New England Forestry Foundation
Lauren Owens Lambert

The Key to a Climate-Secure Future

Bioeconomy Initiative

Building a Bioeconomy That Benefits New England’s People and Forests

Just as the climate crisis demands we transition to renewable energy sources, so too do we need to transition away from non-renewable and climate-polluting materials—like plastic, concrete and steel—to renewable materials like wood. By making this transition, we in turn join something called the bioeconomy.

The bioeconomy consists of economic activities that use renewable, well-stewarded biological resources like agricultural crops, forests, and fish to produce goods, energy and services.

How New England manages its forests to produce climate-smart and ecologically sourced wood plays a central role in creating our region’s bioeconomy, and in how we link New England’s woodlands to the cities and towns that use our wood products. For example, Massachusetts uses approximately 500 million cubic feet of wood each year to build its homes, businesses, and communities, and 93 percent of this wood is imported, leaving it to others to sort out the climate and ecological impacts. New England has an opportunity to take the lead on managing its forests for both ecological and climate benefits to secure a climate-positive future.

A Case Study: Mass Timber in New England’s Bioeconomy

Forests, the Bioeconomy and NEFF

Forests provide us with so many forms of sustenance, not least of which is wood—perhaps the most beloved and familiar renewable material there is. And today, new innovations are taking the sustainability benefits of that traditional material to new heights, as we are seeing the emergence of wood-based alternatives to many of the most harmful (and often ubiquitous) materials in our environment, such as plastic, concrete and steel.

Wood is also well suited to the “remake, reuse, recycle, and regenerate” cycle of a circular economy. A circular economy emphasizes minimizing waste and making the most of resources. In the context of biobased products, it involves practices like recycling, reusing, and repurposing materials to create a closed-loop system.

It’s time we start thinking more carefully about the materials we use in the built environment and beyond, including where those materials come from and how we use them. Sustainability in the 21st century means moving toward a circular, biobased economy that runs on renewable materials, and moving away from the old model of “take, make, and throw away.” It means growing and harvesting wood-based materials in a way that regenerates the forest and other natural systems, rather than degrading them. And it is the key to addressing the climate crisis.

NEFF’s Bioeconomy Initiative works to foster a regional bioeconomy that benefits the people and forests of New England. It is the next evolution of our long-standing Build It With Wood program. The initiative includes three major areas of work:

  • Grow Market Demand: NEFF uses outreach, communications and policy efforts to grow market—or economic—demand for sustainably sourced, local wood products.
  • Climate-Smart Wood Sourcing: NEFF supports and incentivizes climate-smart forest management, while bolstering the workforce and supply chain actors that underpin the local supply chain.
  • Wood Carbon Science and Application: NEFF analyzes the carbon storage and substitution benefits of New England wood products, and works to ensure the methods used to quantify carbon in building materials capture the full environmental benefits of sustainable forestry.
New England Forestry Foundation
A New England Forestry Foundation Program

Build It With Wood

Now a specialty component of NEFF’s Bioeconomy Initiative, Build It With Wood and its standalone website provide in-depth resources for experts like construction firms and forestland owners. Members of the general public are also encouraged to explore the website, and to help us build a climate-secure future with wood.