Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a significant greenhouse gas (GHG) that can cause higher air temperatures when there is a high amount of it in the atmosphere. Increases in air temperatures can then affect weather patterns, among other environmental impacts, and may ultimately lead to changes in the climate.
We generally agree with the majority of climate scientists in recognizing that human-caused contributions play an important part in increasing GHG in the atmosphere. So, we routinely look for and consider all opportunities for us to increase energy efficiencies and reduce CO2 emissions.
Forest products help lessen the impact of climate change through:
- their investment in active forest management.
- the use of wood biomass as a primary fuel source.
- carbon sequestration.
- reduction of waste potential in the production process.
Boise Cascade continues to engage with science-based organizations, like National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), to gather credible information on the relationships and impacts between climate change and our business.
Besides the impact to the world’s environment, we recognize climate change could affect Boise Cascade’s operations in the following ways:
- Raw materials: As temperatures increase, forests could become impacted by disease or insects and the needed precipitation trees need to grow could decline. Fewer trees means we have less raw materials to manufacture our products.
- Regulatory changes: State and/or federal governments may impose limitations on carbon emissions through permit limits and/or cap and trade programs. If our ability to obtain permits is restricted, then expanding our operations becomes much more difficult and costly.
- Energy regulations: Our operating costs could increase if the supply of natural gas and/or electricity becomes restricted because of regulatory changes. While not a significant burden because our manufacturing facilities rely on self-generated biomass fuels for most of their energy, a combination of less raw materials and reduced access to other energy could impact our operations negatively.
Opportunities and targets
Growing trees and storing carbon in wood is an essential part of mitigating carbon emissions. Our support of sustainably managed forests and manufacturing of wood products that store carbon used in buildings is an opportunity to play a key role in reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
We’ve recently created a team centered around climate change to analyze the information we have and how our operations can help mitigate or might be impacted by climate change. Our goal is to develop a meaningful climate change policy for the company.
Carbon and biomass
Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, release oxygen, and then use the carbon to produce sugars and fiber for growing, which keeps it within the wood itself. The wood products we manufacture continue to store that carbon. Because they retain carbon long term, we educate and promote using wood building materials over alternatives. See our products and the environment to learn more about the benefits of wood.
We primarily use wood from North American forests that are responsibly managed, but we also reduce the carbon footprint by using renewable biomass during manufacturing, and the wood products themselves help to isolate carbon, keeping it from the atmosphere, which results in a net benefit on the environment.
Since our primary energy source is a renewable biomass that is carbon-neutral and manufacturing wood products requires less energy than many other types of building materials, manufacturing our wood products results in far less carbon emissions than that of other materials like concrete and steel.
A significant part of our efforts to protect the environment is through using renewable energy. We are fortunate to have plentiful access to bark from trees and other by-products of wood that is left over from our manufacturing operations. This allows us to maximize carbon-neutral energy sources and reduce reliance on dependent energy sources.
Using our own residual wood fiber allows our manufacturing facilities to rely on carbon-neutral biomass fuels for approximately 70% of their total energy. Burning of non-renewable carbon-based fuels results in increased CO2 in the atmosphere. In sustainably managed forests, new tree growth captures carbon existing in the atmosphere. Harvested trees are a renewable option to burn for energy instead of non-renewable sources, so wood is considered carbon neutral.
The remainder of non-transportation energy burned at our manufacturing facilities is natural gas, which is a fossil fuel that emits the lowest amount of CO2/Btu. We do not use any coal for on-site energy, and in 2018 the amount of purchased electricity that was generated by coal was less than 30% of electricity used by our manufacturing facilities.
Implementing targeted measures for energy conservation and finding ways to operate more efficiently at our manufacturing facilities has resulted in measurable improvements. View details regarding energy performance in our Energy Usage and Source Summary from 2012 – 2018.
In our building materials distribution locations, energy usage is low because the branches typically consist of small offices with non-heated and non-cooled warehouses. The branches also contribute to our energy conservation efforts through modernizing the transportation fleets we own regularly to increase fuel efficiency.
We operate under highly regulated permit requirements for minimizing air pollutants and we also implement controls proactively to help protect air quality—doing what we can to contribute towards a healthy planet.
Our manufacturing locations are highly regulated by permit requirements, and we generally use the specified methodology from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for estimating GHG emissions from our facilities. We classify greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) using the standard classifications defined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol: Scope 1 carbon dioxide (CO2), which are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, and Scope 2, which are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy.
Our total GHG emissions (scopes 1 and 2 combined) decreased approximately 7% between 2012 and 2018 as a result of production and energy efficiency improvements along with reduced GHG emissions generated by our purchased electricity providers.
We manage water resources wisely because it is vital to our operations as well as the communities where we do business.
Each of our manufacturing and distribution facilities have different operating conditions and requirements for water use mandated through local or state laws and regulations, so each is responsible for managing compliance as appropriate.
Across our entire company, we demonstrate our commitment to water quality by:
- complying with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state and local regulations.
- eliminating water discharges completely in facilities that have implemented zero discharge water management systems.
- complying with permit requirements in those facilities that do discharge water, which is primarily industrial storm water.
- adhering to all mandatory and voluntary forestry National Association of State Foresters (NASF) Best Management Practices (BMPs) to protect water quality in the forests that supply our operations.
Some amount of waste is difficult to avoid in our operations, but as much as possible, we are committed to responsibly managing the waste that does occur. We are always looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint and put waste products to use for other purposes as an alternative to adding it to landfills.
Wood products naturally have very little waste because nearly all of the logs can be used in a beneficial way. Beginning with primarily using only wood and glue as raw materials to manufacture our wood products, we have found other ways to minimize solid waste including:
- using bark from logs for fuel or landscaping/soil amendments.
- chipping scraps and wood that doesn’t meet specification requirements for paper mills or for fuel.
- selling peeler cores for landscaping purposes or chipping them for fuel.
- recovering and screening log-yard leftovers and then using it for: rocks as surface stabilization, fine material for soil amendments, and chips and bark for fuel.
- paving log yards to improve the quality of recovered residuals and minimize wastes.
- using the ash from our boilers as a soil amendment.
- collecting and recycling materials like scrap metal, batteries, oil, antifreeze, and fluids for washing machine parts.
At all of our locations, we follow best practices for minimizing hazardous waste. Our locations fit within one of two types of hazardous waste classifications: “Very Small Quantity Waste Generators (or an equivalent state classification)” or “Produce No Hazardous Waste at All.”
We have developed and implemented a chemical review process for all locations, and manage any acknowledged hazardous waste by:
- minimizing or eliminating use of aerosol containers.
- utilizing the Universal Waste program to recover and manage applicable hazardous wastes.
- using either low-mercury bulbs or non-mercury LEDs.
- eliminating cleaning products with chlorine.
- handling oil properly to allow for recycling.
- using green solvents or water-based liquids for washing machine parts.