- Why Wood?
The GreenBlue Program is one which has broad support from the U.S. Forest Service, as well as public corporations such as McDonald’s, Mars, and Staples, with the stated goal of developing a new forest sustainability tool called Forests in Focus, and using it to increase sustainability and the certified supply of wood products. Forests in Focus is a digital mapping tool which will complement the initiative for certifying family-owned forests as sustainable, and as being managed with an appropriate level of respect for conservation. Nearly 40% of the commercial wood fiber produced in the U.S. comes from family-owned forests, but only about 1% of the source forests are certified for sustainability and environmental friendliness.
Problems with certification
Up to the present, certification of family-owned forests has not been so much an issue of unacceptable management processes, as it has been an issue of the certification process itself having little benefit for owners of such assets, while also being very costly to acquire. This is why the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has joined forces with the Forest Service in backing the GreenBlue Program, so as to get all the parties together, in an effort to understand the issues hindering certification.
The group has made significant progress, beginning with discussions about how to increase forest certification, and then progressing into exploring options on how to achieve greater access for monitoring, and potentially certifying, the vast lands currently belonging to the un-certified category of forest land. It has also addressed sustainability issues on the ground floor of these operations, and has hosted discussions with brand owners who cannot secure sufficient quantities of wood from certified forests.
How GreenBlue will help supply and sustainability
The partnership of big corporations, the American Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), is paying dividends, as participants in the joint program have identified issues with the supply chain and have gained a better understanding of the importance of family-owned forests. When added to existing initiatives for certification, support for the GreenBlue Program should help bring in many more family-owned forest lands and increase certifications dramatically.
The new digital mapping tool, Forests in Focus, will help to identify gaps in sustainability wherever family-owned forest lands exist, so that such owners can be approached and assisted with obtaining certification. The hope is to involve a great many more family-owned enterprises in the certification process, so that supply chain shortages can be relieved, and so sustainable methods can be ensured on those lands where it might not currently exist.
In order to accomplish this, a vast amount of data must be gathered, correlated, and analyzed, so that the most informed decisions can be made about where to focus attention. Information on forest status, local trends, species, size, growth rates, mortality, and harvest rates must all be aggregated for analysis, so that visual depictions of the data can be developed, and then used to maximum effect by all of the participants in the GreenBlue program.
Using Wood to Build Body Parts
Using wood to make body parts? No, we are not talking about wooden legs on pirates. When talking about using wood to build body parts we’re referring to nanocellulose. Nanocellulose are simply nano-structured cellolose that are used in common household products like paper, cardboard, food, and even medical application. Scientists all over the world know well that the increased use of bio-based products are the key to a sustainable society. Now it seems that nanocellulose from wood fibers might also be used to regenerate human body parts.
The Norwegian scientists at research institute RISE PFI are on the verge of discovering technology that will allow them to make human “body parts” out of nanocellulose. Nanocellulose used to form tiny scaffolds would be placed inside a human body along with nutrients and stem cells from the patient allowing body tissue to regenerate. The idea behind this is to help the body sustainably and effectively regenerate itself. This Since the method relies entirely on natural resources it would also bring a major boost to green-friendly industries and might give more hope to implementing other green technologies.
Biobased Products and Their Part in the Modern Economy
Biobased products are rapidly taking more space on the market since political climate, in general, is becoming friendlier towards green technologies. For example, the EU has implemented many policies related to biobased products that reprimand polluting industries and incentivize cleaner industries.
Biobased products are fully or partially made from materials of biological origin. They are derived from renewable resources that are widely available and biodegradable which makes them a crucial part of a sustainable economy.
Nowadays there is a political consensus on the urgent need to fight climate change by putting biobased products to the front of the market. For these products to thrive, they must be economically viable. Some believe that an overall change in customer behavior is needed to generate more widespread use. Following the trend of reusing resources and allowing them to stay in use as long as possible has given birth to what we call a circulatory economy. Its main aim is to help bring sustainability to a modern economy by creating profitable, desirable, and renewable products.
Nature’s Packaging is committed to the use of sustainably sourced lumber in wood packaging. When forests are sustainably managed they sequester carbon from the atmosphere to help fight climate change and protect our planet’s valuable resources.
Our world’s natural sources are limited and more big businesses seem to be taking the initiative to lower their environmental impact, preserving these limited, valuable resources. Mars Corp. recently launched their Sustainable in a Generation Plan that is intended to create a healthier planet by doing what’s right instead of what’s better.
The Mars Corporation was developed by Frank C. Mars more than 100 years ago. Their first products were in chocolate and the first brand they established was Milky Way. Over the years, the company has developed and grown tremendously and they have expanded to many other industries, including pet care, chewing gum, and beverages. The Mars Corporation distributes products worldwide with more than 80,000 associates, they impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Mars Corp launched a huge plan of action called Sustainable in Generation. According to their website, their plan involves creating a better planet by using a planetary boundaries analysis to control the impact their business has on the world. Some of their goals are:
Wood pallets are commonly used in food transportation, food storage and for many more uses. This is a good thing because using sustainably sourced lumber helps the environment. As trees in sustainably managed forests grow, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere and wood continues to store carbon until it decomposes or burns. In fact, according to our Carbon Calculator that’s based on the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) for dimensional lumber, recycling just 100 wood pallets saves 2.81 carbon dioxide emissions per month (in metric tons). This is the equivalent of taking 10 cars off the road!
According to the Mars website, Barry Parkin, the Chief Sustainability and Health & Wellbeing Officer, believes there are four things that sets this approach apart from others:
The North American wood pallet industry started recycling pallets in the 1970’s by diverting them from landfills. Current figures estimate there are more than 4 billion wood pallets in circulation, more than any other type of pallet, because wood pallets are strong, durable, and 100% recyclable. In fact, about half of a wood pallet’s weight is carbon, which was sequestered from the atmosphere! The use of wood pallets is a win-win because it helps the environment and ensures products will arrive at their final destination safely.
The red planet is one of the last places you would normally associate with sustainability. Yet, this might just change in the near future.
A team of engineers and architects at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently won the Mars City Design competition with their buildings that are designed to not only sustain human life but also forest and plant life.
They are calling their winning urban designs the Redwood Forest. These artificial forests will involve creating domes that contain large tree habitats that can support up to 50 people with food, water, and oxygen resources.
The Redwood Forest might consist of individual forest domes but live in these domes will hardly be isolated. According to their proposal, these domes would provide residents with plenty of open areas, public spaces, plants, water, activities and residents would be responsible for maintaining forest sustainability within the domes. The domes will also be interlinked with underground tunnels that will enable residents to move from one tree habitat to another. In total, these domes will support a community of thousands of people.
The Redwood Forest domes are also designed to provide residents and forests with all the needed protection from cosmic radiation, micrometeorite impacts, thermal variations and much more.
Valentia Sumini and Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller lead the team effort and they had the following to say about their genius invention; “On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life.”
Architect George Lordos, who was responsible for the design of the pods, created his design to harness the energy of the sun to support human and plant life and to harbor water resources as much as possible within plant life. He also included plans for electric vehicles that are designed to make life and transportation between pods much simpler and more sustainable.
Forests create atmospheres conducive to human life and their growth cycles provide us with raw materials we need to support civilization. If it’s true that life on Mars could best support humans by growing sustainable forests, then why would the same not be true on Earth? Every part of a tree can be used and recycled. Nature’s Packaging supports the increased use of recyclable wood pallets when sourced from sustainably managed forests.
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.
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.
In the year 2014, approximately 258 million tons of waste materials were generated by Americans and eventually reached various landfills stationed around the country. A report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke down the components of this enormous tonnage as follows: 28.2% was comprised of food waste and yard trimmings, 26% was attributable to paper and cardboard products, plastics accounted for 13% of the total, rubber and textiles contributed 9%, metals were 9%, wood products made up 6%, and glass accounted for 4% of the total.
Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, a globally known corporate giant, has pledged to keep plastics entirely out of landfills by the year 2020. Plastics aren’t the only by-product of manufacturing that the company intends to shield from landfills though. It has announced that other by-products will be recycled right at the manufacturing locations as well, so there is no need for shipping them to landfills.
Using a process that shreds previously unwanted materials and compressing them into sheets, they can be used as building materials, says the company. The stated landfill avoidance goal of the company is to achieve zero percent waste materials that need to be shipped off-site, and instead recycle them all into materials usable for other industries and applications.
One of the biggest landfill avoidance undertakings that currently goes on, and is expected to increase, is that of recycling wooden pallets. According to the research published in “Pallet Reuse and Recycling Saves High Value Material from Landfills”, in 1992, only about 50 million wood pallets were recovered from landfills and recycled for further usage. Three years later, that figure jumped to 150 million pallets, and by 2006, the number had increased to over 350 million. By recycling so many pallets, it has been calculated that 5.7 billion board feet of lumber were saved in this country, by not having to produce new pallets from freshly cut lumber.
Wood pallet recyclability has been steadily increasing because lumber is a valuable and limited resource. To discard it in a landfill would truly be a waste. New studies are currently being conducted to determine how many wood pallets are diverted from landfills.
The International Stands for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15, referred to in the industry as ISPM 15, is an International Phytosanitary Measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). According to its documentation, the primary goal is to “reduce the risk of introduction and spread of quarantine pests associated with the movement in international trade of wood packaging material made from raw wood.” The language is comprehensive, covering all forms of wood packaging that serve as pathways for pests that could pose a risk to living trees.
The IPPC is a multilateral treaty signed into effect on December 6, 1951. As of 2010, 74 countries participate in the program. According to the IPPC, the “ISPMs provide globally harmonized guidance for countries to minimize pest risk without creating unjustified barriers to trade, ultimately facilitating their exports and imports of plants and plant products.”
In North America, if a wood products company wants to export lumber then they must comply with the program. The most common way for companies to comply with ISPM 15 standards is by heat treating lumber. In order for lumber to meet these standards, the internal temperature of the timber must reach 56 degrees Celsius or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes in a kiln. Certain types of lumber, such as plywood, oriented-strand board (OSB), and sawdust are exempt from these standards as they are exposed to the heat-treating requirements during the manufacturing process. The purpose of heat treating lumber to meet ISPM 15 standards is to reduce the risk of spreading wood boring insects.
Wood packaging companies that participate in the ISPM 15 program are assigned a stamp with a unique number and that stamp must be clearly applied to all products used in export. They must keep written logs of incoming heat treated lumber and any outgoing orders where the stamp was used. Compliance is monitored and enforced by third party companies that make unscheduled monthly visits to the wood products companies to ensure all rules and regulations are followed. Some of the largest North American inspection companies are Timber Products, Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau, and West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau and they work closely with the United States and Canadian governments. If a wood product company doesn’t follow the rules of the program, they can get their stamp revoked and they won’t be allowed to certify lumber products for export.
Lumber and other wood packaging companies across North America have widely adopted the ISPM 15 standards and these standards are intended to help protect our forests from wood-boring pests. According to ISPM 15 language, “Pests associated with wood packaging material are known to have negative impacts on forest health and biodiversity. Implementation of this standard is considered to reduce significantly the spread of pests and subsequently their negative impacts.” By adopting ISPM-15 protocols into the manufacturing processes and by achieving the high levels of industry compliance, the wood packaging industry will enhance its role as stewards of the resource, reducing the risk of spreading wood-boring insects which results in elevating the sustainability of the products we produce.