Rather than trying to reduce our use, in a forest economy we want to use more sustainably harvested tree products, particularly forms that have a high-value, long-term use and have been sustainably grown. A 1% increase in annual demand for industrial wood products could drive 20 million hectares of new sustainably managed tree farms.
This new demand can come from greater substitution of sustainable wood products, such as:
- cross-laminated timber (CLT), a high-strength timber product that can substitute for more carbon-intensive concrete and steel in midrise buildings;
- paper cartons instead of plastic bottles; and
- paper packaging in place of various plastics used today.
An average eight-story CLT building uses 3,000 cubic meters of wood; a traditional building of similar dimensions could use 6,000 tons of concrete and 1,000 tons of steel. Not only does carbon sequestration take place as the forest matures to provide this wood, but the substitution of wood for concrete and steel drives significant additional benefits.
As the trees grow, they sequester carbon. Then, every time trees are harvested to make CLT, new trees are planted and start the maturation process, sequestering increasingly more carbon on an annual basis before reaching an annual equilibrium at the point of maturation. Long-lived wood products, like CLT used in a building, continue to store the CO2 originally sequestered during the trees’ growth period. In Europe, the use of CLT is already on the rise.