In our modern and very digital world, pressure is put on limited natural resources like petroleum, charcoal, gas because of the huge demand for plastic and energy products. Just about everything seems to be going plastic which results in depleting Earth’s natural resources. It is quite refreshing to see Canada’s forest sector leading the way for bioeconomy. This is because the forest products portfolio has changed a lot over the last few years. Advanced technology is making it possible for the production sector to produce more low- or no-waste products from wood sources and these products are viable replacements for plastics.
The forestry sector generates many byproducts throughout the process of harvesting timber. These bioproducts add value to waste products that can be converted into food additives, textiles, wood pallets, construction materials, and even fuel for airplanes and cars. These high value products are created by combining advanced technologies with sawdust, wood chips, and even tree leaves and branches. By depending on these renewable resources found in forests, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Canada’s forests are essential for the well-being of Canada’s environment, communities, people and for the economy. Forest management practices are strictly monitored and audited to ensure sustainability and long-term growth. It is incredibly important for forestry sectors to monitor the sustainability of these forests. With proper sustainability management, these forests will be cared for and maintained as much as possible and a healthy ecosystem will be generated over time.
One of the primary purposes for timber harvesting is home construction. However, the quality of lumber used to manufacture wood pallets in North America doesn’t quite make the grade. On average, between 10-15% of a log is used to make wood pallets, as the primary application of high grade lumber is home construction, furniture, and flooring. The lumber used to make new wood pallets is a byproduct and thus supports a renewable and recyclable bioeconomy.
In the United States, the Department of Agriculture recently added wood pallets to their long list of biobased products. According to its website, Biobased products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials. Biobased products provide an alternative to conventional petroleum derived products and include a diverse range of offerings such as construction, janitorial, and grounds-keeping products specified and purchased by Federal agencies, to personal care and packaging products used by consumers every day.
Lumber is strong and wood pallets are recyclable. By choosing wood pallets you are choosing a renewable resource that supports healthy and sustainable carbon-sequestering forests.
Up to now, forest management has had to take a very hands-on, personal inspection kind of approach, so that specific trees could be marked for cutting and removal, and the forest in general could be culled of unhealthy specimens. However, the onslaught of forest fires over the past decade has virtually overrun this old-school method of management, and hastened the advent of a more high-tech solution.
Forward-thinking managers at The Nature Conservancy are now in the process of testing out a solution which holds great promise for faster, cheaper, and more accurate management of forest lands. This comes in the nick of time, with forest fire disasters mounting up, and millions of acres of prime land being consumed recently by raging conflagrations.
The problem faced by solution seekers was a daunting one – how to retain much of the same individual inspection capability, but on a much larger scale, so that dying and dead trees could quickly be removed. Those trees provide much of the fuel for forest fires which get out of control, and take down enormous stands of healthy trees with them.
Enter the Digital Restoration Guide (DRG). This software program offers the same kind of direct approach as painting dead trees, while capitalizing on the speed of computers to cover much larger territories in much less time. A forester equipped with a mobile computer loaded with DRG software can patrol large areas on an ATV, entering relevant information about specific GPS coordinates of areas, and the health of trees contained within those sectors. Later, tree harvesters can use the map created by the DRG software and the information recorded by the forester, to know which trees need to be culled.
In the first full-blown pilot test of the software, a target area of 327 acres was used to see how the new technology compared to more traditional methods of forest management. Supporters were gratified to find that the process was roughly five times faster than the time needed by the walk-and-paint method, and it cost less than half as much to execute.
Those aren’t the only benefits – the recorded information can be used in other ways as well, to estimate tree numbers, sizes, and the interspace between trees. In the past, separate trips would have to be made to gather such information when it was needed, and that resulted in additional cost and expenditure of time.
With the unquestioned success of the new tree-mapping software, it has been approved for surveying tracts of land in the thousands of acres. It also seems likely that usage will be expanded into even more productive and more all-encompassing arenas. Already, tech gurus are considering how to get the software airborne to conduct very large survey missions, and extend the reach and the effectiveness of modern forest management.
For a great many years now, cotton has been touted as the ultimate fabric for the manufacture of all kinds of clothing, due to its natural, breathable composition and its comfortable feel against the skin. However, according to Waterfootprint.org, cotton farming requires the most amount of water in the apparel supply chain. In the case of making a single T-shirt, research from National Geographic estimates that 2,700 liters of water is required, from beginning to end.
In addition, it literally requires acres and acres of land to grow any significant amount of cotton plants, and a great deal of water is consumed in the nurturing of those plants. From this, it should be fairly obvious that any kind of new direction for the world of fashion is long overdue and that new direction seems now to have arrived, in the form of wood-based alternatives for the manufacture of clothing.
An Austrian manufacturer, Lenzing AG, has been developing environmentally friendly clothing for several years now, by converting eucalyptus tree pulp into a fiber which mimics cotton’s breathable nature, but is also far softer to the touch, and much less susceptible to wrinkling. In the year 2000, Lenzing was given a prestigious award by the European Commission, for its forward-thinking contributions to conservation of the environment in making wood-based clothing alternatives.
This wood-based clothing product is known as Tencel, and it is being adopted by more fashion companies around the world each year. Since the entire production process for Tencel is much less impactful to the environment, it has become one of the most popular new fabrics, especially for all those who feel a responsibility for the conservation of the global environment.
Other creative and environmentally friendly products are appearing as well, to contribute to this new direction of the fashion industry. A 17-year old teenager named Sian Healy recently became a finalist in the Miss England competition, while wearing a dress made for her by Pooling Partners, and which was entirely constructed from old wooden pallets. While this kind of special-purpose dress may not be economically viable for mass production, it does at least point out the possibilities for using wood-based materials as an alternative to the traditional ones used commonly in clothing manufacture.
In Culver City, California, another startup company called MeUndies, has developed a fashion line of men’s and women’s underwear, all made from wood pulp fiber which has the appealing property of wicking moisture away from the body. Called MicroModal, it uses beechwood rather than Tencel’s eucalyptus fibers, and is garnering strong appeal for its comfort and sustainable characteristics. Additionally, another fashion designer based in London named Alice Asquith has launched a line of towels, bearing her name, which are made from bamboo fibers and have far greater softness, durability, and absorptive qualities than traditional cotton towels.
Other startups are emerging around the world to take advantage of some of the wonderful characteristics provided by wood-based fabrics, which are much friendlier to the environment than some existing materials. Whereas plants like cotton are farmed with the intent of manufacturing clothes, wood-based based fabrics use wood by-products as their main ingredient. By developing effective uses for these parts of the forest that would normally go to waste, clothing manufacturers are doing their part to make sure that every part of a tree is used when it’s harvested.