Our love for all things timber is no secret. Not only is it a beautiful and versatile building material, timber use is also good for the environment. Forests play a role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Australia is home to some of the most carbon dense forests in the world. So what is carbon? It’s a chemical element, like hydrogen and oxygen, that exists in abundance. Carbon-based molecules are the building blocks of humans, animals, trees and soil.
In the context of climate change, carbon is often used interchangeably with Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Our planet has a carbon cycle, which is connected with the natural greenhouse effect. Increases in the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, through fossil fuel use and deforestation, is believed to be contributing to climate change.
Forests remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, which is how plants produce glucose and oxygen from CO2 and water, using light as their only source of energy. Approximately half of the dry mass of trees is carbon and when we make wood products the carbon is stored for the life of that product. Wood only releases carbon when it is burnt or rots. If wood is stored in landfill, with no oxygen, it can last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Australia’s forest management is one of the best in the world, with only 6% of our 147 million hectares of native forests open for potential harvesting. In reality, timber is only harvested from about 1% of these forests each year. It is estimated that our forests contain 10.5 billion tonnes of carbon, with a further 230 million tonnes stored in wood products, which helps mitigate climate change. Not only do trees take carbon from the atmosphere, they are also a renewable resource.
The forest and wood products industry is one of the most greenhouse-friendly sectors of our economy. It’s the only industry sector in our country that stores more CO2 than it releases into the atmosphere. Wood products typically take less fossil fuels to produce than other building materials. Using trees for timber and other wood products also creates space in plantations and forests for new trees to absorb more carbon.
As a wood product, timber veneer also stores carbon and contributes to the reduction of CO2 within the atmosphere. Veneer is also one of the most efficient uses of timber there is. There are a myriad of ways to include timber veneer in your project from walls, to ceilings and furniture. So if you use timber veneer for your next project, the Earth will thank you for it!