Tuesday, July 21, 2020

What is Your Carbon Footprint?

At the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show the Hardwoods Development Council (HDC) hosted the Pennsylvania Hardwoods exhibit. The exhibit’s theme was Imagine the Opportunities of a Smaller Carbon Footprint. The exhibit was made possible by a collaboration between the HDC and the three Pennsylvania Hardwood Utilization Groups (HUGs): Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Keystone Wood Products Association, and the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.

The Hardwoods exhibit featured seven educational displays, all pertaining to how implementing sustainable forestry practices and the use of hardwood products can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. Here is the second in a series of articles. These articles will provide information pertaining to each of the seven themes that were displayed. One article will be provided monthly.

Article 2: What is Your Carbon Footprint?
By Jonathan Geyer and Dave Jackson

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere because of one’s own energy needs. The choices we make every day and how we decide to live affect our carbon footprint. When determining one’s carbon footprint transportation, electricity, food, clothing, and many other everyday products need to be considered.

There are many ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Some of the most recognized ways are to use energy efficient lightbulbs, to turn off lights and electronics when not in use, and to carpool or use public transportation. A very practical, yet less recognized, way of reducing one’s carbon footprint is to use more wood products. Since wood products store carbon, choosing them over alternatives such as plastics and metal helps to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Wood products can be utilized in many different applications: construction lumber, furniture, flooring, cabinets, utensils, etc. Wood can also be used for heating needs; choosing to burn firewood or wood pellets for heat compared to oil and coal can significantly reduce one’s carbon footprint.

Ways You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
·         Choose more wood products for your home
·         Use wood building materials instead of alternative choices
·         Use biofuel such as firewood and wood pellets
·         Choose locally grow/manufactured items
·         Swap out old light bulbs for new energy efficient LED bulbs
·         Turn off lights, television, and electronics when not in use
·         Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation
·         Choose paper bags over plastic
·         Reduce, reuse, and recycle

Another way to help reduce one’s carbon footprint it to consider the environmental costs of products that you are looking to purchase. For example, lets look at the lifecycle analysis and environmental impact of a chair.
Most chairs are either made of plastic, wood, or aluminum.

Figure A depicts the Life Cycle Analysis of a chair built from each of these materials. The graph compares the environmental cost of producing each chair. It looks at ozone depletion, global warming potential, smog, acidification, eutrophication, carcinogenic, non-carcinogenic, respiratory effects, ecotoxicity, and fossil fuel depletion. Compared to wood, the environmental costs of producing plastic and aluminum are astronomically high. Wood is by far the “greenest” building material! Choosing the wooden chair over the plastic or aluminum chair is an environmentally conscious decision that is conducive to a low carbon lifestyle.
Figure A: The environmental cost of a wooden chair is far less than chairs made of other materials.  Wood is the greenest building material. 

(Source: Haviarova, Associate Professor of Wood Products, at Purdue University)

What can you do to reduce your carbon footprint? Choosing WOOD makes a difference!

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