Wood is a biodegradable and sustainable material because its waste is 100% biodegradable and has a lighter carbon footprint than steel or concrete.
When used in construction, wood can remove an estimated 21 million tons of C02 from the atmosphere annually. This is equal to taking more than 4 million cars off the road.
Various facts and resources indicate that wood is an eco-friendly, biodegradable, and sustainable material. But what does that mean, and why it’s considered so? and is there any difference between eco-friendly and biodegradable? let’s have a look…
Eco-friendly vs. Biodegradable
A biodegradable product is one that can be broken down by natural processes. This simply means it will eventually decompose and return to the earth naturally.
Wood is biodegradable because it’s made from cellulose, which is a natural compound that can be broken down by bacteria and fungi.
From naturally grown flora and fauna on earth to everyday items like paper and cardboard, clipboards, particleboards, birch plywood, and MDF are all made of cellulose. Hence are also biodegradable.
Something that is Eco-friendly means that it has a positive effect on the environment. This can be in terms of its production, use, or disposal.
For example, a product that is made from recycled materials is eco-friendly because it has reduced the amount of waste going to landfills.
Wood is Both Eco-friendly and Biodegradable! Why?
The following are some of the natural elements that influence the decomposition process of wood, making it biodegradable and eco-friendly:
Rainwater is an excellent example of this. The rainwater naturally seeps into the wood’s tiny pores, loosening the fibers. Running water again dissolves and separates the fibers.
b) Fire and air
While fire can burn wood and turn it into ashes, the air can also help decompose it. The oxygen in the air helps to speed up the rate of decomposition.
c) Temperature & humidity
The warmer the temperature, the faster the wood will decompose. This is because warm temperatures provide the ideal conditions for bacteria and fungi to thrive.
High humidity levels also promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can decompose wood.
d) Soil microbes and insects
Many different types of microbes and insects can help decompose wood. These include termites, beetles, ants, and worms.
All of these factors contribute to the decomposition of wood. However, the rate at which it happens can vary depending on the type of wood and its conditions.
For example, hardwoods like oak and maple decompose into waste more slowly than softwoods like cedar and pine.
With increasing concerns over deforestation and the illegal timber trade, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly wood.
Eco-friendly wood is typically sourced from sustainably managed forests. This means that the trees are harvested in a way that does not damage the environment or the local ecosystem.
There are many different types of wood, but not all of them are eco-friendly. Some woods are more sustainable than others because they come from managed forests or are recycled.
The most eco-friendly wood is FSC-certified wood. This means it comes with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
The FSC is an international organization that promotes sustainable forestry practices. FSC-certified wood is usually more expensive than other types of wood.
However, it’s a worthwhile investment because you can be sure that the wood is from a sustainable source.
Many other types of eco-friendly wood include bamboo, cork, and recycled wood.
- Bamboo is a kind of fast-growing grass that doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides to grow. It’s also firm and durable, making it an excellent material for furniture and flooring.
- Cork is another eco-friendly wood alternative. It’s made from the bark of cork oak trees and is entirely renewable. Cork is also fire-resistant and has excellent insulating properties.
- Reclaimed or recycled wood is also a sustainable option. This wood has been used before and would otherwise end up in landfills. Reclaimed wood has character and unique grain patterns you won’t find in new wood.
While wood is a renewable and biodegradable resource, it can also have a negative impact on the environment if it’s not managed properly.
Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, for example, are common in the United States and can release harmful pollutants into the air as smoke.
These pollutants can include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and other toxins like benzene, sulfur dioxide, Dioxins, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and other fine particles.
Furthermore, the ozone layer is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine with hazardous pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), becoming a more significant concern for young generations, including children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems.
Another way that wood can be bad for the environment is when it’s used in construction. For example, pressure-treated wood is often used in decks, playground equipment, and picnic tables.
This type of wood is treated with chemicals to extend its lifespan. However, these harmful chemicals can leach into the soil and groundwater, polluting the environment.
In addition, the production of wood products requires a lot of energy and water. And, if the trees are not sourced from sustainably managed forests, it can lead to deforestation, which can devastate the environment.
A sustainable product can be used repeatedly without damaging the environment. Sustainability is often about finding a balance between meeting our needs and preserving the earth for future generations.
When it comes to wood, sustainability means using forest management practices that ensure the long-term health of the forest.
The biggest problem, however, associated with the sustainability of wood is – Deforestation.
To meet the demands of the growing timber industry, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate to make room for new roads, farms, and houses.
This destroys the natural habitat of many animals and releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Deforestation also contributes to soil erosion, which can lead to floods and mudslides.
In addition, it decreases the amount of land available to absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change.
Illegal logging of timber
Another problem associated with the sustainability of wood is illegal logging.
Illegal logging is cutting down trees in protected areas or violating forestry laws. This often occurs in developing countries, where there is little regulation of the forestry industry.
Illegal logging destroys the environment and robs local communities of their livelihoods. In addition, it contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss.
Wood production, usage & waste
The sustainability of wood also depends on how it’s used. For example, producing paper and other wood products requires a lot of energy and water.
Furthermore, if the trees are not sourced from sustainably managed forests, it can lead to deforestation, which can devastate the environment.
Finally, wood waste is another problem associated with the sustainability of wood.
Every year, billions of pounds of wood waste are generated from construction sites, sawmills, and other sources.
If this wood waste is not adequately disposed of, it can end up in landfills, where it will decompose and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Hi, I am Mark Garner a professional carpenter, woodworker, and DIY painter. I live in the small city of Peoria, Arizona as a semi-retired woodworker. I have started this blog with a simple motive to help you with my wood experience in this sector. If you like to know more about what I love doing and how it all got started, you can check more about me here.