As summer approaches, homeowners are already starting to enjoy their time outdoors while relaxing and rejuvenating on their decks. Because decks are such an envied part of a home, while also increasing a home’s value, now is certainly a time that many are in the process of building their own deck.
I’ve worked in the decking industry for more than 20 years, and when planning the addition of a deck to the property, homeowners often have several questions in regards to the overall design of their deck, and naturally which material to use in building their dream outdoor oasis. People have become more conscientious of what their purchases mean for the environment; as a result, the eco-friendliness of deck materials has also increasingly become a key part of the buying and building process.
One such material we are seeing a lot of interest in is redwood, which is one of the greenest deck building materials available. Often praised for its beauty, strength, and durability, homeowners also seek out redwood for its eco-qualities. In general, because it can be regrown and removes carbon from the atmosphere, most wood has strong environmental benefits, especially when compared with new plastic/composite decks.
In my work with the California Redwood Association, we were curious about how redwood would compare to plastic/composite decking in terms of environmental benefits. To that end, we commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment to learn more.
Life Cycle Assessment
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific technique commonly used to quantify the environmental footprint of producing and consuming products we use in our everyday life. This LCA quantified the environmental impacts of redwood decking production and use over a 25-year life span in what is known as a cradle to grave LCA. The results, compared to the environmental footprint of plastic/composite decking, are striking.
Here are some factors homeowners should consider when choosing material:
Recycling - Composite decking is made from recycled materials, but such decking is not recycled in the end. The end of its life cycle is often buried in a landfill. On the other hand, the lumber from a redwood deck is often re-used and is completely recyclable.
Air Pollution/Carbon Footprint - Redwood trees absorb more carbon than they produce, and continue to store that carbon once it is part of a home or deck. 1,000 redwood trees store as much as 1,000 tons of carbon; 1,000 plastic/composite decks produce as much carbon as 1,000 cars. Plastics and composites rely on chemical resins and fossil fuels that release carbon and increase emissions.
Energy - Redwood uses solar power to grow with minimal energy needed to harvest and mill our lumber, and redwood uses 97 percent less energy to produce than plastic.
Sustainability - Redwood trees are grown, regrown and harvested under the most stringent forestry regulations in the world. In fact, redwood is grown almost entirely on private commercial lands zoned specifically for timber production. Roughly 90 percent of all product-producing redwood forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
The careful management of redwood forests, combined with its proven environmental benefits, underscores the simplicity and logic that the best practices for environmental stewardship usually come from nature itself.
(Already have a deck you need to repair? Take a look at Tips for Rebuilding an Existing Deck.)