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There are simultaneous calls for not using paper in any form because it causes deforestation, but when it comes to building and making products from wood it is considered environmentally sustainable, as new trees are constantly planted.

Wooden (but not paper) products are praised because of being bio-degradable, although it means that most of the CO2 captured by the tree to form its structure gets back into the atmosphere when wood degrades (or is burned), and same goes for paper (please correct me if I'm wrong). Both can store their carbon for hundreds of years, if prevented from degradation, but in such case bio-biodegradability argument makes less sense.

I fully understand dangers of plastic (and other artificial substances) pollution, especially if plastic makes its way into water, but in the last case, how hard is it to keep plastic waste away from rivers and oceans?

Also, given the fact that there are maintained forests that are specifically used to harvest wood, black / grey markets for timber are also huge. Could an end consumer possibly find out what is the source for that material? And is the capacity of these special timber-producing forests cover the needs of the entire planet?

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  • Your question seems to imply the answer. It is as green as the supply and the use to which the material is put allows. Thus there is no blanket "wood is a green material" or "wood is not a green material". It depends. Likewise for the second part of your question - can an end consumer find the source? Sometimes, maybe. For example, many people where the wood for the framing in their house came from. Many do not. It depends. Nov 28 '21 at 18:50
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There are simultaneous calls for not using paper in any form because it causes deforestation, but when it comes to building and making products from wood it is considered environmentally sustainable, as new trees are constantly planted.

I don't think any paper manufacturer is using forestry practices where the forest isn't replanted. All of the major manufacturers accept only sustainable wood. The main problem of paper is that it releases the carbon very soon, unlike lumber or biochar that retain wood for at least a century if not more.

Wooden (but not paper) products are praised because of being bio-degradable, although it means that most of the CO2 captured by the tree to form it's structure gets back into the atmosphere when wood degrades (or is burned), and same goes for paper (please correct me if I'm wrong). Both can store it's carbon for hundreds of years, if prevented from degradation, but in such case bio-biodegradability argument makes less sense.

That's true. For optimal carbon retention, wood should be used to make either biochar or lumber from which houses or furniture are built.

I fully understand dangers of plastic (and other artificial substances) pollution, especially if plastic makes it's way into water, but in the last case, how hard is it to keep plastic waste away from rivers and oceans?

Pretty hard, as we have found.

For example consider a garbage can in a public place. When garbage is thrown there, birds start to search the garbage can for nutrition. They distribute the plastic waste everywhere. Wind moves it to the nearest river, where it goes to oceans.

Also plastic used for clothing leaves massive microplastics in the washing water (well, not if you never wash your clothes but I don't think that's a viable solution). Those aren't filtered away. They go to oceans as well.

Also, given the fact that there are maintained forests that are specifically used to harvest wood, black / grey markets for timber are also huge. Could an end consumer possibly find out what is the source for that material? And is the capacity of these special timber-producing forests cover the needs of the entire planet?

The main problem is that there are other uses of land than forest. If the other use is more profitable, it's possible that forests are cut and used for raising cattle for example. However, if planting a new forest is more profitable, then that will be done.

Besides, it's not easy to claim that the demand for lumber caused deforestation. If the demand of lumber is truly high, it increases the price of lumber, meaning the most profitable use of the land would be to plant a new forest.

The real culprit for deforestation is eating meat and drinking milk. Raising cattle requires massive amounts of land.

In fact, if nobody buys lumber from deforested areas, then the forest will be burned. Deforestation was not prevented, and the carbon dioxide due to burning reached the atmosphere immediately. Therefore, I would argue it's in fact good for sustainability to buy lumber from all areas, including those that were deforested. Otherwise the forest would be burned instead.

The current rate of construction is so high that if we needed for example to replace all concrete with wood then no, there probably won't be enough wood. However, even despite this, we should maximally use wood because it's a carbon sink as opposed to concrete that requires cement (a carbon source). Even if we manage to cut only one third of cement manufacturing emissions, and at the same time store carbon, that's significant.

If you want to maximize the chance that the wood you buy is sustainable, you should buy wood from tree species that don't grow in rainforests, but instead grows in northern areas where the other uses of land are not so profitable and thus practically all land is forest. But that won't stop deforestation of rainforests. If nobody buys wood from rainforests, those rainforests will be deforested not by cutting down the wood, but by burning the forest.

If you want to stop deforestation, you should reduce consumption of meat and milk massively.

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    Australia has a disturbing amount of native forest woodchipping going on where the income from the woodchips is less than the cost of producing them (we're essentially using taxpayer money to remove native forests and the timber companies are making a profit only once the subsidies are counted). So sadly, some paper manufacturers are deforesting. (the woodchips are generally low value and used for cardboard).
    – Móż
    Nov 30 '21 at 0:18
  • Terrible wikipedia article stub: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodchipping_in_Australia has references, this article has more detail theconversation.com/…
    – Móż
    Nov 30 '21 at 0:20
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    I believe there is another source of deforestation than raising cattles : it's for firewood, in rural regions where many people don't have much more alternatives
    – Axel B
    Dec 21 '21 at 12:10
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The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) verifies forest management practices and Chain of Custody (CoC) of forest products.

Chain of Custody (CoC) certification applies to manufacturers, processors and traders of FSC certified forest products. It ensures that FSC materials and products have been checked at every stage of processing, so customers purchasing products sold with FSC claims can be confident that they are genuinely FSC certified.

enter image description here

In some Jurisdictions consumers of lumber/timber can also ask to see whether the timber is certified. Such products have labels.

If a product is labelled, for example buying from a retailer; it will have the product claim and manufacturers unique FSC Chain of Custody code on the label. If you are purchasing from a timber merchant, ask the supplier to show you their unique Chain of Custody certificate number. You can then validate this number by going to the FSC database – here you can check whether their certificate is valid and whether it covers the related products.

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I can't give any precise number here, but using wood for a long lifetime product (housing, some furniture, etc) is actually a form of carbon storage (though maybe not the most efficient). Whereas paper also stores carbon, but for a much shorter time.

Also, making paper is actually a whole industry with its energy consumptions and pollutions that need to be taken into account when comparing paper to rawer wood. In this regard, using timber wood is probably more sober in energy and pollutions.

Regarding the deforestation issue, I agree with juhist's answer.

One also needs to care about where the wood came from. If you live in Europe, then using some oak wood from nearby probably emits less greenhouse gases than a tropical tree from Amazony because of the reduced transport.

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  • I also found this: oxygenlevels.org I'd assume the less trees are full-grown and live at any given moment, the smaller the Earth's oxygen production capacity is, and when growing trees for timber, they'll be cut off soon after they reach their "full-grown" state Dec 23 '21 at 9:29

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