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The GreenBlue Program

The GreenBlue Program

The GreenBlue Program is one which has broad support from the U.S. Forest Service, as well as public corporations such as McDonald’s, Mars, and Staples, with the stated goal of developing a new forest sustainability tool called Forests in Focus, and using it to increase sustainability and the certified supply of wood products. Forests in Focus is a digital mapping tool which will complement the initiative for certifying family-owned forests as sustainable, and as being managed with an appropriate level of respect for conservation. Nearly 40% of the commercial wood fiber produced in the U.S. comes from family-owned forests, but only about 1% of the source forests are certified for sustainability and environmental friendliness.

Image supplied by Flickr; Distributed under CC-BY 2.0 License

Problems with certification

Up to the present, certification of family-owned forests has not been so much an issue of unacceptable management processes, as it has been an issue of the certification process itself having little benefit for owners of such assets, while also being very costly to acquire. This is why the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has joined forces with the Forest Service in backing the GreenBlue Program, so as to get all the parties together, in an effort to understand the issues hindering certification.

The group has made significant progress, beginning with discussions about how to increase forest certification, and then progressing into exploring options on how to achieve greater access for monitoring, and potentially certifying, the vast lands currently belonging to the un-certified category of forest land. It has also addressed sustainability issues on the ground floor of these operations, and has hosted discussions with brand owners who cannot secure sufficient quantities of wood from certified forests.

How GreenBlue will help supply and sustainability

The partnership of big corporations, the American Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), is paying dividends, as participants in the joint program have identified issues with the supply chain and have gained a better understanding of the importance of family-owned forests. When added to existing initiatives for certification, support for the GreenBlue Program should help bring in many more family-owned forest lands and increase certifications dramatically.

The new digital mapping tool, Forests in Focus, will help to identify gaps in sustainability wherever family-owned forest lands exist, so that such owners can be approached and assisted with obtaining certification. The hope is to involve a great many more family-owned enterprises in the certification process, so that supply chain shortages can be relieved, and so sustainable methods can be ensured on those lands where it might not currently exist.

In order to accomplish this, a vast amount of data must be gathered, correlated, and analyzed, so that the most informed decisions can be made about where to focus attention. Information on forest status, local trends, species, size, growth rates, mortality, and harvest rates must all be aggregated for analysis, so that visual depictions of the data can be developed, and then used to maximum effect by all of the participants in the GreenBlue program.

Resources:

 

How Forests Become More Fire-Resistant With Age

How Forests Become More Fire-Resistant With Age

Conventional wisdom says that forests should become more flammable with age, and easier to burn, since they have so much more burn-able surface area and can provide so much more fuel for a fire. However, an Australian botanist named Philip Zylstrom has discovered some very interesting facts which support the opposite conclusion.

Since his study was conducted on virtually every forest fire which has occurred over the past several decades in the Australian Alps National Forest, his conclusions carry considerable weight. In essence, his research indicates that after a forest has re-grown following a wildfire, and has had two or three decades to recover, it actually becomes one of the best defenses against future fires.

Image supplied by Flickr; Distributed under CC-BY 2.0 License

Fire and forest re-growth 

The exhaustive research performed by Mr. Zylstrom actually corroborated almost all other research done on forest land after fires, in that for several years after such a fire, the affected area was far more prone to follow-up fires and more destruction. That is the point where virtually all prior research was dropped, i.e. within two or three years following a major forest fire. Zylstrom’s research though, continued well after those years, taking in the entire post-fire history of forests within the Australian Alps National Forest.

In every single case examined by Zylstrom, going back 58 years into the historical records of these forests, he found that after a burned forest had the chance to recover for between 14 and 28 years, it was much more resistant to another fire than it had been originally. It was also found to be more fire-resistant than neighboring forests which had never been burned, and never had the chance to re-grow.

The case of the ash

One particular example which impressed Zylstrom were the ash forests contained within the Australian Alps. After suffering a devastating forest fire, they usually recovered quickly, with a whole body of fresh growth and new saplings to re-populate a stricken area. For several years, all that new growth would be powerfully impacted by any new wildfire blowing through the region, and it did indeed become much more susceptible to successive fires.

However, once those ash forests had time to grow substantially, they became tall enough to avoid igniting in anything but a raging fire. Then too, the stands of trees had become thinned out enough so that they did not offer such an inviting target to wind-blown fires. For many other kinds of forests, the same model holds true – greater susceptibility to fires within a few years of a big burn, but greater resistance once the re-forested trees were given a chance to rise above potential ignition points, and to thin out and avoid the tight packing which fuels fires.

What all this means is that steps can be taken to provide extra protection for old-growth forests, since they are less likely to burn, and offer an increased level of resistance to the possibility of being consumed in a raging forest fire.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to wood packaging sustainability and forest health is an essential component. Regularly thinning the smaller trees from forests helps prevent forest fires. The wood packaging industry makes it possible for land owners to recoup those maintenance costs as it provides a valuable outlet for the smaller logs.

Healthy Forests Healthy Communities: https://youtu.be/xliGzm6jz_g

Contrary to common belief, some forests get more fire-resistant with age: https://phys.org/news/2018-04-contrary-common-belief-forests-fire-resistant.html

 

How Trees Sweat

How Trees Sweat

If Trees Had Sweating Glands to Cool Off From The Heat

During extreme heat waves it’s common for people to seek relief under the shade of a tree yet few of us wonder how trees themselves survive these extreme conditions. Researchers from the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment grew trees under controlled climate conditions to see how trees survive these harsh conditions. They discovered that leaves have their own way to survive abnormal heat by releasing water to cool themselves off. This act is very similar to the way humans sweat in order to cool our body temperature.

Over the course of one year researchers learned that trees continuously expel water through leaves when under duress caused by extreme heat. Essentially, this is how trees survive heat waves. Before this was discovered, scientists thought that photosynthesis and water expulsion were merged processes, which means for one to happen, another also needed to happen. They learned this is not the case.

Although these trees were grown in artificial conditions, they provide accurate projections of how trees will respond during extremely hot weather conditions.  When trees under artificial conditions were exposed to the equivalent of a four day heat wave, during peak temperatures, trees stop sequestering carbon. On a larger scale, this means that forests, whether urban or rural, if exposed to extreme heat will stop sequestering carbon. Over time, if global temperatures continue to rise, this could have greater consequences on a forest’s ability to act as a carbon sink.

How Trees Cool Themselves

Under normal conditions, trees cool themselves by a process calls evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration is the process of water evaporating from leaves when the sun’s rays hit the trees canopy. In some cases tree canopies can divert up to 60% of incoming radiation through this process. However, it can only happen when trees are healthy. If a tree is stressed due to drought or a beetle infestation then the process of evapotranspiration could be slowed or absent entirely.

In North America, more trees are planted than are harvested due to its high standards of sustainable forest management practices. When forests are healthy and sustainably managed they sequester carbon from the atmosphere to help lower global temperatures. Nature’s Packaging supports the use of sustainably sourced lumber used in wood packaging across North America.

References:

Forests Help Technology be “Greener” Than Ever

Forests Help Technology be “Greener” Than Ever

Using Wood to Build Body Parts

Using wood to make body parts? No, we are not talking about wooden legs on pirates. When talking about using wood to build body parts we’re referring to nanocellulose. Nanocellulose are simply nano-structured cellolose that are used in common household products like paper, cardboard, food, and even medical application. Scientists all over the world know well that the increased use of bio-based products are the key to a sustainable society. Now it seems that nanocellulose from wood fibers might also be used to regenerate human body parts.

The Norwegian scientists at research institute RISE PFI are on the verge of discovering technology that will allow them to make human “body parts” out of nanocellulose. Nanocellulose used to form tiny scaffolds would be placed inside a human body along with nutrients and stem cells from the patient allowing body tissue to regenerate. The idea behind this is to help the body sustainably and effectively regenerate itself. This Since the method relies entirely on natural resources it would also bring a major boost to green-friendly industries and might give more hope to implementing other green technologies.

Biobased Products and Their Part in the Modern Economy

Biobased products are rapidly taking more space on the market since political climate, in general, is becoming friendlier towards green technologies. For example, the EU has implemented many policies related to biobased products that reprimand polluting industries and incentivize cleaner industries.

Biobased products are fully or partially made from materials of biological origin. They are derived from renewable resources that are widely available and biodegradable which makes them a crucial part of a sustainable economy.

Nowadays there is a political consensus on the urgent need to fight climate change by putting biobased products to the front of the market. For these products to thrive, they must be economically viable. Some believe that an overall change in customer behavior is needed to generate more widespread use. Following the trend of reusing resources and allowing them to stay in use as long as possible has given birth to what we call a circulatory economy. Its main aim is to help bring sustainability to a modern economy by creating profitable, desirable, and renewable products.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to the use of sustainably sourced lumber in wood packaging. When forests are sustainably managed they sequester carbon from the atmosphere to help fight climate change and protect our planet’s valuable resources.

References:

  1. https://www.dw.com/en/wood-to-build-human-body-parts-and-other-bio-innovations/a-42244780
  2. https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/biotechnology/bio-based-products_en
  3. https://www.cen.eu/work/areas/chemical/biobased/Pages/default.aspx
  4. https://futurism.com/new-biodegradable-computer-chips-are-made-from-wood/
  5. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/these-new-computer-chips-are-made-from-wood-180955471/

United Nations Supports Using Sustainably Sourced Wood Products

United Nations Supports Using Sustainably Sourced Wood Products

More and more organizations, businesses and even individuals are pitching in when it comes to preserving, protecting and managing forests.  The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) previously made headlines when they launched the UN’s first strategic plan for forests in January 2017.  The drafted Strategic Plan for Forests includes six voluntary Global Forest Goals which forest organizations hope to reach by 2030.

  • Increase forest area by 3% across the globe
  • Increase in use of forest products from sustainably managed forests
  • Implement sustainable forest management plans worldwide by 2020
  • Eliminate poverty for people dependent on forests
  • Develop new financial resources that support forest growth and conservation
  • Increase and conserve protected forest areas
  • Grow the number of countries that participate in these goals worldwide

The goals are to reverse the loss of forest cover across the globe, promote economic, social, and environmental incentives tied to forest growth, grow the percentage of sustainably managed forests worldwide, develop financial resources to attain these goals, promote frameworks that governments can use to implement these programs, and raise the efforts of cooperation of forest related issues among governments.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to the use of sustainably sourced lumber for wood packaging products. The rate of deforestation in North American forests has essentially been zero for decades, thus aiding in the goals set forth by the UNFF special session in January of 2017. Not only does using sustainably sourced lumber preserve forests but wood pallets are recyclable and recycling wood pallets helps fight climate change. Our carbon calculator estimations are based on the EPA Waste Reduction Model for dimensional lumber and it supports these facts. It shows that recycling 100 wood pallets saves 2.81 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each month. This is the equivalent of taking 10 cars off the road! For more information visit the link below to our carbon calculator.

Resources

How do Trees Grow?

How do Trees Grow?

Wood is strong, flexible, and has been used in a variety of building applications for hundreds of years because it is safe and is a renewable resource. There are many external factors that can affect trees and thus the quality of lumber they produce.  These external factors can have significant impacts on the mechanical properties of wood and results in many dramatic changes such as a difference in density, growth rate, tree size and more.  Annual growth rings are the rings found inside the tree and these growth rings often give environmentalists the most clues as to what journey a tree experienced in its lifetime.

How do Trees Grow?

Trees grow in two directions. First, they grow upwards in order to absorb more sunlight. Then they grow outward to expand in diameter as the tree matures.  The upward and outer growth occurs at different times depending on the species of tree and the season.

The outer bark protects the tree from fluctuating temperatures, insects, diseases and is a tree’s first line of defense from its environment. When a tree is healthy then its bark remains intact, allowing the tree to defend itself from insect attacks such as the devastating mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Tree rings that are reflected in a cross-section of a tree are the lines that will reveal most about tree growth.  Each ring resembles one year of growth. They are created because trees grow faster during certain seasons and remain dormant during other seasons like winter.  These rings will differentiate in width depending on the environmental situation the tree experienced.  During heavy rainfall and good environmental conditions, the year rings will be much wider compared to drought seasons where the rings are much thinner.

In some cases, trees can take up to fifty years to reach maturity in order to be harvested for commercial use. As a tree grows it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and that carbon is stored in the wood throughout its life cycle. The carbon forms long chains that are the backbone to cellulose, which is the primary component of lumber that helps make it a strong and durable material. Many of the products and resources we use every day arrive at our local grocery stores by means of a wood pallet. Wood pallets are a safe, durable, and sustainable way to transport goods and materials needed across the world.

References

Illegal Logging Stopped In Its Tracks

Illegal Logging Stopped In Its Tracks

Illegal logging is a serious issue that has a tremendous impact on the timber industry and our world’s natural wood resources.  It is believed that illegal logging is one of the leading causes for the degradation of the world’s forests.  Luckily IoT based technology might just change the effects of illegal logging and could even save our forests entirely.

Image supplied by Pixabay distributed under CC-BY 2.0 License

The revolutionary IoT-based technology

Scientists from the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST) in Bengaluru have been hard at work addressing this problem. Their revolutionary system functions through the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.  The system involves installing a small device on high-value trees like sandalwood, rosewood and more.  The device is designed to send an alert whenever the tree endures any threats.  These threats can include cutting, chopping or uprooting the tree and the device.

Instant messaging the moment trouble arises

Using instant message technology, officials are notified through a special alert that is sent through the cloud from the IoT devices whenever disturbances are noticed in particular trees.  This is an astronomical advancement for forest lovers and protectors because it means that they will be able to capture culprits in action and could prevent a lot of trees from being cut off.

Trials in India

More than 45 sensors have already been installed at the campus of Malleswaram and these sensors are already supplying forest protectors and scientists with valuable information.  The Malleswarm campus plans on installing many more sensors in the near future and hopefully all forests will enjoy protection from these tech devices in the near future.

Forests are Carbon Sinks

The effects of illegal logging are devastating to our planet. According to the World Carfree Network, deforestation accounts for up to 15% of global carbon emissions. Forests are valuable resources and can be illegally logged for their resources or cleared so the land can be used for agricultural development. When forests thrive, they consume more carbon than they produce and are known as carbon sinks. When forests decay, they are a carbon source.

With the devastating effects of illegal logging the FDD and other forestry services are keeping their fingers crossed for speedily advancement of the IoT-based tech as well as similar anti-logging solutions that will prevent illegal deforestation.  If illegal loggers are faced with immediate consequences for their actions then we could hopefully see a tremendous reduction in illegal logging occurrences.

Nature’s Packaging supports North American wood packaging industries as sustainable as lumber harvested from North American forests is sustainably sourced. Sustainably managed forests are good for the environment as healthy forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere to fight global warming.

References

5 Reforestation Projects in the United States

5 Reforestation Projects in the United States

Photograph by Flickr; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

If you ever doubted that the great forests of the U.S. are under attack, consider the following forces which are acting daily to diminish one of this nation’s greatest natural resources. Infestations of harmful wood-boring beetles literally kill off tens of thousands of acres of trees every year. Forest fires consume vast tracts of forested lands every year, and even though eventual re-growth occurs, that takes a long time. Changes to the climate, especially drought, are also putting forests under tremendous stress, making them more susceptible to the harmful impacts of pests and forest fires.

Fortunately, there are some projects underway to help counteract all these negative forces, so there is yet hope that trees will remain as guardians of earth, providing their benevolent influence. International forest certification programs like Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ensure that forests are sustainably managed, so that for every tree that is harvested, at least one new tree is planted in its place. Without them, there would be a great deal more harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, much of our water supply would go unfiltered, and there wouldn’t be a reliable and consistent supply of lumber for future generations to come.

Even though all forests in North America have been certified for decades, we continue to see the effects of climate change, wood boring pests, forest fires, and poor forest management practices that occurred in the decades and centuries prior. These five projects supported by the Nature Conservancy are an effort to reverse those impacts.

Central Appalachians Project

Red spruce forests in this region were decimated by heavy logging and forest fires throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some trees were re-planted, but the red spruce has not grown back as readily as other species have. The Nature Conservancy has partnered with other concerned organizations to help restore some of the great red spruce forests of West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Maryland. This program really got in full swing in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and is still going strong today.

Longleaf Pine Project

Vast forests of longleaf pine stretched across much of the southeastern U.S. 200 years ago, but that enormous stretch of pine has been virtually wiped away by poor logging methods, and conversion of the land for farming and industrial usage. A serious effort was begun more than a decade ago to reverse this regrettable policy, and today the tiny individual stands of longleaf pine are making a remarkable comeback in some areas, with roughly 4 million acres now enjoying protection from logging and other usage.

Mississippi Bottomland Hardwood Project

The biggest stretch of forested wetlands in America used to be found along the Mississippi bottomland, with cypress and other trees taking up 24 million acres of wetland, and providing home to a diverse collection of animals and other plants. After years of farming and clearing for home-building, only about 5 million acres of those wetlands remain. The Nature Conservancy has worked for the past 30 years to try to protect and restore these Mississippi bottomland areas, and progress is finally starting to gain traction.

Shortleaf Pine Project

Over the past 30 years, the formerly prolific shortleaf pine has seen huge tracts of forest eliminated because of pests and timber management policies. The Nature Conservancy has recently spearheaded a drive called the Shortleaf Pine Initiative to protect and better manage the remaining stands of shortleaf pine.

Urban Trees Project

Numerous metropolitan areas have joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and other organizations to promote a re-forestation of trees in urban settings. Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are just a few of the huge cities which have recognized the value of planting as many trees as possible in their urban landscapes, to help improve the quality of life for all their citizenry.

Resources:

The Future of Forestry

The Future of Forestry

Sustainably managed forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere and ensure there will always be a supply of the lumber products available for our needs. North American harvesting practices are far from being universally accepted due to limitations in developing countries, however, advancements in technology have innovated industry practices that could speed up this process. As more countries certify their forests through their local non-profit forest certification program, they could use those technologies to increase their operational efficiencies.

Computer Simulation Programs

Aerial photographs using DJI Phantom 3 pro camera drone. Photograph by Flickr, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Aerial photographs using DJI Phantom 3 pro camera drone. Photograph by Flickr, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Computer simulation programs help foresters adapt their management practices to changing conditions within forests. Weather conditions like warmer weather and drought could slow a forest’s rate of recovery from forest fires and clear cuts.

Scientists have developed mathematical calculations to make predictions about how forests will recover from events like forest fires. Interestingly, they have used drones to illustrate corresponding visualizations. One simulation program, LES, with the help of the U.S. Forest Service flew drones over a forest taking pictures. As one of its creators Jean Lienard states, “We use this data to develop 3D models that have real distributions of space and ecological features.” That data helps them make predictions about how forests will react to changing weather conditions and other events.

Using Drones in Forestry

In recent years, drone technology has deepened our understanding of forests and allowed for better forest management practices. When used with sophisticated software, images collected from drones improve operational forest planning, assess inventory, monitor illegal activities, assess an area’s health, and allow land owners to quickly respond to weather damage.

Drones also help with reforestation. Replanting forests by hand has always been a time consuming, expensive, and arduous task; but drone technology offers a unique solution to address these problems. They can be equipped with seed pods and fly over an area and drop seedlings. The opportunities for drones to improve sustainable forest management practices are plentiful.

Future of Forestry

The future of North American forestry is optimistic. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere and play an important role in removing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. North American harvesters have developed methods that reduce their carbon footprint during the harvesting process, demonstrating their commitment to the cause.

United Nations member states in developing countries could look to North American practices to implement best strategies. Many obstacles must be overcome in order for the world’s forests to be certified. Moreover, the international community appears supportive and technological advancements could streamline some of these tasks. The future of forestry will likely include computer software and drone technology to improve replanting efficiencies and continuously monitor forest health.

Resources

 

This concludes the last of a five-part series on forests and climate change. Previous article topics are listed below:

The Carbon Cycle
How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint
How Forest Certification Non-Profits Were Born
REDD+ and UN-REDD

How Forest Certification Non-Profits Were Born

How Forest Certification Non-Profits Were Born

In 1992 the United Nations met in Rio de Janiero in what’s now known as the Earth Summit. At this meeting, 172 governments participated to discuss continuing effects of climate change and how to stop it. One of the non-legally binding documents created from this event, Agenda 21, made several recommendations regarding the need for sustainable forestry practices to limit deforestation. This meeting prompted the creation of forest certification non-profit organizations that currently oversee sustainable forest management practices around the world. There are three of these organizations prevalent in North America: FSC, SFI, and PEFC.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Photograph from Wikipedia, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Photograph from Wikipedia, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

The first international non-profit created after the 1992 Earth Summit in response to the need of forestry oversight is the FSC. In 1990, informal meetings among environmentalists, lumber traders, timber users, and human rights organizations took place in California. According to the FSC’s website, these meetings “highlighted the need for a system that could credibly identify well-managed forests as the sources of responsibly produced wood products.”

After the 1992 Earth Summit, it became apparent that this group must evolve into the international non-profit entity it is today. FSC is the world’s second largest forest certification program and as of October 2016, has certified more than 191 million hectares of forest area among 82 participating countries (one hectare is equal to 100 acres). They’re endorsed by the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)

The SFI program launched in 1994 in the United States, also in response to the 1992 Earth Summit, to promote sustainable forestry practices. It was the US forest sector’s contribution to promote sustainable forestry practices. SFI founders believe that there are different ways to sustainably manage forests that allows them to be more competitive in the market. Since their inception, they’ve garnered a great deal of industry support. In 2005, they were endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which is the largest international certification program in the world. To date, more than 30 indigenous groups across North America manage over 2.0 million hectares of forest land, certified to the standards of SFI.

To give back to the industry, SFI program participants are required to invest money in forestry research, technology, and science. Since 1995, program participants have invested $1.4 billion USD.

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

The largest forest certification non-profit program on Earth is the PEFC. It was established in 1999 by national organizations from 11 countries. Whereas the FSC and SFI programs are audited by third parties in what’s considered to be a “top-down” process, the PEFC is considered a “bottom-up” process. The program enables “the development of national standards tailored to the political, economic, social, environmental and cultural realities of the respective countries, while at the same time ensuring compliance with internationally-accepted requirements and global recognition.” In other words, this system allows land owners within participating countries to use a forest management system that’s compliant with their local laws and international forestry standards.

The first countries to be PEFC certified were in the European Union. In 2004, forests in Australia and South America became certified, and in 2011, China came on board. As of June 2016, more than 300 million hectares are PEFC certified.

These programs were created to ensure forests will continue to sequester carbon and provide trees for future generations. Although each program is subject to criticism, their work has shown that there are different, effective ways to sustainably managing forests within the international community.

Resources

 

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

Previous: The Carbon Cycle;  How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint

Coming Next:

  • REDD+ and UN-REDD
  • The Future of Forestry

 

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