Trees and Their Many Uses
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Trees and Their Many Uses
We all know that trees and the products they make are essential to our daily lives, but there is more to trees than just two by fours and paper products.
Each person in the United States uses what is equivalent to an 18” diameter x 100’ tall tree per year. On a daily basis, that equates to approximately 4 lbs. or roughly half of a two by four. Annually, the United States uses approximately 70 million tons of paper and paperboard in the form of 350 million magazines, 2 billion books, 24 billion newspapers and corrugated boxes which are used to ship 95% of all manufactured goods in the U.S. We use more wood by weight than all other raw materials combined (i.e. plastics, steel, aluminum, concrete).Wood products make up 47% of all industrial raw materials manufactured in the U.S., making the forest industry one of the top 10 employers in 40 states.
Wood is the primary building material in the U.S. The average single-family home (2,000 sq.) can contain 16,900 board feet of lumber and up to 10,000 square feet of panel products. Wood is an ideal building material because pound for pound it has more tensile strength than steel. Inch for inch, wood is 16 times more efficient as an insulator than concrete, 415 times as efficient as steel and 2,000 times as efficient as aluminum. Wood is also cheaper to produce, has less negative environmental impact and is renewable.
In addition to lumber and paper coming from the trunk of the tree, bark, resins, cellulose, scraps, and even sawdust are turned into over 5,000 different products.
Wood resin is one of many tree-based chemicals. Resin is a liquid stored in the outer cells of trees (not to be confused with sap which is a sugar found in the xylem and phloem of trees).
Its primary purpose is to seal wounds in the tree by creating a hard coating that microorganisms and insects can’t penetrate. Resins are generally classified into three categories; hard resins, oleoresins and gum resins.
Rosin is the most important of the hard resins; it is primarily used in paints, varnishes and in soap making. Rosin is also used to make the bows of stringed instruments sticky, which increases friction and produces a better sound.
Solvent turpentine is the most widely used oleoresin. Turpentine dissolves other substances which makes it useful with paints, varnishes and waterproofing materials. Gum Resins are used to make other chemical products such as perfumes (myrrh being one example), medicines to treat arthritis and circulatory problems, and wound dressings.
Trees and the chemicals they produce are not only used in the physical goods we use, they are also used in the food we eat. There are tree-based chemicals in many of the foods and drinks we consume. Some of these chemicals are used as flavorings, while others keep the ingredients in food from separating. The food industry uses wood pulp, also known as powdered cellulose, in everything from crackers and ice creams to pizza and cheese.
Cellulose is used to thicken or stabilize foods, replace fats by as much as fifty percent in baked goods, enhance fiber content, and extend the shelf life of processed foods. Food producers can save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods rather than traditional ingredients.
Over the years technology has evolved how we use timber and wood products and will continue to do so into the future.
May this new year find you
healthier and happier,
peaceful, content, satisfied,
to fresh, revitalizing interests,
a variety of
interesting new people,
to make this new year
the best one yet.
Happy New Year!
By Joanna Fuchs
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The Evening Lecture Series is on a Winter break and will resume in March 2014.