Trees: Carbon TupperwarePosted: November 16, 2015
Trees and lumber are almost entirely made up of carbon. This is a very good thing when it comes to the environment. Trees are one of nature’s most efficient carbon sinks. Lumber is like a carbon Tupperware. The more carbon that is stored in the form of lumber the less CO2 is in theatmosphere.
How Trees Capture and Store Carbon
We hear stories on the news all the time that tell us that planting trees is good for the environment but nobody explains why that is the case. What exactly is it about trees that is so good for the planet? Trees use carbon to grow and they get that carbon from the air. In fact, trees are made up of mostly carbon. A tree will continue to be a natural carbon sink for as long as it is alive and growing. It releases carbon when it begins to decay or is burned.
How Carbon is Released From Trees
The downside is that trees just like us have a limited life span. Trees in forests are continually dying of disease, wind damage, and fires. When a tree dies and falls to the forest floor it begins to break down and rot. This releases its carbon sequestration into the soil where it can be more easily transferred to the atmosphere. Even worse during a forest fire CO2 is immediately released into the atmosphere. Making a big impact on the environment and contributing to global warming. If only there was a way to prevent that wood from either being burned or decaying.
Build a House, Save The Planet
Good News! There is a way! If we harvest that tree, turn it into lumber, and build a home with it that carbon can remain stored in the lumber almost indefinitely. At least for as long as the house stands. So by harvesting that wood and using it we are preventing carbon from being released into the air.
So how does this work then from a practical standpoint? I am so glad you asked! When you build a new home or other wood-based building you are increasing the demand for forest products. These days most of the lumber that goes into building a home comes from trees that are grown on a plantation. These trees are selected not only for the high-quality lumber they produce but also for their ability to grow quickly. Faster growing trees absorb more carbon more quickly. The higher demand there is for lumber the more of these trees are planted the more carbon is stored. This translates to less carbon in the environment. It is a beautiful cycle.
This is a case where we can practice good stewardship for the beautiful planet we have been entrusted with. Naturally, forests would grow until they produce a sun-blocking canopy. That canopy slows the growth of plants that live under that canopy, thereby slowing the rate at which the forest as a whole can store carbon. When logging crews come in and selectively harvest a few trees it opens up that canopy and allows more vigorous undergrowth which in turn increases the carbon sequestration of that forest.
If you didn’t use lumber to build your home then that logging crew wouldn’t be there to harvest the trees. So building a house makes you a good steward of creation. As long as you use materials from sustainably harvested sources. So go and build that home that you have always dreamed of with a clear conscience. The next time you see a logger thank him for his role as an environmentally concerned progressive logger, who by producing the lumber you buy, is helping to save the planet.