American Hardwoods are Key to Growing our Economy and Environment

According to the Hardwood Federation, “The impact of Chinese counter tariffs on hardwood, part of the escalating trade tensions between our nations, cannot be understated. Prior to the levying of this tariff in September 2018, China purchased half of U.S. hardwood exports – approximately $2 billion worth of product. Once the tariffs were in place, demand slowed, and the value of hardwood exports fell by $154 million per quarter as exports to China declined by 42 percent. These losses are certain to worsen exponentially as the tariffs increase.”

This ought not to be! The U.S. economy is the biggest and strongest economy in the world yet “half of U.S. hardwood exports” went to China. The hardwood industry’s problem is its disproportionate dependency on China for its markets. Developing new markets right here at home needs to be our focus. Now is the time to start a movement: "American hardwoods are cool!”

Let’s grab the attention of the American public with the reality that managing and utilizing our hardwood forests is good for the environment! American hardwoods are an answer to the growing concern about global warming: wood has a negative global carbon footprint for the life of the product. Steel production directly produces 9% of global carbon pollution annually according to the World Steel Association, and concrete produces 8% annually according to Earth System Science. With regard to plastic, including luxury vinyl flooring, trim and cabinet products, a recent article on the conversion of wood waste to biodegradable plastic stated, “the world’s reliance on plastics made from petroleum, which emit as much climate-damaging pollutants as 189 coal plants each year from production to incineration…” This makes the global carbon footprint of plastic, plus its additional environmental issues, catastrophic!

Imagine the difference in the carbon footprint of the huge container ships that supply China with the raw materials needed to produce and bring back the annual $540 billion worth of Chinese imports to the U.S. alone compared to using locally grown and manufactured wood products. Hardwoods naturally reseed almost everywhere east of the Mississippi and there are local manufacturers of various wood products in nearly every part of the U.S.!

Environmental stewardship and longstanding waste management concerns magnify the wisdom of choosing the quality, durability, strength and natural beauty of American hardwood products that, coupled with American craftsmanship, will endure for generations.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, hardwoods are a renewable resource “growing at 2.38 times the rate of harvest” and according to The Hardwood Federation, “the domestic hardwood products industry in the U.S. directly supports more than 685,000 jobs in 25,000 facilities generating $136 billion in annual income, and related industries tied to the supply chain support an additional 1.1 million jobs and add $212 billion to the economy. For every $1 million in output of hardwood products, 5.3 jobs are created.”

I would appreciate it if you would look at the video below which Northwest Hardwoods just released. It aligns perfectly with our “American hardwoods are cool!” promotion. Let’s get this message out to the public, especially millennials, on the heels of the momentum that has been building in the news calling for the reduction of carbon emissions here in the U.S.

The future of the hardwood industry depends on us getting the word out that “American hardwoods are cool!” and riding the current “green is cool” wave! Remember wood products have a negative carbon footprint for the life of the product!

Rob McCarthy,
Former President, Ohio Forestry Association