Recycling and Re-usable products

Today I Learned – Carbon Sequestration

Carbon is the most common GHG (greenhouse gas) produced in both natural ecological processes and in abundance by human being’s through various industries and technologies. The excess of GHG has an adverse effect on climate.

The overview of climate change is already familiar to us:  excess carbon production as a greenhouse gas leads to a rise in global climate temperature which in turn leads to climate events and patterns that can cause great suffering and cost.

Many countries, and once again the United States, are participating in The Paris Agreement to tackle the mitigation of climate change and global warming through science, technology and policy. The current President of the United States’ stated goal is a 50-52% reduction of emission by 2030 with net zero emissions by 2050. This is certainly a bold goal for climate mitigation and sustainability.

As a renewable resource-based industry, we must embrace the science and continually proclaim the contribution of our business practices to the greater good of sustainability goals as tied to the supply chain.

As an industry, we earn it by every pallet and pound of wood that is recycled and re-used, and contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gases through continued carbon sequestration.

In today’s Nature’s Packaging discussion, we take a look at carbon sequestration and how wood and pallets are capable of net positive impacts on sustainability goals for the industries serviced by the wooden pallet and container industry.

Carbon Sequestration

The chemical, physical, and biological processes of the earth capture carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. In carbon sequestration, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by trees, grasses, and other plants via photosynthesis and stored as carbon in biomass (the trunks, branches, foliage, and roots) and soils.

Trees feed on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A truly efficient carbon capture system created by nature. As a renewable resource, forest management and tree planting are a core strategy to reduce carbon emissions and combat deforestation.

As long as that wood exists in some form, the carbon stays trapped inside. Thus, wood-based building materials keep the carbon trapped. Mass timber technologies is a great example here.

As far as wood pallets are concerned, the National Wood & Pallet Container Association in conjunction with the USFS-Forest Products Lab has developed a cradle-to-grave Life-Cycle Assessment that speaks directly to emissions and carbon capture. The Environmental Product Declaration is a great resource to share with customers and those that manage sustainability initiatives in their organizations.

Another great tool is the NP carbon calculator, which is available right here on the Nature’s Packaging website. The carbon calculator is an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand tool that allows you to demonstrate to customers, employees, and others just how effective pallet recycling is for reducing carbon emissions.

The calculator will show not only the metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that are saved per month, it also frames that calculation into how many equivalent cars are taken “off the road” per month. “This estimation is based on the EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM) for “dimensional lumber”. It is derived by taking the difference between the net CO2 emissions produced by land-filling and the net CO2 emissions produced by recycling dimensional lumber”. *from the Nature’s Packaging carbon calculator tool

The WARM Model

The Waste Reduction Model (WARM) calculates and sums greenhouse gas emissions, energy savings and economic impacts of baseline and alternative waste management practices, including source reduction, recycling, combustion, composting, anaerobic digestion and land-filling. The model calculates emissions, energy units and economic factors across a wide range of material types commonly found in municipal solid waste in the following categories:

  • Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E),
  • Energy units (million British Thermal Unit – BTU),
  • Labor hours,
  • Wages ($), and
  • Taxes ($). *Basic Information about WARM

The EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) recognizes 54 material types. In situations where a material isn’t directly recognized, it is acceptable to use a proxy. To be considered a suitable proxy, a material should be similar in processes related to:

  • How materials are acquired
  • How the product is manufactured
  • How the materials are collected at the end of their lifecycle
  • What materials and processes are offset when the primary material is recycled

A proxy is rated as Acceptable, Good, or Very Good. In the case of wood pallets, they are rated as Very Good based on the components of a pallet being dimensional lumber.

The WARM and proxy information for dimensional lumber are utilized correctly in the carbon calculator tool on the Nature’s Packaging website, so feel confident you are using an important tool to help your customers.

Climate change mitigation and sustainability goals are fast becoming center stage in government and corporate policy initiatives around the world. The wooden pallet and container industry will continue to do our part through beneficial business practices and helping other industries achieve their recycling goals now and into the future.

New Forest Management Practices Increase Carbon Sequestration

New Forest Management Practices Increase Carbon Sequestration

Greenhouse gases, also referred to as GHG, impact the Earth’s atmosphere by trapping heat within it. One of those greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide. When forests are healthy and sustainably managed, they sequester carbon from the atmosphere. This helps to counteract the impact greenhouse gases have on our planet. Nature’s Packaging supports the use of sustainably sourced North American lumber for wood packaging

The recently signed deal between Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve and Bluesource Canada looks to bring new hope to managing greenhouse gas emissions by sustainably managing 100,000 acres of forest in Ontario, Canada. The forest presently sequesters approximately 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and with their partnership with Bluesource Canada, they hope to increase this amount by 75,000 tonnes per year. This will be accomplished by increasing the maturity of trees harvested (rotation times), improving the health of the trees, and harvesting less than the annual growth of new trees.

Many new practices tailored to the type of the forest will be applied, including the “single-tree selection system” and the “uniform shelterwood system.” Single-tree selection is a method that prioritizes the elimination of sick trees that most probably will not survive or grow past the aspired maturity. That way, single-tree selection enhances the overall health and condition of the forest over time. It might be a low-impact harvesting technique but is the favored approach for promoting the growth of shade-tolerant species like the sugar maple and is intended to maximize carbon sequestration for this kind of forest.

Harvesting timber and promoting new growth is believed to be best achieved by using the uniform shelterwood system. In this practice, the larger and more dense parts of the forest are thinned. This creates greater gaps in the canopy, which is intended to allow more light to pass through the canopy and onto the forest floor. This practice will promote new growth of shade-intolerant species of trees like White pine, Red oak, and Black cherry.

The combination of these methods promotes diversity in the forest and over time is expected to sequester 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint

How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint

Forests absorb airborne carbon dioxide, store carbon in wood, and return pure fresh oxygen to the atmosphere. As that process continues, though, gases in the atmosphere absorb the planet’s heat and radiate it in all directions. When that heat cannot escape Earth’s atmosphere, the planet’s temperature warms.

Photograph by Flickr, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Photograph by Flickr, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Scientists estimate that nature is only able to remove about half of all carbon dioxide added to the environment. The good news is that forests, particularly those in North America, are continuously pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in solid wood. Because these forests are growing more than is being harvested, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that U.S. forests currently serve as a carbon ‘sink’, offsetting approximately 13% of U.S. emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Canadian Harvesting Practices

Wood products harvested from forests continue to store carbon throughout their use. According to the Canadian Climate Forum’s Issue Paper #4 from Fall 2015, Canadian timber harvesting practices emit minimal greenhouse gases. Improvements are continually being made to the industry’s lumber manufacturing practices to reduces its carbon footprint.

Energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce forest products are less than materials wood often replaces, such as metals, concrete and plastic. Canada’s forest products industry has been a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its manufacturing processes. Since 1990, the pulp and paper industry in Canada has reduced emissions by about 65%. This has been accomplished by replacing fossil fuels used for mill processes with low net-carbon emissions energy generated by burning wood residues once disposed of by burning without energy recovery.

U.S. Harvesting Practices

The United States has about 751 million acres of forest area, equal to about one third of the country’s total land area. According to the 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests, forty-four percent of United States forests are owned by local, state, or national governments and the rest are owned by private land owners. Sierra Pacific Industries, a forest products company, is one of the largest private land owners in the country, and is typical of how landowners approach sustainability. Regarding how their land is managed, Mark Pawlicki, the Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Sierra Pacific Industries, states,

“Sierra Pacific manages its forest lands on a sustainable basis. In California, we operate under the state’s rigid Forest Practices Act and Forest Practice Rules which require large timberland owners to not harvest more than they grow. In both California and Washington timber harvests are conducted only after a review and approval by state regulatory agencies. In addition, all of SPI’s 1.9 million acres of forests are certified under the independent Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which ensures that we are managing our lands on a sustainable basis for wood products, wildlife habitat, water quality, and other environmental attributes.”

Forest Certification

Voluntary third-party forest certification began in the 1990s in response to market concerns about forest management and illegal logging, primarily in developing countries. Other widely used forest certification programs in North America are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programmme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. Programs like these are all designed to assure consumers that the wood products they purchase have been produced sustainably. They are also assured that these forests are doing their part to offset fossil fuel carbon emissions.



This is the second of a five-part series on forests and climate change.

Previous: The Carbon Cycle

Coming Next:

  • How Non-Profit Forest Certification Programs Were Born
  • REDD+ and UN-REDD
  • The Future of Forestry

The Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle

Forest ecosystems play an important role in regulating the atmosphere’s chemical composition. Young trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store the carbon within their trunks while they grow, and release oxygen, giving us clean air to breathe. In fact, trees absorb so much carbon that their chemical composition is about 50% carbon!

Carbon Neutrality

Image Credited to Sierra Pacific Industries. (Click image for larger view).

Image Credited to Sierra Pacific Industries. Click here for larger view of the infographic.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere depletes the ozone layer and impacts global temperatures. Young, fast growing trees pull carbon from the oxygen during photosynthesis, store the carbon within their trunks, branches, and leaves, and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. When trees, branches, and leaves burn in a forest fire, the carbon stored within them is released back into the atmosphere. However, the emissions are dramatically reduced when forest byproducts are burned in a biomass-fueled electric generation facility. When treated this way, emissions from burning are considered carbon neutral.

Sierra Pacific Industries and the Forest Foundation are pioneers in researching the carbon neutrality of sustainably managed forests. As they explain in their infographic,

“Young, healthy forests absorb carbon more rapidly than older, dense forests. Older forests release carbon at the same rate that they absorb it, neutralizing their effect on global warming. Sustainably managing forests is an effective way to store carbon. As a tree grows, it stores carbon in its trunk, branches, and roots. When trees are harvested, the carbon continues to be stored in wood products.”

Trees reach a point in their aging process when the emissions from the natural decaying process exceed the carbon they sequester. It’s like filling up a cup of water. There’s only so much empty space within a cup for it to hold water. Once it’s full, it overflows. Over-mature forests release excess carbon into the atmosphere similar to how water overflows from a cup when you try to pour too much into it.

The Need for Biodiversity

However, this does not suggest that mature trees are bad and should be removed from forests. Nor does it suggest that young trees within a forest are the only plants that absorb carbon. Mature trees play an important role in preserving the forest’s ecosystem. Recent studies suggest that certain species of mature trees have ways of passing carbon underground to younger trees as a way to help them grow, adapt, and survive. Moreover, the biodiversity of forests supports carbon absorption from a variety of plant life. Forest ecosystems are incredibly diverse and they rely on that diversity to flourish, survive, and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.



This article is the first of a five-part series on how forests help fight climate change. The next articles and topics will be:

  • How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint
  • How Non Profit Forest Certification Programs Were Born
  • REDD+ and UN-REDD
  • The Future of Forestry
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