Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies consider the environmental impacts of materials over their entire life cycle, from extraction or harvest of raw materials through manufacturing, transportation, installation, use, maintenance and disposal or recycling. These studies consistently show that wood is better for the environment than steel or concrete in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. The wood industry reduces waste in similar ways by optimizing sawmill operations and by using wood chips and sawdust to produce paper and composite products, or as fuel for clean bio-energy. In this way, North American wood producers are able to use 99 percent of every tree harvested.
Wood products typically have less embodied energy, are responsible for lower air and water pollution, and have a lighter carbon footprint than other commonly used building materials. While forest certification addresses forest management practices and the balance of environmental, social and economic values, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) communicate environmental impact information.
Trees and forest products play a critical role in helping to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gases. Using wood products that store carbon, as well as responsibly managing forests in a way that balances harvesting and replanting, can minimize our carbon footprint over the long term. In turn, wood buildings can require less energy to construct and operate over time. Design optimization, use of recovered wood and specifying that job site waste is separated and taken to a local recovery center are all ways to reduce, re-use and recycle.
Finally, people feel an instinctive connection and attraction to natural materials, and evidence suggests this can contribute to an individual's sense of well-being.