America stopped harvesting its trees to make
lumber, plywood, paper and other wood
products. Wood this have a good or bad
effect on our environment? Lets consider.
What would we use as a
building material for homes and furniture, or
paper for books and stationary? Would we
substitute steel, aluminum, masonry or plastic
products? Buy wood from other
countries? Or do without?
If we substituted non-wood
building products, the environment would be the
clear loser. Those non-wood products are
environmentally expensive. The supplies of
ores and petroleum for their production are
finite; once gone, they are gone forever.
Wood, on the other hand, is a renewable resource
from an endless succession of trees.
Non-wood products require far more energy to
manufacture than wood: nine times as much
to make a steel stud as a wood stud, for
example. That further depletes finite
supplies of fossil fuels and coal. Not to
mention greater pollution of the air and water,
while adding to the potential for global warning
through the greenhouse effect.
Wood is also the best
insulator of all structural building materials,
with millions of tiny air cells trapped within
its cellular structure providing a barrier
against heat and cold. An inch of wood is
15 times as efficient an insulator as
concrete. 400 times as efficient as steel
and 1,770 times as efficient as aluminum.
So homes built with wood require less energy to
heat and cool, thus conserving fossil fuels and
Another thing: wood is
reusable and recyclable. Inorganic
materials call for yet additional energy drains
to recycle or otherwise dispose of them when use
has been terminated.
Okay, but aren't we running
out of trees by harvesting so many of them for
the needs of a swelling population? No, not
at all. Each American does use the
equivalent of a 100-foot 18-inch diameter tree
every year for wood and paper products.
But 4.2 million trees are planted every day,
which works out to 5.8 trees a year for every
American. More than 80% of all the trees
planted in 1997 were planted by forest products
companies and private timberland owners.
Another fact: during
1994, more than 420 trees were planned for every
baby born in the United States. As a
result, more wood is grown each year in the U.S.
than is harvested or lost to disease, insects,
and fire. Growth exceeds harvest by
28%. No surprise, then, that the nation has
more trees today that it had on the first Earth
Day some thirty years ago. Or that about a
third of the entire United States - 731 million
acres - is covered with trees. Or even the
fact that this amount of forestland is two-thirds
of what existed in pre-Columbian America some 500
A major reason that trees
are so plentiful in America is because people
plant and grow then for use as wood
products. These trees also provide
important environmental benefits, ranging from
windbreaks, shade, and soil stabilization to pure
aesthetics, wildlife habitat plus improved air
and water quality.
Forest are oxygen factories
and greenhouse exchangers. Growing just one
pound of wood in a vigorous younger forest
removes 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere and replaces it with 1.07 pounds of
life-sustaining oxygen. Growth in all of
America's forests removes approximately 9% of the
nation's total carbon dioxide emissions.
Carbon dioxide accounts for about half of the
world's greenhouse gases, which trap solar
rays. An old forest reverses the process,
removing oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide.
As long as America continues
to plant and grow new trees for wood products,
the environment will be the big
winner. So in a very real sense, wood
products are the most environmentally responsible
building material anyone could ever use.