Today’s homeowners and business owners care about their carbon footprint and are increasingly concerned with green building and LEEDS ratings. This trend makes environmentally responsible practices increasingly important to builders. As a result, new products are constantly entering the market, each one claiming to be “greener” than the last.
The good news for builders is that you don’t have to continually educate yourself about the latest and greatest products on the market in order to offer the greenest possible materials. The most environmentally friendly building material is one you’ve worked with all along: wood. It’s renewable, recyclable, and long lasting, and it even fosters increased biosequestration. No manufactured product has such remarkable characteristics.
Wood Is a Renewable Resource
It’s long been the practice of loggers to plant another tree in place of each one that is felled — or, in some cases, more than one. In fact, the Canadian Forest Service requires planting 20 new trees for each one harvested. Many other countries employ responsibly managed forestry practices, as well, and have been this for more than a century. More and more, supply-and-demand issues are being balanced against long-term forest ecology, making sure that the long-term health of the forest is prioritized above short-term gains.
Healthy forests will be prioritized as long as wood retains commercial value. However, without healthy demand and continued lumber production, the forest loses its value, forcing landowners to clear cut large areas for livestock grazing or other income-producing uses. Sustainable forestry benefits the global ecology, but it only makes sense if there is investment potential involved.
Reclaimed Lumber Is Popular
By recycling lumber, the lifespan of an original board is extended. With reclaimed lumber’s current popularity, this durable natural resource still holds value centuries after being first used. There is actually a huge market for reclaimed wood flooring, and wood from old barns is highly valued by many and crafted into durable furniture.
Once wood does deteriorate beyond its usefulness, it can naturally return to the soil, rather than adding volume to a landfill for indefinite amounts of time.
Sustainable Forestry Encourages Biosequestration
Biosequestration involves Carbon being separated from the atmosphere and locked into organic matter. Basically, when plants breathe in Carbon Dioxide and exhale Oxygen, the amount of greenhouse gases decreases. When a tree is allowed to naturally rot into the soil, it takes that Carbon with it. (By contrast, when wood is burned, the combustion process causes Carbon to be released into the atmosphere.)
If there’s a decreased demand for lumber, there will be fewer trees being replanted, which in turn means fewer trees capturing Carbon. In fact, growing trees sequester more Carbon than mature trees, making the replanted trees after harvesting more valuable ecologically than the trees that were cut down. In fact, forests consisting solely of “old growth” actually create a net loss of Carbon. Unmanaged forests also create fire hazards, and forest fires release formerly trapped Carbon into the air.
While deforestation is definitely an enemy to global ecology, the lumber industry actually helps reduce that trend.