Is wood a renewable raw material

Renewable raw material: what wood makes possible

November 12, 2018 Climate protection, energy

We need huge amounts of raw materials for our way of life. The so-called fossil raw materials crude oil, coal and natural gas are particularly important. But with that we have dealt with serious environmental problems - including climate change. In addition, the stocks of these raw materials are limited on earth.

Fossil raw materials

How are coal, oil and natural gas related to climate change?

That is why environmentally friendly raw materials are in demand. One of the most important is found in right in front of our noses - wherever trees grow. It's wood. There is a lot in Hesse, because over 42 percent of the country's area is covered with forest.

Why wood is better for the environment

In comparison with other raw materials, wood has important advantages from the point of view of environmental protection. The production of other building materials, for example, often requires much more energy than using wood. A lot of energy is required for cement or steel, for example.

In addition, there is hardly any waste in wood processing. Because even small pieces of wood can be easily processed into other products, for example into panels made from wood chips. And in the end, wood residues can be burned and thus used as an energy source.

Wood is climate-friendly. Because when trees grow, they remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). When wood is burned, only that much CO is released2 into the air, as it was previously withdrawn by the tree. When wood is used as a building material, the carbon is stored in it for a long time.

What is wood good for?

Since people started building dwellings, they have been using it as a building material. And since they made a fire, they have been heating and cooking with wood. Over time, we've found countless ways to use wood.

Today we find things made of wood everywhere in everyday life, especially in buildings. Furniture, floors, doors, windows or roof beams. But insulation materials for thermal insulation can also be made from wood fibers. Paper and cardboard are also made from wood fibers.

Of course, you can't just replace steel and cement entirely with wood. But in part it is! Building material made of wood can be so stable that it can even be used for multi-story houses. This is still very rare, but more and more impressive buildings are being built.

A few years ago a wooden apartment building was built in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. In the Canadian city of Vancouver there is an 18-story wooden skyscraper. Further wooden high-rises are under construction or planned, for example in the Hafencity in Hamburg.

Forests are more than stores of raw materials

But there are limits to the use of wood. Because forests are more than just a store of raw materials for us humans. They are also important natural habitats for animals and plants. We humans cannot take any wood from the forests, otherwise we will destroy these habitats.

And wood can be used as fuel. Not just by the campfire or in the fireplace. There are also very modern wood heating systems that work just as comfortably as oil heating. So-called pellets are mostly burned in it. These are pressed wood chips that are produced as waste in wood processing.

What do forests do?

Forests are important for people and nature

This happens again and again in some regions of the world. Sometimes out of necessity, because people need firewood and building materials. It is often done in order to earn as much money as possible by selling the wood. Or to plant fields and pastures on the cleared areas.

In earlier times too much forest was cut down in Germany. Because wood was one of the most important raw materials. In the 18th century, there was even a wood shortage in some regions because many forests had disappeared. People realized that you can't cut down more trees than you can grow back. The forest people called this "sustainability". This word has become very important today and is used for many other questions as well.

Protecting living spaces and using wood at the same time: How does it work?

Today there are more forests in Germany again. Because the forest people have learned a lot. It's not just about cutting down fewer trees. They also try to preserve the entire natural community in the forest.

In addition to the trees, this also includes the other plants in the forest, the animals - and even the mushrooms. Even old and dead trees are important for the natural community in the forest. Fallen trees and fallen branches should also be left where they are. Because they offer shelter to many animals and are habitat for many small organisms and fungi.

Forests that are managed sustainably according to certain rules can receive a sustainability seal. Well-known seals are PEFC and FSC. Almost the entire forest in Hessen is managed sustainably!

What can you do?

Even if wood is an environmentally friendly and renewable raw material, it should not be used thoughtlessly. This also applies to the handling of wood and wooden products in everyday life.

Anyone who buys products made of wood can check whether it is marked with a sustainability seal. Because that ensures that no forests are destroyed.

The conscious use of paper is part of the conscious use of wood. Those who use recycled paper help to protect the environment. Because this means that fewer trees have to be felled to produce new paper. Collecting waste paper in the right bin also helps. Environmentally friendly paper products made from waste paper are best recognized by the “Blue Angel” seal.

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An 18-story wooden skyscraper was built in the Canadian city of Vancouver. (Image: UBC Media Relations / flickr.com / CC BY 2.0)