Redwood Lumber the Subject of Updated Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) Study
The LCA and accompanying Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) point to sustainable future for redwood as a building material
Recent work by USDA Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers has confirmed Coastal redwood’s status as a super-wood. The resulting study, “Environmental Impacts of Redwood Lumber: A Cradle-to-Gate Assessment”, and accompanying Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), provide evidence that redwood products have very low environmental impacts compared to non-wood products and are a natural solution to mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Based upon data collected at Big Creek Lumber Company, Humboldt Sawmill Company and Mendocino Forest Products Company for calendar year 2017, the cradle-to-gate life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a measure of the environmental impacts associated with redwood lumber production. LCA results are used in the preparation of the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), an independently third-party (UL Environment) verified description of the environmental performance of redwood lumber. The cradle-to-gate assessment is the cumulative result of all processes from raw material extraction (cradle) through the point that finished product is packaged and ready for shipment at the manufacturing facility (gate).
Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities which was formed in accordance with the terms of the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between the United States and Canada. The American Wood Council (AWC) is the Holder of the Redwood Lumber EPD which is available at https://www.awc.org/sustainability/epd along with EPDs of numerous other North American Forest Products.
The Mendocino Family of Companies, including Humboldt Sawmill Company and Mendocino Forest Products Company, provided a gift to the USDA Forest Products Laboratory of help offset the costs of data collection and processing from the three California sawmills. In 2011, the California Redwood Association funded Life-Cycle Assessment of Redwood Decking in the United States with a Comparison to Three Other Decking Materials. This was a cradle-to-grave study comparing redwood decking to PVC, virgin WPC, and recycled WPC decking products. Cradle-to-Grave LCAs are more comprehensive in that they include the impacts of forest establishment, transport to market, construction, and end-of-life disposal.
A key measure of environmental performance for a product is Global Warming Potential (GWP) which is the amount of carbon given off to or taken out of (sequestered) the atmosphere by a product or process. This current study indicates a GWP of -659 kg CO2 equivalent/1 cubic meter of redwood lumber production. This figure converts to -1.50 tons of CO2 equivalent per MBF. Another way to express this figure is that the Net Carbon Footprint of 1,000 board feet of redwood lumber is -1.50 tons of CO2. As such, manufacturing 1,000 board feet of redwood lumber pulls 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. For a comparison with other wood and non-wood decking products, see the following table.
Redwood Excels at Removing Carbon from the Atmosphere
Tons CO2 eq./MBF
2020 Redwood Lumber EPD -1.50
2012 Redwood Decking EPD -1.47
2016 Western Redcedar EPD -1.18
2020 North American Softwood Lumber EPD -0.78
Recycled Wood Plastic Composite (EPA 2006) 4.10
Polyvinyl Chloride (EPA 2006) 4.75
Virgin Wood Plastic Composite (EPA 2006) 5.10
More about why EPDs are important for manufacturers can be found at: https://www.dovetailinc.org/upload/tmp/1580241633.pdf. The redwood lumber EPD is valid through July 2025.
Source material for this important work may be found as follows:
Environmental Impacts of Redwood Lumber: A Cradle-to-Gate Assessment
USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Proceedings of the 62nd International Convention of Society of Wood Science and Technology, July 2020 https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf2019/fpl_2019_sahoo004.pdf
Redwood Lumber Environmental Product Declaration
American Wood Council, July 1, 2020
Redwood Trees―Building a Sustainable Future
USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Lab Notes, May 19, 2020
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About the Mendocino Family of Companies
The Mendocino Family of Companies (Mendocino Forest Products Company, Mendocino Redwood Company, Humboldt Redwood Company, Humboldt Sawmill Company, and Allweather Wood), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of environmentally certified redwood, Douglas-fir, and preservative treated lumber products throughout California and the Western U.S. Our culture is based in environmental stewardship and community support. The company maintains Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C013133) certification for its forestlands, manufacturing, and distribution operations. For more information, please visit http://www.MendoCo.com/.