Green Redwood: Understanding the True Environmental Impact

By Charles Jourdain, The California Redwood Association | Posted: 02/17/2014 11:32AM

 

 As more and more Americans are becoming aware of the environmental footprint they have on society, they oftentimes make smarter, more informed decisions when purchasing products. A recent survey was commissioned, which asked homeowners about their choices for green decking material. 75 percent of those surveyed said that it’s important for their home’s deck to be eco-friendly. 90 percent believed a deck should be recycled and reused, not dumped in a landfill.

Although these are the ideal thoughts, one must look closer into a green labeled product to examine the truth behind a certain manufacturer stating that their products is eco-friendly.

Over the past several years, certain manufacturers have promoted their plastic/composite decking material as green. Wanting to understand how these products compare to natural, real redwood, the California Redwood Association commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This scientific technique is commonly used to quantify the environmental footprint of producing and consuming products we use in our everyday life. For this LCA, we wanted to quantify the environmental impacts of redwood decking production and use over a 25-year life span in comparison to plastic/composite decking products.

The results were as follows:

• Recycling: Plastic decking is made from recycled materials, but did you know you cannot recycle plastic decking? On the other hand, the lumber from a redwood deck is completely recyclable and biodegradable.

• Air Pollution/Carbon Footprint: Redwood trees absorb more carbon than they produce (actually reducing carbon emissions), and continue to store that carbon once it is harvested and milled. Plastic-composite lumber by contrast introduces 26-times more particulate matter into our air.

• Water Pollution: Introducing too much nitrogen into a pond or stream can produce algae blooms which destroy the habitat for many species of fish, creating what are known as “dead zones.” It’s called eutrophication and plastic lumber is 9 times more damaging to marine habitats.

• Energy: Plastic decking processes use 10 times more energy than a lumber mill producing redwood decking.

To learn more about the CRA’s new LCA go to our brochure at http://www.calredwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CRA-Life-Cycle-Assessment-Brochure.pdf

In addition, the CRA and American Wood Council have released an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for redwood decking http://www.calredwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Redwood-Decking-Enviornmental-Product-Declaration.pdf

Along with those benefits of redwood, redwood trees are grown and harvested under the most stringent forestry regulations. Redwood is grown almost entirely on private commercial lands zoned specifically for timber production.

The careful management of redwood forest, combined with its proven environmental benefits, underscore the simplicity and logic that the best practices for environmental stewardship come from nature itself. Renewable, recyclable, and cleaner to produce than composites or plastics, redwood sets the example of how to live green without sacrificing quality or elegance.

About The California Redwood Association

Founded in 1916, the California Redwood Association (CRA) is one of the oldest trade associations in the lumber industry. From the very beginning, the association’s primary mission has been to promote redwood products and educate builders and consumers on the advantages of using redwood. For more information visit http://www.realstrongredwood.com.


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