Effects of Wood Production on the Environment

The forest product industry is often criticized by environmental groups, especially in timber harvesting practices such as clear cutting. Not only are clear cuts perceived to be a blight on the landscape, but this practice is also blamed for contributing to the Green House Effect.

The perceived environmental impacts of wood have helped to make other materials such as steel and concrete more acceptable in residential construction. However, when wood is compared to other building materials, it is a more environmentally friendly material. Less carbon is released and less energy is consumed in the production of wood products than in the production of other materials (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1 — Carbon Released and Stored in the Manufacture of Building Materials

Material Carbon Released
(kg/t)
Carbon Released
(kg/m3)
Carbon Stored
(kg/m3)
Rough Sawn Timber 30 15 250
Steel 700 5320 0
Concrete 50 120 0
Aluminum 8700 22000 0
Source: Presented in Ferguson, I., LaFontaine, B., Vinden, P., Bren,L., Hately, R., and Hermesec, B. 1996. ‘Environmental Properties of Timber” Research Paper commissioned by the Forest & Wood Products Research & Development Corporation.

Table 2 — Fossil Fuel Energy Used in the Manufacture of Building Materials

Material Fossil Fuel Energy
(MJ/kg)
Fossil Fuel Energy
(MJ/m3)
Rough Sawn Timber 1.5 750
Steel 35 26,600
Concrete 2 4800
Aluminum 435 1,100,000
Source: Presented in Ferguson, I., LaFontaine, B., Vinden, P., Bren,L., Hately, R., and Hermesec, B. 1996. ‘Environmental Properties of Timber” Research Paper commissioned by the Forest & Wood Products Research & Development Corporation.

Did you know?

  • 35% more wood is grown than is harvested.
  • More wood is lost to wild fires, pests and disease than is harvested.
  • 0.40% of all productive woodland is harvested each year in Canada.
  • Unlike ore, wood is a renewable resource.

The harvest of wood and production I-joists is better for the environment than the mining and production of other materials.