Redwood Trees—Building a Sustainable Future

Sunrise in the the Redwoods – By Stephen, Adobe Stock # 322472485

Sequoia sempervirens is an extraordinary tree.

It has been the focus of a recent conservation, sustainability, and life-cycle assessment (LCA) study by Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers Richard Bergman PhD and Kamalakanta Sahoo PhD. Their study, “Environmental Impacts of Redwood Lumber: A Cradle-to-Gate Assessment,” measured environmental performance ofthe coastal redwood through LCA by tracking material flows, energy consumption, and emissions from forest management through the lumber manufacturing process. Bergman and his team used SimaPro modeling software to estimate raw material consumption, environmental outputs, and associated impacts along its supply chain.

Like the public, concerns about protecting these trees and keeping forests as forests are also at the forefront of FPL researchers’ minds.

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Research in Progress – Combating Climate Change through Sustainable Wood Products

Copyright atelierjones. Used by permission.

Like a raging forest fire, climate change has many fronts. And it won’t be fixed by a singular solution. Heroic systemic changes throughout all sectors are needed in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Cars, factory smokestacks, and coal are primary sources that easily come to mind when thinking about GHGs.

But turning a key on a brand-new home, whether apartment or single family? Could that really account for nearly a quarter of CO2 emissions?

A 2018 study titled, “Carbon Emission of Global Construction Sector,” found that global construction in 2009 produced 23% of CO2 emissions. That is 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide. And the hunger for new construction has only increased in the years since.

However, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers are on the frontlines of sustainable solutions.

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Wood Packaging Supports Healthy Forests and Strong Communities

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) has released “Wood Packaging Supports Healthy Forests and Strong Communities,” a video that puts a spotlight on the vital role wood packaging plays in our communities.

Researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory have partnered with the NWPCA for several years, and are currently working with them to develop life cycle assessments for wood pallets.

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

NWPCA collaborated with leading forest conservation organizations to produce this video. Participating in this project were Tom Martin, President and CEO, The American Forest Foundation; Larry Selzer, President and CEO, The Conservation Fund; Jay Farrell, Executive Director, The National Association of State Foresters; Carlton Owen, President and CEO, U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities; and Vicki Christiansen, Interim Chief, U.S. Forest Service.

“We’re proud of the work of our members in supporting the missions of these conservation organizations, providing economic and employment opportunities in rural communities, and improving the health of our nation’s forests,” said Brent McClendon, CAE, National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) President and CEO.

“The wood packaging industry is a critical player in advancing the health of our forests because they use the small diameter wood for making pallets that cannot be used in higher end products,” stated, Carlton Owen, President & CEO, U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities. “Without markets for that low value material, we can’t move our forests to a healthier, more resilient condition.”

The 3-minute video is a project of Nature’s Packaging®, a North American initiative to promote the use of wood-based packaging to users seeking sustainable, responsible and economical packaging solutions.

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