By Laura Keil
Last week I reported the first shipment of finished product, 8×8 hemlock pieces, from the new Valemount Community Forest plant.
Beyond that, test pieces of the new plant have been purchased by locals for backyard projects; chip waste is shipped to pulp mills, burned as biofuel and sawdust used on farms.
Although these are humble beginnings, the hope, according to Valemount Community Forest Manager Craig Pryor and VCF board members, is that the plant will not only find more markets, but also encourage spin-off industries in the industrial park.
This is a powerful idea, because “value-added” wood products are known for their profitability and job creation. They can also be very diverse. Think mom and pop stores with unique ready-made wooden products. There are already a few low-key companies such as the family-owned furniture company Treasures of the Forest which uses parts from the Valemount cedar mill.
In the environmental world, climate change takes up most of the airtime, but another unfortunate crisis is growing: plastic pollution. Most products that we recognize as plastic take thousands of years to degrade. And even when they decay, they often break down into smaller and smaller pieces that can wreak havoc on wildlife and ecosystems. Responsibly harvested wood products are making a big comeback.
In Barcelona, I was amazed at the complete absence of plastic takeaway containers and the use of tiny wooden spoons every time we bought ice cream. Likewise in Warsaw, our coffee cups were made entirely of thick paper, including the lids. And why not? They should only last one hour maximum. Why use something that ends up lasting a thousand years? Plastic is only recyclable up to a point, not indefinitely, which means that ultimately it always ends up as waste.
Switching to paper products not only reduces our plastic waste, but also strengthens our identity and integrity as forest communities. It honors an important local industry and our future world.
Imagine a seaside community that doesn’t embrace seafood. Or an agricultural valley that doesn’t welcome farm produce. Likewise with our forest communities.
I encourage all businesses to look for ways to connect with forest products and brag about it every chance they get.