Managed forests and wood products play a crucial role in addressing climate change by sequestering carbon in both the forest and wood products.
Washington’s forest products industry operates below net-zero emissions. While various activities in the industry emit greenhouse gases, the growth and use of trees in wood products result in a net carbon reduction of 12%. (Source: University of Washington Forest Carbon Study, 2020). Scientific evidence supports sustainable wood harvesting as a natural method for significant carbon reduction and mitigating the risk of carbon-emitting events like wildfires.
Unmanaged Forests Release Carbon
Unmanaged forests release carbon, and addressing this issue involves restoring forest ecosystems to enhance their resilience to climate-induced stressors. Unhealthy forests are more prone to wildfires due to overcrowding, dryness, and pest infestations.Unhealthy forests are more susceptible to wildfire because the trees are crowded, dry and often have insects and disease.
“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.
Working forests and wood products contribute to carbon reduction by:
Wood products are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. They produce less air and water pollution, require less energy, and emit fewer CO2 emissions compared to common building materials like concrete and steel.
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.
To reduce your carbon footprint, consider making sustainable choices, such as supporting local produce, shopping for resale items, using public transportation or alternative modes of transportation, reducing “vampire power” by unplugging devices, planting trees, and lowering your water heater temperature. Additionally, building with wood helps sequester carbon and reduce emissions from the construction industry.
Healthy, growing trees act as carbon sinks, removing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Timber harvested from responsibly managed forests retains carbon throughout its useful life. Sustainable practices in wood harvesting and the preference for wood products with long-lasting carbon storage capabilities accelerate substantial net carbon reductions. Unmanaged and unhealthy forests pose higher risks of emitting carbon during catastrophic events like wildfires and treefall in windstorms.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Sustainable forestry enhances CO2 absorption by young trees, acting as carbon sinks and providing multiple environmental benefits, including clean water, a stable climate, wildlife habitat, and employment opportunities in rural areas. Managed forests contribute to CO2 absorption and mitigate the risk of catastrophic fires, disease, and pest infestations.
Scientific research demonstrates that forests, through photosynthesis, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. The use of wood products in buildings instead of carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel further reduces carbon emissions. Washington’s diverse forests play a significant role in carbon sequestration and storage.
For more information on Washington’s forests and their contribution to carbon reduction, watch this video.