ from company to company, yet they aren’t insurmountable.

It takes a multi-disciplinary, collaborative effort between provider and customer to identify processes and transition to a more sustainable design that includes the materials used to make the products. The definition of success must be clear and attainable because the following principle relies upon clarity. If the purpose seems elusive, the proper course is to return to narrowing down and understanding the opportunity.

Make

Here is where businesses can take action and prioritize which products and/or processes are likely to succeed according to clearly defined sustainability objectives and which ones need further development. One strategy is to test concepts with rapid prototyping and to embed feedback mechanisms to optimize the design.

An easy low-hanging fruit to pluck is re-examining the raw materials that go into a product. Is it feasible to make the item with biodegradable materials, or is it a better candidate for recycling? Can it incorporate both into production? The answers boil down to what the user needs. Many times, different versions of the same product may be necessary to test and achieve circularity since the design requires innovation and creativity. This is where research and development take place, literally and figuratively. Think of the purpose of facilities like the Virginia Tech – Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design.

Release

The last principle is launching the new design, but it doesn’t stop there. Circular design demands continuous improvement and a constant focus on efficiency. That’s why it’s best to launch and learn, releasing products to redesign and refine processes, with the ultimate goal of creating a circular product lifecycle. Creating a circular economic system demands no less than a concerted, multi-pronged approach.

Circular Design and the Wood Pallet Industry

The question is: do real-world examples of circular design exist? And the answer is yes. The wood pallet industry is a prime example of how design can enable circular economics to the company’s benefit. Wood pallets don’t require new raw materials each time. Manufacturers can produce them from sustainably sourced wood, recycled wood components, or a combination of both. Another example is a pooled pallet rental system which many large enterprises rely upon in transporting their finished goods.

Either way, the pallets, and components are designed to be used multiple times, bolstering the product lifecycle with increased sustainability. The pallet industry leverages its natural advantage in sustainable processes, and companies can legitimately validate forward-thinking sustainability goals and demonstrate genuine positive action for environmental concerns. The old wasteful business model is transformed into a circular system, and companies establish trust with their customer.

Conclusion

Efficient design processes focusing on reuse can lower material costs end to end. A circular-designed product doesn’t have a single lifecycle but rather several. The overarching concept is to battle climate change by reimagining how products reach consumers, starting at the design level. The four principles of circular design provide guidance, but it’s incumbent upon business leaders to commit to the new paradigm.

What is Cap and Trade?

The wooden pallet and container industry has been promoting the use of wood as an economical and sustainable solution for businesses and their supply chains for years. Our business model is built on recyclable and reusable packaging solutions so that customers can have faith and hard data in the implementation of their sustainability initiatives.

As climate change and greenhouse gas emissions have taken a more prominent place in consumer concerns, governments are implementing new programs and models to incentivize industries to cut emissions that have a detrimental impact on climate and populations around the world. One of the most successful models to accomplish these goals has been “Cap and Trade”.

In this Nature’s Packaging post, we’ll take a quick dive into cap and trade to learn more about it.

What is Cap and Trade?

In order to combat climate change, governments have employed a variety of methods. One such method is cap and trade. Cap and trade is a system in which the government places a limit, or cap, on the amount of pollution that companies can emit. This system would place a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow companies to buy and sell allowances for these emissions.

The goal of this system is to reduce emissions gradually over time while giving companies flexibility in how they meet the caps. Companies that exceed their allotted amount must purchase allowances from other companies that have not used up their allotment.

This market-based approach provides an incentive for companies to pollute less, as they can then sell their allowances to other companies. The overall goal of cap and trade is to reduce pollution by setting a limit on emissions and creating a market for buying and selling emissions allowances.

Critics of cap and trade argue that it will lead to higher energy prices and place a burden on businesses. They also argue that it is unfair because it allows some companies to emit more greenhouse gases than others. Supporters of cap and trade argue that it is necessary in order to combat climate change and that it will create incentives for businesses to develop cleaner technologies and implement sustainability processes.

A Short History of Cap And Trade

In the United States, the first mandatory cap-and-trade program was established by the Acid Rain Program of 1990. The program was designed to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that were causing acid rain. The program was successful in reducing emissions and provided a model for future cap-and-trade programs. According to the EPA, the program was a “pioneering effort” that helped the United States meet its Kyoto Protocol commitment.

In 2012, the Obama administration implemented a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. The program placed a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that could be emitted by power plants and other large emitters.

The goal of the program was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020. However, the program was never fully implemented, and was eventually replaced by other climate change policies.

Despite its challenges, cap and trade remains one of the most popular mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. California’s current cap and trade system has been in place for a number of years and is see as a model for future use at a broader level.

How Does Cap and Trade Work?

In order to understand how cap and trade works, it is important to first understand what it is. Cap and trade is a system that was created in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The way it works is by setting a limit, or cap, on the amount of emissions that a company or country can produce. If they exceed this limit, they must purchase credits from others who have not reached their limit. This provides an incentive for companies to reduce their emissions, as they can then sell their credits to others.

The cap and trade system has been used in the United States since 2009, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the program in an effort to combat climate change. The program has been successful in reducing emissions, but there are still some critics who argue that it does not do enough to address the problem.

The Pros and Cons of Cap and Trade

The cap-and-trade system is a market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.

The pros of this system are that it provides a financial incentive for companies to reduce their emissions, and it allows companies to trade emissions allowances with each other. This flexibility means that companies can choose the most cost-effective way to meet their emission reduction targets.

The cons of cap-and-trade are that some argue it may not lead to the level of emission reductions needed to combat climate change, and it could create windfall profits for companies that have already made investments in clean technology.

The Future of Cap and Trade

As the world continues to face the reality of climate change, many countries, industries, and companies are searching for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and implement sustainability into their processes.

The pallet industry continues to explore new areas of their business models to determine where recycling and reuse can fit into a system that rewards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and the ability to sequester carbon.

While we have witnessed the voluntary carbon market slowly rise and gather momentum. It remains relatively misunderstood and somewhat of a black box in terms of value and efficacy.

In the near future, if the pallet industry is able to link custody of certain parts of the sequestration process to recycling that generates a monetary return. Industries and companies will beat a path to the doors faster than you can say, “Wood Is Good”.

Some Great Resources to Explore

Calmatters – The Basics of Cap and Trade

Environmental Defense Fund – How Cap and Trade Works

Cap and Trade – Pros and Cons

 

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?

7 Great DIY Ideas for Pallet Wood Projects

Wood pallets are the perfect eco-friendly medium for some great D-I-Y wood projects. After being retired from use as pallets, recycled pallet wood can have a rustic, natural finish ideal for many different applications. It can be used as-is or dressed up with paint or stain.

Pallet wood can be used indoors or out and for everything from the simplest box to entire sets of furniture. Their versatility in design means you can use them as whole pallets in their original form or taken apart. If taking pallets apart, always be aware of nails that may be hidden or protruding slightly. Always use gloves, safety glasses, and the right tools to disassemble a pallet. Here’s a great resource on dismantling a pallet using different tools and techniques.

Most wood pallets are safe for home use, wood pallets are no longer chemically sprayed in the United States but other countries still use these techniques to prepare their pallets for export to other countries. Be sure to do a thorough inspection and make sure to check for stamps or markings that indicate if the wood was treated chemically. Here is an example of an MB stamp, which you do not want to use:

Now that we’ve gotten those points out of the way, let’s look at 7 great DIY ideas for pallet wood projects.

Art with Reclaimed Pallet Wood

While most people imagine using pallet wood to build, it’s also a great base for wall art of all kinds. Painting, wood burning, and carving can all turn your pallet canvas into a striking piece of home décor.

Pallet Wood Furniture

Pallet wood furniture projects range from simple to elaborate. If you’re new to working with wood, try something simple like a shoe rack. All you need are basic tools.

Ready for more advanced recycling? Make a pallet wood bed frame. They’re fairly easy to construct and give your room a natural, modern look.

If you’re an experienced woodworker, make something novel. Pallet wood makes terrific swing chairs and outdoor furniture sets.

Wall Covering

No, we’re not talking about 1970’s wood paneling. Use pallet wood to build a plank accent wall. The result is a warm, cozy feel that’s also modern and versatile.

Looking for a slightly smaller scale? Try a pallet wood backsplash in your kitchen. Use a water resistant finish to keep it looking great for years.

Ceiling Covering

Is your porch ceiling uninspired? Cover it with pallet wood for a finished, rustic look. This sturdy, long-lasting wood creates a statement in a place that’s often overlooked.

Any entryway with a ceiling can be styled with pallet wood. You can make this a fairly simple project with straight perimeter and field boards or jazz it up with some creative angles.

Storage Boxes

Pallet wood storage comes in infinite shapes, styles, and complexity. From a simple bookcase to an elaborate storage coffee table, pallet wood can make a place for just about anything.

We also like simple chests with an amazing amount of storage and clever kitchen trolleys.

Garden Boxes

Pallet wood is very accustomed to being exposed to the elements. Garden boxes, planters, raised beds, and herb gardens are all easy projects. You can focus on sustainability and create a beautiful outdoor space.

Tables

Tables are among the most common pallet wood projects. There is an incredible range of design options, from very simple side tables to full dining sets. A pallet table is a good way to practice your woodworking skills. Options with clean lines using basic tools are plentiful.

We like an easy coffee table on wheels or a rustic dining table.

Pallet wood is remarkably versatile. If you love a good upcycle, try your hand at one of these DIY wood projects.

 

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.

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.

 

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