Wood Innovation: Sustainable Wood Products of Tomorrow

Photo Credit: Modivon

As the impacts of climate change intensify, organizations here in British Columbia (BC) and across the globe are continuously looking for new and innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable world. And what better way to do that than by using a renewable resource such as wood?

Sustainably managed forests play a significant role in mitigating climate change. A healthy forest absorbs and stores carbon dioxide in trees, while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. And when the trees are harvested for forest products, the carbon remains stored in the wood for the lifetime of the product. (If you’d like to learn more about the carbon sequestration process and how wood products play a part in the climate solution, check out our video: Climate Change & Sustainable Forest Management).

While most people are familiar with traditional forest products such as lumber, pulp, and paper, innovative wood products are continually being developed. Many of the products that we use in our everyday lives – including bath towels, toothpaste, nail polish, medications, and paints – are produced using wood components. Tall buildings are being developed with cross laminated timber (CLT), replacing non-renewable building materials like concrete and steel. Woody biomass (chips, bark, sawdust, etc.) is being converted into sustainable biomaterials to replace harmful and toxic plastics, and into biofuels, a renewable energy source. The opportunities for wood innovation are truly endless. Watch the United Nations video for International Day of Forests 2022 to see how wood is changing the world.

Now let’s look into the future and check out some of the most innovative and renewable wood products that are on the rise today.

Wooden Wind Turbines

Photo credit: Modivon

Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials, wooden construction and paper, and Modvion, builders of wooden wind turbine towers, have joined forces to create new wooden wind turbines from laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

According to Stora Enso’s website, wooden wind turbines solve several challenges that metal can’t resolve. Wooden wind turbines are not only light and strong, more efficient, and less expensive, but they can be transported in separate pieces and built on-site, allowing them to be built higher, in more locations and with more flexibility. And best of all, the wind turbine is built from sustainably managed forests, reducing CO₂ emissions for the tower and storing carbon dioxide that has been taken up by trees during their growth.

Click here to learn more.

Wooden Satellites to Cut Space Junk

Photo credit: Sumitomo Forestry

According to a BBC article, space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Sumitomo Forestry Group, a Japanese forest company, and Kyoto University have come together to develop the world’s first satellite made partially of wood which they plan to launch in 2023.

“We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut, told the BBC.

The great thing about wooden satellites is that they would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth.

Click here to learn more.

Heinz Ketchup’s Sustainable Paper Bottle

Photo credit: Heinz

Kraft Heinz, maker of the world’s favourite ketchup and beloved condiments, is teaming up with Pulpex to develop a paper-based, renewable, and recyclable bottle made from 100 percent sustainably sourced wood pulp. Innovating its iconic ketchup bottle, Heinz is the first sauce brand to test the potential of Pulpex’s sustainable paper bottle packaging for its range of world-famous condiments.

According to the company, this collaboration is the latest step in its journey to reduce its environmental footprint.

Click here to learn more.

Sustainable Food Packaging at Catalyst Port Alberni Mill

Photo credit: Paper Excellence

In 2020, Paper Excellence, a pulp and paper manufacturer headquartered in BC, announced that its longstanding paper mill in Port Alberni, BC will be transitioning from producing mostly printing and writing grade paper to making food grade papers.

“Transitioning to food grade papers means meeting growing market demand, providing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic serving containers, and advancing B.C.’s circular economy,” said Catalyst’s parent company, Paper Excellence, in a release.

As governments move towards banning single-use plastics – including grocery bags, food-service ware, and straws by the end of this year – it’s great to see local companies like Paper Excellence finding innovative and sustainable solutions to meet the market demands of the future.

Click here to learn more.