Researchers Honored for Life Cycle Assessment Work

The American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) recently honored extraordinary leaders in life cycle assessment (LCA) at the LCA XVII Awards Dinner in Porthsmouth, New Hampshire. Among the winners was the Federal LCA Commons, of which Forest Products Laboratory researchers Richard Bergman, Hongmei Gu, and Shaobo Liang are a part. Continue reading

Environmental Building Declarations: Analyzing a Structure from Cradle to Grave

(The following is a news item from the Athena Institute)

The Design Building at U.Mass Amherst continues an emerging trend in sustainable building transparency

Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. (Credit: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects Inc.)

The USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in cooperation with US WoodWorks, engaged the Athena Institute to prepare an environmental building declaration (EBD) for the Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. This is a new four-story 87,573 square-foot home for three departments: Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building Construction Technology. The cross-laminated timber building, designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects with structural design engineer Equilibrium Consulting, was completed in January 2017. Continue reading

Measuring Sustainability: How Do Wood Pallets Stack Up?

There are more than 1.8 billion pallets in service in the United States each day, and ninety-three percent of these pallets are made from wood. That staggering statistic begs the question of just how sustainable wooden pallets really are. Luckily, we know who to ask.

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have set out to investigate the life cycle of wooden pallets in an effort to help manufacturers keep up with the demand for environmentally friendly pallets.

Wooden pallets used for shipping purposes in the United States (NWPCA 2016).

Wooden pallets used for shipping purposes in the United States (NWPCA 2016).

Supervisory Research Forest Products Technologist Rick Bergman said the life-cycle assessment (LCA) study has a number of goals and benefits.

“LCA is a method used to measure the environmental impacts. For example, greenhouse gas emissions that result from the production of a product over its entire life cycle,” Bergman said. “From the extraction of raw materials through production, use, recycling, and ultimately, disposal of the product.”

Researchers are also using the information to help the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), with whom FPL has a memorandum of understanding, develop future environmental product declarations that will result in more sustainable pallet use, and pinpoint areas of success and improvement within the production market.

Bergman and his team will survey a number of pallet manufacturing facilities to collect the assessment data and plan to present the findings at a future conference on LCA or green building.

To learn more about this project and the life of wooden pallets, read the full Research in Progress report.

Interestingly, this isn’t FPL’s first foray into the world of pallets. Click here for a historical perspective dating back to the 1930’s and a great video showing just how monumentally “pallets move the world.”

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta

The Updated Billion-Ton Resource Assessment: A New Publication

A resource assessment published in 2005, commonly referred to as the Billion-Ton Study (BTS), estimated “potential” biomass within the contiguous United States based on numerous assumptions about current and future inventory, production capacity, and technology; the main conclusion of the study was that U.S. agriculture and forest resources have the capability to sustainably produce one billion dry tons of biomass annually.

The Updated Billion-Ton Resource Assessment by Supervisory Research Forester Ken Skog and Mathematical Statistician Patricia Lebow appears in a recent Science Online article.


The 2011 Billion-Ton Update (BT2) improves on the 2005 BTS in several ways, including a more comprehensive and rigorous model of environmental sustainability. The POLYSYS model is used to estimate supply curves for energy crops, and most resources are estimated at the county level. Further, the update emphasizes the 2012–2030 time period coincident with implementation of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and U.S. Department of Energy initiatives, rather than on updating the 2050 projection results in the original study.

The 2011 BT2 shows that large quantities of biomass are available while meeting food, livestock feed, industrial, and export demands. The BT2 is consistent with the 2005 BTS in terms of magnitude of the resource potential. Total available resources increase over time as yields increase.

Generally, the scenario assumptions in the updated assessment are much more plausible to show a “billion ton“ resource, which would be sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption and provide more than enough biomass to meet the 2022 requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Key Points

  • The updated resource assessment more plausibly shows that large quantities of biomass are available.
  • This “billion ton“ resource is sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption and provide more than enough biomass to meet the 2022 requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • Cooperators include FPL; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; WrightLink Consulting, Ten Mile, Tennessee; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee; and CNJV, Golden, Colorado.



Join the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests Webinars

The Forest Service is working with scientists from around the country to compile and analyze data for the National Report on Sustainable Forests. This report is the review from the United States on how the Nation’s forests are doing based on the 7 Criteria and 54 Indicators for Sustainable Forests put forth by the Montreal Process. (Credit: Dandog77,

Before the review draft is even released, YOU have the opportunity to attend a series of webinars presented by national leaders for each criterion section, as well as to hear from Dr. Guy Robertson, the editor of the National Report.

Participating in these webinars will allow you to achieve the following:

  • Learn about the indicators that help us understand how our forests are doing for each criterion.
  • Discover the initial findings that researchers are seeing as they evaluate the last 5 years of data since the 2010 report.
  • Discuss with the lead researchers of each criterion what they’re finding and what it means.
  • Help shape the conclusions and perspectives presented in the final report.

Each 60-minute webinar provides an initial glimpse into the data while highlighting topics for conversation on the Sustainable Forests Roundtable site and on social media, including the Sustainable Forests Roundtable Dialog on Facebook.

We invite you to take this opportunity to have a “sneak preview” of data from the upcoming National Report on Sustainable Forests. The criteria leads for each of the seven criteria (including Forest Products Laboratory economist Ted Bilek) will be presenting on the data they are collecting, and share initial interesting results they are finding. It will also be an opportunity to give feedback and reflect on each criterion and the indicators that relate to it–feedback that will then be used to help determine the content of the final report.

To learn more and register for webinars, visit the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests Webinar webpage.

About the Report

The National Report on Sustainable Forests provides a comprehensive assessment of forests in the United States across the ecological, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability. Close to 30 Forest Service scientists and university collaborators are contributing to the 2015 edition of the report. Other forestry professionals and concerned individuals are helping to inform the National Report through their ongoing participation in the Sustainable Forest Roundtable, a national, open-membership stakeholder group devoted to promoting sustainable forest reporting and management in the United States.

Using the Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators for Forest Sustainability as a foundation, the National Report combines summary analysis with hard data on specific aspects of forest ecosystems, data on topics such as forest area and biodiversity measures, forest carbon sequestration, the social and economic benefits supplied by forests, and the institutions through which we manage them. In fact, one of the main purposes of the National Report is to make these data as accessible as possible so that people can come to their own conclusions about forest conditions and sustainability.