Official website of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association

Is there an environmentally acceptable alternative to wood?

From New Zealand Tree grower February 2016

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About Tenco
Tenco is one of New Zealand’s largest exporters of forest products. We have built to this position since 1991 when the company was set up to export lumber to growing Asian export markets.  Experience and reputation count; from small beginnings Tenco has become the largest independent exporter of New Zealand lumber and New Zealand’s 4th largest log exporter.  Tenco has a regular shipping program of their own log vessels and in combination with these and other ships currently calls  at 7 New Zealand ports (5 North Island and 2 South Island).
Tenco buys standing forests.  Tenco currently has a number of forests which they purchased at harvestable age to log over a number of years for export and domestic markets.  Tenco also regularly buys smaller tracts of forest to harvest immediately or immature forests to hold until harvest time.  Tenco is interested in broadening  the  base of owners from whom it purchases forests and stands of trees.  A deal with Tenco is a certain transaction.  The owner and Tenco will agree on a value of the tree crop and then Tenco will pay this amount to the owner either in a lump sum amount or on rate per volume unit out-turn from the forest depending on the nature of the tree crop.
Tenco knows there are a lot of farmers who have trees that are close or ready to harvest and will be asking themselves how they should proceed with the sale of their trees.  For some farmers the kind of certain transaction with money in the bank could well be appealing. Tenco is actively interested in buying harvestable forests or trees from areas including all the North Island (except the Gisborne and East Coast districts) and Nelson & Marlborough in the South Island .
If you own a forest in this area (16 years and older) and are ready to enter into this kind of agreement Tenco is interested to develop something with you.
Please contact: 
Work: +64 7 357 5356  Mobile:  +64 21 921 595

In the 1990s I was on a two-year secondment to the Canadian Forest Service from Fletcher Challenge Forests. On a mid-term return to New Zealand I had a meeting with one of the leaders of the New Zealand’s environmental movement. After 10 minutes of general discussion she stated that she did not like what Fletcher Challenge was doing in Canada. Instead of defending Canadian forestry practices I responded along the lines that part of my responsibility in Fletcher Challenge was to evaluate alternatives to wood − these may provide excellent investment opportunities for the company.

As an environmental leader I then asked her, perhaps unfairly in hindsight, what she would recommend as an environmentally acceptable alternative to wood.

No alternatives

She did not like this kind of questioning. She said I must know such alternatives. I replied that I did, but I wanted someone from the environmental movement to recommend what wood alternatives we should use. Finally, she said hemp. My response was that hemp was not an environmentally acceptable wood substitute. Hemp had to be grown as a monoculture, something most environmentalists generally opposed. Hemp required farmland or permanently trashed indigenous forest. Anyway, hemp was a fibre substitute. I wanted her recommendation a solid wood substitute.

She took a long time responding but finally she said concrete. My response was that I could not believe an environmental leader could be so environmentally irresponsible It would not have mattered what she recommended as an environmentally acceptable alternative to wood because I was confident there are none.

A remarkable material

Wood is a truly remarkable raw material.Trees extract carbon dioxide from the air, take rainwater from the soil, then, in the presence of sunlight transform these through the process of photosynthesis to ultimately manufacture wood. Wood is a cellular structure that is not only of great strength for its weight but is also flexible. If wood was more rigid trees would be unable to bend and so be more susceptible to wind damage during storms.

When wood is used as a fuel we not only release carbon dioxide and water back into the atmosphere but also heat – essentially the sunlight stored in the process of photosynthesis to form the wood. When wood is used industrially such as for wooden structures or furniture minimal energy is required for manufacture. For wood end uses which require that wood be broken down into smaller and smaller particle sizes, more external energy is required. If the forest is managed responsibly with the volume of wood harvested not greater than the forest is growing, then wood production is sustainable.

There is no environmentally acceptable alternative to wood.

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