As a pioneer in sustainable forestry, environmental stewardship is deeply rooted in our business and very much at the core of our company. Everything we do in our forests considers the long-term view. From a business perspective, we need to make sure our forests can continue to provide a sustainable supply of wood fiber now, and in the future. But that’s only one part of the picture. To ensure our forests remain healthy and valuable for decades to come, we also need to protect the many additional benefits they provide, such as clean water, clean air and critical areas for biodiversity.
We have an equally strong desire to minimize our environmental footprint in our wood products manufacturing business, including reducing air emissions, minimizing waste and maximizing wood recovery. These actions are smart for our business, good for the environment and essential to how we run our operations sustainably.
We are proud of our excellent performance in environmental stewardship, and we are also firmly committed to ongoing scientific research and partnerships to find innovative, meaningful ways to improve our practices.
We prove our strong performance in sustainable forest management and wood fiber procurement through externally validated certification programs.
PRACTICING SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY
We know forests can be managed sustainably, forever. As one of the world's oldest and largest private timberland owners, we've been growing, harvesting and regrowing forests for more than a century. Our goal is to ensure a sustainable supply of wood for our customers, while protecting the other important benefits forests provide, such as clean water, clean air and habitat for wildlife, and we've been proving it’s possible for a very long time.
We advocated for legislation in 1925 to encourage reforestation after harvest, which was an uncommon practice at the time.
In 1937, we began research into sustainable yield forestry, which ensures harvesting doesn't diminish the forest's ability to provide the same volume in the future.
In 1938, we were one of the first companies to plant tree seedlings. From this effort, a new crop was born, and Weyerhaeuser's tree-planting era began.
In 1941, we established the first certified tree farm in the United States, located on 120,000 acres of harvested and fire-burned land in Washington state.
We planted our 2 billionth seedling in 1986. The seedling was planted in the blast zone of Mount St. Helens to commemorate the completion of a restoration effort in which 18 million seedlings were planted in the years following the eruption.
On average, we plant close to 150 million seedlings per year in our harvested sites, equivalent to almost five trees per second.
Our forests provide much more than timber. They are thriving, healthy ecosystems that we help steward. All the living things in a forest — from the mightiest trees to the tiniest microbes — interact with each other and with the soil, water and air to form a complex ecosystem. When these ecosystems are healthy and resilient, they are sustainable for the long term.
The forests we manage in the western U.S. alone host more than 250 native vertebrate species, including large mammals such as deer, elk, cougar, black bear and bobcat, as well as a tremendous diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, native fish and other aquatic species. Many of these species prefer different forest age classes and forest structures, or other habitat features on the landscape, such as riparian areas. Since our timberlands contain a matrix of forest stand ages, along with other special areas we protect around streams and wetlands, these forests support a high level of native biodiversity.
To preserve and protect this balance, we regularly conduct biodiversity assessments across our forests as part of our ongoing stewardship and forest management operations. These assessments include analyzing species occurrence data as well as assessing the presence of threatened, endangered, critically imperiled, imperiled and other regionally significant species. Conducting biodiversity assessments across our land base gives us necessary insights to help us design and implement best practices for habitat conservation and species protection throughout the course of our forest management activities. These practices include leaving buffers along riparian areas, surveying sites for species occurrences prior to harvesting and thinning activities, managing for specific habitat using prescribed burns or thinning harvests, or refraining from harvesting during certain sensitive times.
Additionally, since we sustainably manage our forests, we can simultaneously deliver both sustainable fiber to the market and a myriad of other ecosystem services to surrounding environments and communities.
Our forests are critical for providing clean water to communities in our watersheds. The trees, plants and soil absorb rain and snowmelt, allowing our forests to capture and slowly release clean water into the many streams, rivers and groundwater systems on our lands. Our sustainable forestry practices help us maintain our forests' ability to capture and filter water, ensuring our harvesting methods safeguard water quality — for people, fish and countless other organisms.
Because our forests rely on rainwater to grow, our company’s only measurable impact on water use is limited to our wood products manufacturing sites and offices, where it is either recycled or treated on-site, evaporated while products are drying, or delivered to a local, publicly owned treatment facility. Even with this minor amount of water use at our mills, we continue to stay focused on reducing water use wherever possible. Over the past five years, our wood products manufacturing facilities reduced total water consumption by 13 percent.
We offer wetland and stream mitigation solutions to keep the environment in balance.
Our sustainably managed forests play a critical role in helping to mitigate climate change. As our millions of acres of forests grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, limbs and roots, as well as in the soil. After our trees are harvested, much of their carbon remains stored in the wood products made from them — and remains captured for the life of those products. After harvest, we plant millions more trees, which immediately begin absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the next round of wood products store more carbon yet again — all part of a continuous cycle.
Our managed forests provide other climate benefits, too. They mature more quickly and are able to bank more carbon through faster, continuous rotations. Our harvesting methods do not disturb levels of carbon in the soil. And using wood for construction requires less energy and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared with other building materials, such as steel and concrete.
We meet about 70 percent of our energy needs from renewable biomass (that means we burn what would be wood waste from sustainably managed forests and mill residuals to create our own energy). This process allows us to minimize our reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels, and we are always looking for ways to further reduce our use of fossil fuels and purchased electricity. For example, we reduce energy intensity in our manufacturing facilities by evaluating and implementing efficiency gains, such as turning off machinery when not in use, investing in upgraded equipment and piloting the use of alternative fuels in our logging trucks. Over the past five years, we’ve improved our overall energy efficiency by 14 percent.
Beyond reducing our own energy consumption, we also offer other energy solutions. Our timberlands provide an important land base for renewable energy production, such as wind and solar power. And we also supply other mills, companies and utilities with woody biomass to be used to produce renewable, carbon-neutral energy.
Solar and Wind Energy
We harness the potential for wind and solar power by partnering with renewable energy developers on our land.
Our sustainably managed forests provide wood fiber and mill residuals that are used as an important source of renewable and carbon-neutral energy.
Building Green with Wood
Many independent life-cycle assessments substantiate the low energy intensity of wood products.
To keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels, the business community must continue to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a company, we continuously seek ways to decrease our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air emissions from other sources.
Over the past two decades, we reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions by 53 percent. We achieved these reductions primarily by consolidating operations to higher-efficiency mills, replacing fossil fuels with carbon-neutral biomass fuels, and reducing fertilizer use in our timberlands. We expect to maintain these gains and further decrease our emissions with the continued installation of new, more-efficient equipment and by investing in capital projects that decrease our need for fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas-emitting sources. This year, we will be setting a new science-based greenhouse reduction goal that aligns with the need to maintain global temperature changes below 2 degrees.
In the past five years, we have made significant improvements, including capital investments at several mills to implement cleaner-burning units, energy optimization and upgrades to emission-control systems. These improvements have helped reduce our carbon monoxide emissions by 37 percent from five years ago.
Building Green with Wood
As trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. When we harvest trees and turn them into wood products, we lock in the carbon and then replant new trees to do it again. It's an ever-increasing equation and a win for the planet.
Eating Away at Waste Emissions
The bugs in our biofilter system at our medium density fiberboard facility in Montana are microscopic organisms that clean the air of chemicals released during the manufacturing process.
Air Emissions by the Numbers
We share our air emissions data by emission category and our total GHG emissions annually in our sustainability data.
Waste is not a word we use often in our business, because we strive to use as much of each log as possible and find new options and outlets for manufacturing residuals and used equipment. When we create markets for these materials, paired with our focus to get the most out of our raw inputs, we are aiding in the creation of a true circular economy.
On average, 95 percent of each log that enters one of our mills is turned into a useful product. The primary product is a solid piece of lumber, wood panel or engineered wood product — our core product lines. Wood shavings, sawdust, chips and bark are sold or delivered to downstream customers that make other useful and essential products for society. Toilet paper, diapers, paper, cartons, boxes, bags, landscaping mulch and wood pellets are just a few of the countless products made from wood fiber and residuals.
In addition to wood residuals, we are always looking for ways to reduce the amount of overall waste we generate, including finding responsible methods for reuse and recycling. On average, we reuse, recycle or repurpose 98 percent of what could have been waste in our operations. That’s equal to more than 12 billion pounds of material each year that otherwise would have found its way to a landfill.
The manufacturing process for TimberStrand® LSL produces high-performing engineered lumber using small-diameter trees that are not strong or straight enough on their own to be of structural value.
From Aspens to Ashes
Our team in Edson, Alberta, takes the ashes from burning renewable biomass and sends them to regional farmers rather than landfills.
To prove our forest management and wood fiber procurement practices are sustainable, we participate in independent certification programs for forest management, fiber-sourcing and chain of custody. Our entire timberland portfolio is certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Forest Management Standard. That compares with only 11 percent of the world's forests that are certified today (the vast majority of these certified forests are in the Northern Hemisphere).
Internationally recognized forest certification standards provide customers and stakeholders with an objective, third-party determination of whether companies are implementing sustainable forestry practices and making products that come from legal and well-managed sources. We are vocal supporters of the importance of these standards and the use of independent, third-party audits to verify compliance and promote sustainable forestry around the world.
Certificates are an important tool for demonstrating to our communities and customers that a third-party auditor has determined our operations meet the requirements of a certification standard. We openly share our certificates for our forests and manufacturing facilities.