Party with wood -- celebrating forest products

Aurora Cutler and Alexa Dugan
Office of Sustainability and Climate
October 24th, 2019 at 11:35AM
A graphic of the inside of house with the words, "Can you have a party without wood products?" on it.
Forest products are ubiquitous in our everyday. After reading the blog see if you can find all the products that use wood in this picture. If you guess nearly everything, than you’re right! (Forest Service graphic.)

This week, the USDA Forest Service celebrates National Forest Products Week by admiring the cornucopia of products we use each day from American forests.

If we could throw a party in honor of all the goods and services flowing from our nation’s forests, it would be the event of the year—sustainable, domestically-sourced, renewable and healthy. And our timber industry friends wouldn’t be the only guests on the list: We’d be inviting sporting goods manufacturers, designers, musicians, and even television characters like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.

All of their work is made possible by wood products.

Naturally, we’d host this event in a building made of wood. Last year, 93% of new houses were built with wood, putting one-third of the lumber produced in the U.S. into new homes and apartment buildings. Or better yet, we could host the party in a sleek, new cross-laminated timber (CLT) building, like the Carbon12 building in Portland.

It should be no surprise that these innovative CLT structures are growing in popularity both nationwide and around the world. They offer a reduced carbon footprint, ease in construction, improved durability and fireproofing, and even a reduction in waste by making use of less desirable lumber grades like dead wood or insect-infested trees.

Of course, many of our guests will arrive on bicycles, reducing carbon emissions from their alternative, ride-sharing. After they unstrap their bike helmets made from different types of wood cellulose material, veneer and paper products, they will touch up their hair, which was recently washed with shampoo that includes cellulosic nanofibers and nanocrystals. Because this is the party of the year, all the guests will be dressed to the nines. Believe it or not, fabrics such as rayon are made from purified cellulose that comes from wood pulp.

For entertainment we’ll invite an Americana string band to strum their melodic guitars, mandolins and cellos—all made from wood due to its unique acoustic properties. The partygoers won’t be able to resist the rhythmic buzz, and they’ll kick up their high heels—made with pieces of wood composite—and boogie on the wooden dance floor. We won’t disturb our neighbors with our high-tech sound board absorbing the bass—also made from wood-based cellulosic nanofibers.

Party analogies aside, it’s important to remember that wood is an iconic symbol of our American heritage. Beyond buildings and music, wood’s dynamic material quality and sheer beauty has also made it the medium of the American craftsman—from the handyman building his daughter’s bedroom furniture in the garage to the researchers at the Forest Products Lab testing the strength of Louisville Sluggers.

Forest products are everywhere. Whether you realize it or not. In fact, the average person in the United States uses 5.5 pounds of forest products daily. It’s safe to say that our society is dependent on trees. And that is a good thing!

So, let's pop open the cider from Washington’s apple orchards and toast to National Forest Products Week. Here’s to continuing to use amazing renewable wood products from sustainably managed forests and supporting the wood products industry that gives land managers financial incentives to continue managing forests as a renewable resource.