There is a growing understanding and acceptance in this country about the huge role that woody biomass plays, both now and in the future, toward conserving resources and overall sustainability of the environment. The term ‘woody biomass’ references the totality of forest components such as trees, limbs, needles, wood wastes and residues, and even discarded wood waste from municipalities. Improved forest sustainability depends heavily on developing consistent uses for forest biomass.
North American forests represent a renewable resource, unlike fossil-based fuels which will eventually run out and be completely gone. Trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere as they grow and they continue to store carbon throughout their life cycles. This is a big factor in the need for making greater use of woody biomass in as many products as possible which are in some way, used by humans. In many European countries, wood-based fuels are already being substituted for fossil fuels, as heat and electricity is generated from woody biomass in the form of wood pellets. There are a plethora of other uses for woody biomass, such as mulch, paper products, and even clothing. The enormous diversity of products which can be derived from wood has yet to be fully capitalized upon, but important new discoveries are encouraged by governments and the scientific community.
For instance, in 2016, three teen-aged girls from Dubai invented a wood-based fireproof foam which can be used as an insulator for construction purposes. After the country experienced a rash of headline-grabbing fires, the girls researched them and found that they were all made worse because polystyrene foam insulation was used in the buildings, and it was discovered this material actually stimulated the spread and intensity of the fires.
The girls’ innovative wood-based foam creation is cheaper to make from wood, is just as good an insulator, it acts as a fire retardant. Plus, it is a sustainable solution. This is the kind of innovative thinking which can take far greater advantage of woody biomass to create useful solutions for the future that take advantage of renewable resources.
Woody biomass contributes in a number of other ways as well to the more efficient usage of our country’s resources. According to its website, the U.S. Forest Service removes tons of biomass from forests each year. In rural areas, woody biomass is often converted to energy, but other benefits of removing woody biomass from forests include job creation, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved drinking water, forest fire prevention, and improvement to wildlife habitat.
It is no exaggeration to say that the considerable positive effects imparted by woody biomass extend deep into the social, economic, and environmental aspects of life in this country, and that influence will be felt even more in the coming years. Within the framework of sustainability, woody biomass is a prime example of resources critical to the future of global sustainability and reduced carbon emissions.