Forestry Resources as a Climate Solution
While handkerchiefs do help to reduce our reliance on paper products, we believe that forests and forestry resources have a significant role to play in decarbonizing our world and that, in certain settings, their sustainable use may be a wise approach.
We believe that when gathered sustainably, wood can be utilized as an effective form of long-term carbon storage without threatening the wellbeing of forests.
It is our hope that by using handkerchiefs in place of paper alternatives, the forestry resources that would otherwise go towards their production become freed to be used in applications where they could have a greater long-term impact – improving our level of harmony with the planet.
Wood and paper products are not always seen as an eco-friendly option – as wood is an obvious byproduct of fallen trees, an action that is typically associated with deforestation – however it largely depends on where that wood comes from and how it is used.
Carbon Storage in Forestry Products
Trees convert carbon dioxide from the air into living biomass. As the tree grows, more and more carbon becomes stored within the tree. When a tree is cut down, the carbon stored within its biomass remains locked within the wood. That wood is then used to produce a variety of products that will all eventually decompose and return the temporarily stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Therefore, both trees and wood-based products act, for the most part, as temporary, solid stores of atmospheric carbon.
The length of time carbon remains stored within wood-based products varies significantly. Burning wood outright will result in the immediate release of the carbon stored in its biomass back into the atmosphere. Paper, packaging, and other short-lived products (when not recycled) breakdown in landfills, releasing most of their carbon within a decade. While the service life of longer-lived wood products, like structural lumber, is approximately a century and can often be recycled and repurposed afterwards, further extending the useful life of the material.
In 2015, the estimated cumulative carbon stored in all forms of wood products in the United States was more than 2.6 billion metric tons – a value that equates to approximately 3% of the amount of carbon stored in all U.S. forested lands.
The carbon stored in these wood products can be divided into two groups: carbon stored in products currently in use and carbon stored in wood products in landfills. Nearly 60% of the carbon in wood products is currently in use and the remaining 40% is stored in landfills.
The greatest advantage forestry resources could then offer, in terms of removing carbon from the atmosphere, is to maximize the useful life of the forestry products that are consumed and keeping as much as possible out of landfills. In other words, raising the percentage of wood-based products currently in use by extending their service lives. This strategy has an even greater impact when these resources are used in ways that eliminate carbon-intensive processes.
What does this look like?
The primary switch being away from disposable, single-use products that result in immediate waste and rapid decay (releasing their stored carbon back into the atmosphere) and towards long-term carbon stores in the form of durable, recyclable wood products.
This can take several forms. One of which being as replacements for carbon-intensive construction materials. Another being as alternatives for plastic and other oil-derived products. Lastly, forests themselves will no doubt continue to provide a great deal of carbon sequestration, not to mention the countless other irreplaceable ecosystem services they provide.
We have listed three different applications by which forestry resources could be utilized to have the greatest effect on minimizing our impact.
- Construction Materials
- Plastics Alternatives
- Standing Forests