WASHINGTON'S FORESTS & WOOD PRODUCTS ARE NATURAL CARBON SOLUTIONS

Managed forests and wood products are part of the solution for climate change by storing carbon in the forest and wood products.

SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY PROVIDES A NATURAL SOLUTION FOR REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS IN WASHINGTON STATE.

• Forest landowners grow and harvest trees when practicing sustainable forestry.  Growing trees absorb carbon and harvested wood store carbon, helping reduce Washington’s carbon footprint..

• Using natural wood building products as substitutes for more energy intensive materials, is a natural solution for reducing carbon.

• Working forests create family-wage jobs and carbon friendly wood products

 • Working forestry supports additional environmental benefits we all care about such as protecting the cool, clean water that salmon need to thrive.

• Working forestry-derived carbon benefits can achieve carbon reductions at the lowest cost to our economy, consumers and businesses.

Washington’s forest products industry is Below Net Zero. While growing, managing, harvesting, transporting and manufacturing wood and paper products emits some greenhouse gasses, growing trees and using wood products store more carbon, reducing Washington’s carbon footprint by 12%. (Source: University of Washington  Forest Carbon Study, 2020).

Science now confirms that growing and harvesting wood from carbon-absorbing trees under sustainable practices, is a natural way to create and accelerate substantial net carbon reductions. And the use of wood products – as a substitute for more energy intensive building materials, reduces our carbon footprint – as wood naturally stores carbon indefinitely. The practices that maintain healthy, managed forests for sustainable timber harvest also reduce the risk of mass carbon emission events such as catastrophic wildfires.
Unmanaged Forests Release Carbon
“A legacy of fire suppression has resulted in our forests that are over-stocked and much more susceptible to catastrophic fire and disease. Restoring forest ecosystems, particularly in fire-adapted forests, will make our forests more resilient to climate-induced stresses and will ensure that our forests will continue to provide ample, abundant, clean water.” United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Unhealthy forests are more susceptible to wildfire because the trees are crowded, dry and often have insects and disease.
The good news is working forests and wood products can help us reduce carbon in the atmosphere by:
  • Increasing sustainable forest management: harvesting timber, transferring carbon storage to wood products, and reforestation increases carbon stocks
  • Lowering the carbon footprint of buildings by using wood products to substitute for fossil fuel intensive materials.
  • One square meter of wood used in construction prevents the emission of 1.1 tons of carbon when substituted for other building materials.
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation or converting lands to non-forest uses
  • Expand forest areas through afforestation, or planting trees in on-forested lands.
  • Net Zero carbon emissions are also referred to as Carbon Neutral.
  • Net Zero Plus – means or removing more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere than they produce. This is also referred to as Carbon Capture or Negative Emissions.
  • Embodied carbon emissions in building materials refers to the carbon dioxide emitted during the manufacture, transport and construction of building materials, and their end-of-life emissions, often referred to as Life Cycle Impact.
  • Embodied carbon is responsible for 11% of global GHG emissions and is 28% of the global building sector. Using naturally storing wood products reduces the embodied carbon in buildings.
  • Buildings, construction and operation comprise one of the largest consumers of energy and sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHG emissions from buildings consist of the embodied carbon of materials and emissions from operations (NZ18).
  • Buildings generate 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. With an average global population increase of 82 million per year, by 2050 nearly 70% of the population will live in urban environments, doubling the building floor area.  Substituting wood for more energy intensive materials lowers embodied carbon emissions.
  • On average, the private forest industry, including growing, harvesting, transportation and milling wood is Below Net Zero as it sequesters 12% of WA state’s carbon emissions (Source: University of Washington  Forest Carbon Study, 2020). 
  • Building with natural, sustainable and renewable resources is the best way to move to a lower carbon economy. With Washington’s 22 million acres of forests, wood products are the most natural resource, and the forest industry supports more than 101,000 family-wage jobs and rural economies across the state.
  • Working forests comprise 47% of all forests in Washington State, the rest are conservation areas on private, state and local forests, and federal parks and wilderness areas.
  • Wood used in long-lived products provides the greatest reduction in fossil fuel use and emissions. On average, when we substitute wood for energy-intensive building products, we offset two tons of carbon emissions for every dry metric ton of wood used. This occurs because we are eliminating fossil fuel emissions that would have been released into the air had we used more energy-intensive materials, thus adding to the net benefit of wood.
  • Wood building materials produce less air and water pollution, require less energy and generate less CO2 emissions than other common building materials.
  • Concrete creates 51% more solid waste than using wood to build a typical house.
  • Steel requires 400% more water than using wood to build the same structure.
  • Two tons of carbon emissions are offset for every dry metric ton of wood used.
Buy local produce in season.

You’ll help reduce the use of fossil fuels in transport costs, as well as fuel to refrigerate food in transit when you buy local. Check your neighborhood farmer’s market to taste what’s in season this week. Mmmm, fresh-picked goodness.

Shop resale instead of buying trendy.

According to multiple sources, the average American discards around 81 pounds of clothing a year. That’s a lot of sweatpants. This year, shop smart and you’ll have pieces to wear for years to come. And we’ll all have a lot less waste in our landfills.

Use public transportation.

Or walk, bike, whatever keeps your car off the road (and emissions out of the atmosphere). Even a day a week can help and it’s an easy way to work towards those 10,000 steps. Bonus: no stressful parking spot scavenger hunts!

Unplug those devices.

“Vampire power,” (the sneaky power drain that occurs even when devices are powered down but plugged in) not only costs billions every year, it contributes to your carbon footprint, even if you’re not actively charging. Also, consider a laptop instead of a desktop for your next purchase and save even more energy.

Green your thumb.

Plant a tree! (We did it 52 million times last year.) Of course, you don’t need a lot of space to grow some green stuff. Even a pot on the back porch or balcony will do. Then, take a deep breath as you take in the oxygen your growing plants release, as they do their part to absorb carbon dioxide.

Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees.

Simply turning that water heater down can save 500 pounds of CO2 a year. If you’ve never adjusted yours, it’s most likely set at 140 degrees. Which means, lowering the temp can not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also your cost and most important, your risk of being scalded.

Build with wood.

The trees that grow on the millions of acres of Washington’s working forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Then, when those trees become wood for a house or building, it takes the carbon with it—and keeps it out of our air—for the life of the wood products. Plus, wood products typically require less energy to manufacture than other building materials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Forest Products and Carbon



Healthy, growing trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then store that carbon as tree biomass, or wood. When timber is harvested, the carbon stays in the wood, lumber and other timber products for their useful life.

Science now confirms that growing and harvesting wood under sustainable practices, and preferencing the use of wood products that we know store carbon indefinitely, is a natural way to create and accelerate substantial net carbon reductions.

Large, unmanaged, and unhealthy forestlands pose a greater risk of mass carbon emission events such as catastrophic wildfires and large-scale treefall in windstorms resulting in excessive, carbon-emitting decay and rot.

RESPONSIBLY MANAGED FORESTS ABSORB CARBON

Sustainable forestry increases CO2 absorption from the atmosphere as a result of young trees absorbing higher levels of carbon dioxide than older trees, making the forest act as a carbon sink. Responsibly managed forests provide drinking water, a healthy climate, wildlife habitat, and green jobs in rural economies. Managed forests increase CO2 absorption and prevent catastrophic fire, disease and insects that kill trees and emit carbon dioxide.

Forests Remove Greenhouse Gases from the Atmosphere

Scientific research has demonstrated that forests provide environmental values, including removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that non-forested landscapes cannot. As a tree grows it takes in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and releases oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. This carbon is sequestered and stored, in the forest and in the wood products we use every day. When we use wood products in our buildings, we avoid concrete and steel, products that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide in their manufacturing process.