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North American manufacturers co-operate on environmental education

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email

The wood manufacturing industry understands the importance of getting out the environmental message. Regardless of the audience, the focus is on sustainability. In my recent travels, I have learned more about two interesting programs, developed jointly by Canadians and Americans, that use science and fact-based arguments, in unique and creative ways, to tell the story that needs to be told.
These programs are good for us to know about. Whether it is to kids, older students, customers or governments, our associations and companies are putting their knowledge and expertise together to inform. This work should be acknowledged.    
Canadian and US hardwood lumber and related firms have been working hard to get the message out through the Hardwood Forest Foundation (HHF), based in Memphis, Tennessee. Their executive director travels throughout North America visiting a significant number of schools and classrooms. They find that society and most importantly, young people, are misinformed about the benefits of proper harvesting. Many children think harvesting is harmful to the environment, as well as unnecessary to maintain standards of living – and so do their teachers. It is crucial for people to understand that leaving a tree in the forest and allowing it to return to the earth naturally releases all of the carbon it has taken in throughout its lifetime back into the atmosphere. But, if you harvest it at a peak time and use it for one of the countless items we need in our everyday lives, that carbon is stored. HHF wants everyone to know and understand that modern forestry ensures that we are not running out of trees – in fact quite the opposite is true. Through management, our industry is actually leaving forests healthier than they were when we arrived.
The HHF’s mission is to provide science-based programs, including Truth About Trees, to educate every elementary school child in North America about sustainable forestry. Their award-winning Truth About Trees kit, created in 2006, has numerous items that have tree products in their makeup. With the addition of curriculum written in lesson-plan format, videos, classroom games and coloring books, this program is designed to provide educators with everything they need to offer a seamless, hassle free educational experience that teaches about the benefits of properly harvesting trees. It is aimed primarily at children in Grades 3 to 5. The HHF website features ‘Kids Clubhouse’ a spot where kids can find ‘tree fun facts,’ activities, coloring pages and they can meet the tree characters like ‘Millie Maple’ and ‘Henry Hickory.’ HHF’s spokesperson is Tommy MacDonald, the Emmy-nominated woodworking TV show host, known as one of the best furniture makers today, who has been featured in such publications as Forbes Magazine and The Boston Globe. HHF’s program has been successful in educating thousands of children throughout the United States and Canada. They appreciate the generous support of donors from both countries. Learn more at
Nature’s Packaging is a North American initiative to develop and deliver sound, fact-based materials on the environmental opportunities associated with your wood packaging selection decisions. It aims to increase the use of wooden packaging through education and informing customers, packaging specialists and packaging students of wood’s environmental benefits over other materials. It promotes the use of wood packaging and pallets to users seeking sustainable, responsible and economical packaging solutions.
Nature’s Packaging was developed with support of The Pallet Foundation, the National Wood Pallet and Container Association, the Wood Pallet and Container Association and the Western Pallet Association. Their vision is for the expanded use of wood packaging to improve the environment, while delivering the growing needs of global distribution.
The key message is that wood packaging is recyclable. The recycling of wood pallets and wood packaging is being done at a very high level throughout North America. This model of reuse delivers wood packaging materials and pallets that make multiple trips before they reach the end of their useful life, therefore minimizing waste-generation and reducing the overall consumption of wood fiber. The wood packaging industry in North America has one of the highest rates of recycling, exceeding other forms of industrial and consumer packaging. At the end of life, wood packaging and pallets are re-processed and the resulting wood fiber is re-used in such products as landscape mulch, animal bedding soil enhancements and wood particleboard or used in bioenergy.
The program’s founders firmly believe that this information will lead to an expanded use of wood packing and collectively companies can improve the environment while addressing the growing needs of global distribution. The vast majority of consumer and manufacturing goods, domestically and internationally, move because of wooded pallets, crates, boxes and bins, and for good reason. They are an exceptionally strong, economical, durable, flexible, safe and sustainable choice.  Today, wood’s responsibility in the supply chain is to serve as a fundamental and sustainable part of moving goods from one point to another safely, quickly and efficiently. 
It does so every day - millions of times a day.   There is no other commonly used building 
material that requires as 
little energy to produce as wood.  Wood pallets and packaging are naturally almost completely made of wood 
and wood’s strong environmental credentials have been captured in various life cycle assessment studies and environmental product declarations. 
There is much more at


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