Author: Chris Philpot
Wood - A growing answer to climate change
Wood has long been seen as an attractive option for buildings, furniture and flooring, but now a new consumer awareness campaign by environmental education organisation Planet Ark is encouraging people to see wood for its environmental benefits too.
The Make It Wood - Do Your World Some Good campaign promotes the increased use of certified, responsibly sourced wood as a building material.
Wood is unique amongst building materials in that it stores carbon when used in the construction of homes and buildings as flooring, furniture and decking. Up to 50% of wood's dry weight is made up of carbon.
A recent survey conducted by campaign partner Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) showed that although 93% of people understood that trees absorb carbon, only 39% of them realised that when the tree is responsibly harvested and used to make wood products, the carbon remains locked in the wood for the life of the product.
As well as storing carbon, there are other environmental benefits to using wood. In most cases, the production and processing of wood uses less energy than other major building materials such as concrete, steel or plastics, giving wood products a lower carbon footprint than their alternatives.
According to a recent RMIT study, substituting wood products for more greenhouse gas intensive building products could reduce the emissions of a typical house by up to 18 tonnes across the whole life of the house - more than a medium-sized car emits over seven years.*
"In addition to helping to tackle climate change, responsibly sourced wood is also renewable, durable, versatile and a cost-effective building material," said Rebecca Gilling, Planet Ark spokesperson and former host of lifestyle and renovations program Our House.
"Wood looks beautiful and can bring real warmth and character to building and renovation projects. Most people want to do something about climate change - here is an easy way to help. We should all be thinking about using wood in our home renovations."
As the carbon benefits of wood products are based upon the trees being responsibly harvested, consumers need to look for wood that is independently certified by schemes such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure high conservation value forests are protected.
To find out more about how wood stores carbon visit MakeItWood.org
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*Reference: RMIT University in Melbourne, (31 January 2011, ‘A Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Constructions of a typical Australian House Design')