Earth Day was first established in 1970 as a way for people to come together and discuss environmental reform. Whether you recycle, drive a hybrid vehicle, or compost to do your part in protecting the environment, there is still something that is commonly overlooked: wood. We use wood for many things from building houses, stairs, and ramps to making the paper we write on every day. Deforestation, wood burning, and atmospheric CO2 increases are only a few of the problems associated with wood use.
One and a half acres of forest are cut down every second and it is estimated that in 100 years there will be no rainforests left. This equals out to about 20 football fields of forest lost every minute [source: www.conserve-energy-future.com]. These facts alone make it easy to see why what we are doing isn’t sustainable. To build one house alone you need at least 22 mature trees. And that number doesn’t include anything on the interior of the house such as wood floors or cabinets [source: www.thehousedesigners.com]. Including those items can easily double the number of trees that are cut down.
Even worse than deforestation is the effect it has on our atmosphere. Tropical forests, where the majority of trees are cut down on any given day, hold onto over 210 gigatons of carbon. For those counting zeros, that’s one billion (109) tons. With nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen produced in the Amazon alone, protecting our trees should be everyone’s priority. Without the absorption of CO2 and the release of oxygen, the greenhouse effect continues to increase and deplete our ozone. In fact, deforestation releases more carbon into the atmosphere than all of the cars and trucks on the roads throughout the world. [source: www.scientificamerican.com]
We don’t just cut down trees for no reason, though, as they are used for many applications. However, wood is a natural material and doesn’t last very long in the elements. What happens to all of this wood once we are done utilizing it or it no longer serves its purpose? Typically, it is burned. Burning of wood, whether to get rid of it or for power and warmth, causes a slew of issues for the environment.
Smoke, from wood, releases many natural pollutants that cause issues. Carbon monoxide in particular is a known poison that can cause immediate and long-term health issues. Also, nitrogen oxide that comes from burning wood is one of the leading causes of acid rain, which ruins soil and degrades the water table. [source: homeguides.sfgate.com] The worst wood to burn is wood that was used for commercial applications such as wooden decks and ramps. These are often treated with chemicals to help them last longer. However, when they break down or get burned, they release toxins like formaldehyde and benzo-a-pyrene into the air.
At the end of the day, it is time to give wood the axe and find more ecological options. In honor of Earth Day, we welcome you to look at our sustainable and non-degradable products. Our durable, low-maintenance solutions eliminate the need for wood altogether. Using corrosion-resistant aluminum that is naturally non-combustible and easily recycled, EZ-ACCESS’s PATHWAY® HD Code Compliant Modular Access System and FORTRESS® OSHA Stair System give you the options you need to make smarter choices this Earth Day.