"As a natural, renewable resource, trees are the answer to many challenges facing our society today — most notably climate change.
Trees are one of the most efficient “solar-powered carbon collectors” that we have at our disposal. Every day, all day, during the active growing season (from May to August in mid west/north east) millions upon millions of trees of all sizes are busy taking carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere and storing it in their trunks, branches, leaves and roots. We call this sequestration, and it is highly effective.
So if trees are the answer, you might say, shouldn’t we stop using them to build houses or a dining room table, to make a sheet of paper, or for firewood? That’s the last thing we should do.
Four reasons come immediately to mind:
Trees are living things. When they die, they decompose, releasing the carbon they had stored back into the atmosphere. When a tree is converted into a house or a table or a ream of paper, the carbon remains sequestered for as long as that product remains in use. If the product is recycled then the carbon is re-stored in a new product.
Turning trees into products takes less energy than common substitutes such as cement or steel. That means less carbon gas is released to the atmosphere in the manufacturing process.
When a tree is used for fuel, such as firewood, we offset the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil) that would otherwise have to be burned. Burning wood does release carbon dioxide, but remember that the tree would decompose and release its stored carbon back to the atmosphere anyway; so the net carbon contribution is nil.
Most importantly, trees are a renewable resource. Once a tree is cut to meet society’s needs, another grows to take its place and immediately begins to sequester more carbon.
Can trees—and sustainable forest management practices– solve our climate change problems all on their own? Of course not. But they are a critically important part of the solution — and another reason I’m proud to be in the business of growing trees.
Footnote: “Trees are the answer” campaign is led by the Soceity of American Foresters. To learn more, please visit www.safnet.org