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Using Forest Biomass for Energy

Using Forest Biomass for Energy

How Biomass Co-generation is Good for the Environment

All agencies and organizations involved with forest management are aware of the need to remove dead and fallen trees from forests as a means of reducing the likelihood of forest fires and of creating room for new growth. In the past, the removal of forest residues like this have been accomplished through harvesting and transporting to various landfills for incineration, or simply letting it naturally decay into the environment.

This approach has now been recognized as being extremely wasteful, especially in light of the fact that technology is now available for making advantageous use of all that previously discarded forest biomass. By making use of the forest biomass as a fuel source in power plants that generate electricity, a very useful end result can be achieved, rather than having that biomass simply dumped or burned at landfills.

Image by Flickr; Distributed under a CC BY 2.0 License

How the environment benefits from biomass co-generation

As mentioned above, since forest management became a widespread practice, the need for removal of large quantities of dead or dying trees has been recognized. During forest fires, all the fallen trees and branches on the ground are catalysts for spreading fire and for intensifying it, so enormous effort must be expended to remove this clutter.

As an example of how forest biomass is good for the environment, the University of Northern British Columbia in Canada was exploring ways in 2007 to reduce its massive carbon footprint and be kinder to the local environment. Within two years, the university became the first one on the North American continent to own and operate its own biomass fuel generation system. The biomass input used to fuel the system comes from an agreement made with the Lakeland Mills sawmill nearby, primarily consisting of sawdust and wood pellets.

No fossil fuels are burned in the process of creating steam to drive the turbines that power generators for the electricity production, so the university has been able to achieve its goal of significantly reducing its carbon footprint, while at the same time having a reliable and efficient source of electricity. Other universities and businesses have followed suit since that time, using forest biomass as input to power electricity generation, and the big benefactor is the environment.

National bioenergy initiative

The nation of India has made a huge commitment to saving the environment by targeting a 40% share of its energy production from renewable sources by the year 2030. In addition to solar and wind power, another fuel source included as part of this strategy will be biomass that would otherwise have been wasted.

The Indian initiative will also have the benefit of reaching rural areas remote from major cities, which lacked power sources in the past. In at least some of these locales, power plants fueled by biomass will come into production as part of the broad commitment to carbon footprint reduction, and a big boost will be given to the environment.

Forest biomass is a valuable resources and like all wood products, it should never be discarded in landfills. Forest biomass can be used to make mulch, sawdust, and many other things and it will continue to be a renewable resource as long as forests are sustainably managed.

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History of Earth Day

History of Earth Day

Image attribute: Photograph by Google Images; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Earth Day was the brain child of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was horrified after witnessing a terrible 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, California. Sen. Nelson hoped to tap into the restless energy which was still being expressed by the counter-culture movements of the time, to publicize and promote national awareness of the environment. Up to that time, relatively little mention of the environment had ever been featured in the media, with only a few voices calling attention to the diminishing resources, increasing pollution, and indiscriminate recklessness toward the earth.

Organizing the first Earth Day
Sen. Nelson persuaded Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to be co-chairman and appointed Denis Hayes from Harvard as his national coordinator. Mr. Hayes quickly assembled a national staff of 85 like-minded individuals to help with the event, and April 22, 1970 was chosen as the date for the inaugural Earth Day in America.

An amazing 20 million Americans turned out that day to demonstrate in favor of greater environmental awareness and protections, enlisting the aid of millions who had already been fighting pollution and other discrete areas of environmental harm. The groundswell of support for the movement led directly to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of a bill promoting clean air, clean water, and protection of endangered animal species.

Earth Day goes global
Twenty years later, in 1990, Denis Hayes again took the spotlight for organizing a global Earth Day. For that effort, more than 200 million people in almost 150 countries participated, and it brought the issue of environmental conservation into focus for the entire world. One of the biggest outcomes of this global involvement was a formal program of recycling which began to be adopted almost everywhere on earth. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Sen. Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts in founding Earth Day.

Earth Day today
In 2010, the Earth Day Network brought more than 250,000 people to the National Mall for a rally focused on the climate, and initiated the launching of the world’s largest environmental service undertaking, called ‘A Billion Acts of Green’. This called for forest preservation and conservation in the form of planting trees in 192 countries, by more than 22,000 partners of the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day has grown into the biggest observance in the world by private citizens, with upwards of one billion people participating annually. It continues to gain supporters every year. In addition, the movement continues to spur new legislation that acts to protect the environment and the creatures which make use of it. With major impacts already being wrought by climate change, and even greater impacts anticipated, the value provided by Earth Day becomes more evident and more crucial with each successive year.

Resources

Meet Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

Upcycled Wood Pallets: The Forklift & Palate Restaurant

The Forklift & Palate Restaurant

If the walls of the Forklift & Palate Restaurant could talk, they would tell a tale of American enterprise and vision comingled with respect and care for the environment.

Upcycled wooden pallets at the center of attention in The Forklift & Palate Restaurant. Photography © Stephanie Jordan

Upcycled wooden pallets at the center of attention in The Forklift & Palate Restaurant. Photography © Stephanie Jordan

The Forklift & Palate Restaurant is housed along with The Warehouse Hotel and Spooky Nook Sports facility in a repurposed industrial warehouse in Manheim, PA. Located in the heart of the famed Pennsylvania Dutch country, the restaurant offers authentic down-home American hospitality, new twists on classic American culinary favorites, and surroundings that incorporate imaginative uses of the building’s original industrial trappings, including pallets, pallet slats and cable spools. Yes, we’re talking about pallets, wooden shipping skids that were stashed onsite when the former Armstrong World Industries distribution center was purchased and converted into a world-class sports training and entertainment center in 2011.

Photography © Stephanie Jordan

Photography © Stephanie Jordan

The Forklift & Palate Restaurant features recycled and repurposed materials from the original warehouse throughout the facility, right down to the cement in the driveway and the pallets that frame display murals on the walls. Tables in the restaurant and bar area made from used pallet slats sit adjacent to tables made from large circular wire spools lending a casual, rustic ambiance to the space. Every wall in the restaurant is unique; many are faced with pallet slats and other recycled materials. Even the menu holster at the hostess station is made from used pallet slats.

“Everybody loves the décor. It’s very natural, very authentic. And it’s a comfortable setting where people can relax and chill with friends, buddies and teammates,” said Tim Brandt, Forklift & Palate Restaurant manager. “The place has a great vibe and people feel really good about the green theme of reusing, recycling, being earth friendly. Of course, they love the great food and friendly service, too.”

Photography © Stephanie Jordan

Photography © Stephanie Jordan

The restaurant’s environmental ethos goes well beyond its contemporary industrial décor stylings to incorporate state-of-the-art environmental systems such as geothermal heating and rainwater recycling. “With all of our three entities, we are committed to environmentally friendly practices, from the types of cleaners we use to the conservation of water in our restrooms, turf watering practices and kitchens,” said Stephanie Jordan, Spooky Nook’s marketing manager. “By using repurposed building materials in our complex, restaurant and hotel, we hope to preserve not only beautiful Lancaster County, but also the history of this unique building.”

The Forklift & Palate Restaurant opened and began welcoming guests over the 2015 Independence Day weekend. The Spooky Nook complex, which sits on 65 acres and owes its name to its location on Spooky Nook Road, is the nation’s largest total experience sports destination. The Nook hosts tournaments, leagues, camps and clinics in sports ranging from baseball, basketball, football and ice hockey to fencing, tennis, soccer and scores of other sports activities.

(Article written for and published in PalletCentral, September-October 2015)

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