As a pioneer in sustainable forestry, we have environmental stewardship 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. To operate successfully, we need to make sure our forests can continue to provide a sustainable supply of wood fiber now and long into the future. And that is only one part of the picture. To ensure our forests remain healthy and valuable for decades to come, we also need to protect and enhance the many additional benefits they provide, such as clean water, clean air and critical areas for biodiversity.
We also need 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.
Waste is not a word we use often. We find beneficial uses for our residuals and work to reduce any waste we do produce.
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 have been proving it is 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 does not 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 140 to 150 million seedlings per year in our harvested sites, equivalent to almost four trees per second.
A hundred percent of our forests are certified to independent, third-party forest management standards.
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 and 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 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.
Go, Fish, Go
We helped restore an Oregon creek to its natural state and give vulnerable migratory fish access to critical cold-water habitat.
Through a seven-year collaborative research study, we were able to determine that our harvesting practices help protect the Oregon slender salamander, an elusive amphibian that relies on woody debris for its habitat.
Ensuring our forests provide habitat features that support at-risk, sensitive or threatened and endangered species is a core component of our environmental stewardship. We pursue a number of programs to create and preserve critical habitat, including partnering on conservation easements and agreements, formal Habitat Conservation Plans with the federal government and mitigation banking.
Conservation easements and other local agreements can assure sustainable forest practices and the long-term stewardship and protection of wildlife habitat, biodiversity and recreational access. These partnerships can be made with a variety of groups and organizations, and they allow natural resource management to continue, which helps protect the economic benefits of a working forest. Habitat Conservation Plans are administered under the federal Endangered Species Act and help provide more-specific guidance on the protection and enhancement of habitats for threatened and endangered species. We currently participate in HCPs and other conservation agreements in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont and Washington.
Authorized through the U.S. Clean Water Act, mitigation banking allows us to set aside certain areas of our timberlands to preserve, enhance or restore a wetland, stream or habitat area to make up for development by another entity in a similar nearby ecosystem. Mitigation banks are regulated and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a consortium of federal, state and local agencies. We currently operate 15 mitigation banks and projects, primarily in the U.S. South. Several other projects are in various stages of evaluation and development.
Overall, we currently have more than 3.2 million acres invested in these various conservation programs in our Northern, Southern and Western Timberlands, and we are always looking for new opportunities and partnerships to expand our impact.
Improving Conservation Outcomes
We are working with the Lewis Conservation District to give salmon and steelhead access to an additional seven miles of upstream habitat on the West Fork of Washington state's Chehalis River.
The Tortoise Wins in This Race
The gopher tortoise is getting a boost on our land in Mississippi, where we’ve identified 1,260 acres of upland pine habitat to support this threatened species, which digs gopher-like burrows for shelter.
Hide-and-Seek with Snakes
Our agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the nonvenomous Louisiana pinesnake and its habitat is the largest agreement of its kind, covering nearly 667,000 acres in the snake's historical range over the course of 30 years.
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 measurable impact on water use is limited to our wood products manufacturing sites and offices, where water 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 4 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 long-lived 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 CO2 from the atmosphere, and the next round of wood products store more carbon yet again — all part of an amazing sustainable cycle.
Our managed forests provide other climate benefits, too. They mature more quickly and are able to bank more carbon through faster, continuous rotations, all while maintaining the vast pool of carbon in the forest 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.
How We Do It: Forest Carbon
Our forests store between 2.3 billion and 3.6 billion metric tons of CO2. That is the same number of emissions generated by providing every home in the United States with electricity for three to five.
Building Green with Wood
When sourced from well-managed forests, wood is the ultimate renewable and sustainable choice of building material.
We meet more than 70 percent of our energy needs in our manufacturing facilities from renewable biomass by using what would be wood waste from sustainably managed forests and mill residuals to create our own energy. This approach allows us to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels and purchased electricity. We also reduce energy use in our manufacturing facilities by evaluating and implementing efficiency gains, such as utilizing more-efficient manufacturing equipment and processes. Over the past five years, we’ve improved our overall energy efficiency by 16 percent.
In the first half of 2021, we launched an energy strategy team to focus on increasing energy efficiency at our manufacturing facilities. The team is benchmarking energy efficiency across all manufacturing facilities to identify opportunities for improvement and will implement best practices to further our progress.
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. We also supply other mills, companies and utilities with woody biomass to be used to produce renewable, carbon-neutral energy.
Wind and Solar 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.
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 to decrease our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air emissions from other sources.
Over the past two decades, we have reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions by 57 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 are setting a new science-based greenhouse reduction goal that aligns with the need to maintain global temperature changes well 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 20 percent from five years ago.
For the past five years, we have been converting trucks to run on propane to reduce emissions in our Western Timberlands operations.
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 greenhouse gas emissions annually in our sustainability data.
Waste is not a word we use often in our business, because we strive to utilize as much of each log as possible and find new options and outlets for our manufacturing by-products 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 products we produce are solid lumber, wood panels and engineered wood products — our core product lines. Wood shavings, sawdust, chips and bark are sold or delivered to downstream customers who 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 our wood fiber and forest and mill by-products.
Still, 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 99 percent of what could have been waste in our operations. That is equal to more than 12 billion pounds of material each year that otherwise would have found its way to a landfill. And we haven’t stopped yet!
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 — such as SFI, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council — 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.
At Weyerhaeuser, we choose to certify our timberlands and operations to SFI’s standards because they are strong, science-based standards that have effectively pushed forestry in a more sustainable direction. These standards are designed specifically for operations in North America, and we value SFI’s collaborative approach, especially around logger training and the requirement to invest in and apply research back into our operations.
In addition to our forests, we certify all of our manufacturing facilities to the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, and select sites are certified to the SFI and PEFC Chain of Custody standards. And, to support small forest landowners, we continue to have a purchasing preference from ATF-certified forests at our mills.
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.