Carbon and the environment
Wood is a naturally occurring part of our environment. Sustainably sourced wood a practical, renewable building material that also provides a wide range of benefits – from habitat to employment and from recreational activities to carbon sequestration. Here is what we mean by “tackling climate change with wood.”
As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it within their structure as carbon. In fact, around half of the dry weight of wood is carbon, which remains locked within the wood, and is only released when the wood is burned, or rots. Even when stored in landfill, under anaerobic conditions, wood can maintain its carbon content for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This incredible carbon storage capacity makes wood a remarkable ally in our fight against climate change.
Wood products require less energy during production compared to alternative building materials. It is a naturally occurring resource that can be continually replanted and managed for regrowth. To assess the environmental impact of different building products, we employ life cycle analysis (LCA), which quantifies and evaluates the energy, materials used, and wastes released throughout a product’s entire lifespan.
Keep reading to learn more about tackling climate change with wood.
Wood and the Greenhouse Effect
The term “greenhouse effect” refers to the way trapped infrared radiation, from the Earth, is warming the atmosphere.
Solar radiation reaches the Earth through the atmosphere and warms its surface. The stored energy is then sent back into space as infrared radiation. However, as this radiation has a different wavelength to the incoming radiation, less of it can penetrate the barrier of specific atmospheric gases. We call these greenhouse gases.
If you have walked into a real greenhouse, even on a cold sunny day, you will notice that it feels much warmer inside. This is how the term got its name.
There are many greenhouse gases, but carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most abundant. Since the start of the industrial revolution, there has been a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions, predominantly CO2. In fact, measurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa were 50% higher in 2021 than before the industrial revolution.
When trees absorb carbon dioxide and we use the wood products from those trees in long-term projects such as houses or furniture, we can effectively remove this damaging carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere and thereby reduce the greenhouse effect that is warming our planet.
Knowing the Source of the Wood You Use
Fortunately, Australia’s forest management stands among the world’s best in terms of conservation reserves and codes of practice for production forests. Australia has around 132 million hectares of native forest area, 28 million of which is available and suitable for harvesting. Of this available area, only a small fraction is actually harvested. In 2015, only 1.5% of the available 5 million hectares of net harvestable area of public native forests was harvested. This responsible approach ensures the preservation of our precious forests.
When purchasing wood, it’s essential to know its source. Australia provides two forestry certification schemes that enable consumers to make informed choices. By paying attention to logos on wood and wood products, you can ensure you are buying from sustainably managed forests.
Responsible Wood is a certification that adheres to the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) and certifies vast areas of native forests and plantations across Australia. This certification also includes a Chain of Custody Standard, which tracks forest and wood products throughout the supply chain. Choosing Responsible Wood-certified products provides assurance that the forests supplying those products are managed according to the AFS, a world-class forestry standard endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the largest assessor of sustainable forest management.
For more information on Responsible Wood, please visit their website at www.responsiblewood.org.au.
The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is another internationally recognized certification that follows the Principles of Responsible Forest Management. FSC-accredited certification bodies issue certificates to forestry operations that meet their requirements. Like Responsible Wood, FSC also implements a Chain of Custody certification.
By supporting these forestry certification schemes, you contribute to the sustainable management of forests and the responsible use of wood resources.
If you’d like to learn more about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and their principles of responsible forest management, you can visit their website at www.fsc.org.
By choosing sustainably sourced wood and supporting responsible forestry practices, we can make a positive impact on our environment. Together, we can build a future where wood continues to be a valuable and renewable resource, preserving habitats, providing employment opportunities, sequestering carbon, and contributing to a greener and more sustainable world.