Responsible Lumber Use

Educational Tall Ship Inc.

2330 Marinship Way, Suite #150

Sausalito, CA 94965

Position Paper

M.S. Land Resource Management
University of Wisconsin
Institute for Environmental Studies

Responsible Lumber Use and the Educational Tall Ship


The purpose of this paper is to assess the possible environmental impact of the utilization of lumber in the construction of the Educational Tall Ship. To this end we have provided identification of species, regions of harvest and calculations of amounts of lumber required to build the vessel. Under those considerations the paper lays out the decision making process and efforts to mitigate any negative effects of using new lumber for the construction. The result is a plan to replant new trees in numbers that will far exceed the replacement of the trees being consumed, and to work with local mills and foresters to insure the best practices in harvesting.

Lumber Usage

In order to properly assess the impact of the lumber being used for the construction of our vessel, we first need to calculate approximations of the volume of lumber being used for the construction of the vessel. In all cases I have tried to use the most conservative estimates of yields and production from (hopefully) objective, scientific sources, as well as the most liberal estimates of materials needed for the build.

It was decided that the majority of the vessel will be built from West Coast Douglas Fir and Oregon White Oak. Both of these species are readily available in the region of the construction site and are suitable for engineering constraints of the ships design. Additionally, Fir-on-Oak, hull construction has an historic component as many ships of the era we are trying to represent were built of these materials.

Starting with figures calculated by Tri-Coastal Marine, the designer of the ETS vessel, we can estimate the following usage of lumber for our ship:

Hull and Superstructure:

~40,000 board feet of Douglas Fir
~12,000 board feet of Oregon White Oak

Interiors and Fixtures:*

~8,000 board feet of Douglas Fir
~2,000 board feet of Oregon White Oak

To estimate the entire usage we will combine these totals and factor in 20% wastage:

Total Board Feet of Douglas Fir: 48,000 / 0.8 = 60,000 board feet
Total Board Feet of Oregon White Oak: 14,000 / 0.8 = 17,500 board feet

To convert the Douglas Fir to an estimate of how many trees are actually needed to construct the vessel we can use average-trees-per-acre of Douglas Firi forest and the average-board- feet of lumber harvested in the average acreii of a sustainably managed mature Douglas Fir forest. For the Oregon White Oak we are using the actual average-yield-per-log that we are obtaining from the family-owned mills that are supplying our oak.

Douglas Fir:
(60,000 bd-ft required) / (100,000 bd-ft per acre) * (120 avg. trees per acre) = 72 trees required

(note: the 100,000 bd-ft per acre and 120 avg. trees per acre are both the low end of the average ranges from the sources used and US Forestry Services estimate of yields.)

Oregon White Oak:
(note: these figures were not yet available at the time of publication and will be added when available.)
(Bd-ft required) / (Bd-ft per log)

*Note: Interiors and fixtures will utilize repurposed lumber whenever possible. In any case we left these numbers in the total to reflect the total number of trees that will go into our vessel, both past and present.

So for the purposes of establishing our possible impacts on the environment of using lumber products we have used the most conservative estimates possible and concluded that we will be using approximately:

72 Douglas Fir Trees
Xx Oregon White Oak trees

Sustainable Forestry

“Sustainable” and “Sustainability” have become buzz words throughout many industries, and our society in general, to a point that the words themselves have become diluted and lost much of their meaning. There are very important questions that need to be addressed when throwing around the term “sustainable”. Sustainable for what or for whom? Trees can be harvested at a sustainable yield, one old tree is replaced by one new tree, but what does that mean to the forest as a whole? Trees can be harvested in a manner that sustains the local timber industry, but how does that affect species choice and diversity? Nels Johnson of the World Resources Institute posits, “It is no longer enough simply to sustain timber yields if it is ultimately the forest that one wants to sustain.”iii

At the Educational Tall Ship, (ETS), we take a similar view. Our goal is to promote sustainable forests more than supporting a sustainable timber industry. By fostering the first objective, sustainable forests, the second objective should be obtained automatically. For this reason we are working closely with our suppliers to insure that the lumber harvested for our project is responsibly harvested in sustainable forests. By sourcing from regional mills, that are family owned, we are able to track our lumber right down to the actual tree from which it was cut. (We actually have pictures of many of the live trees that were cut for us already, and will continue to document the lumber used and post these photos on our website when available.)

The Oregon White Oak that we are utilizing for the frame laminations, keel and deadwood is being sourced from Sustainable Northwest Woods of Oregon. SNW maintains close relations with their mills and is able to supply the project with the provenance of every board foot of oak that will go into the vessel. This species is considered “garbage lumber” and is generally cleared and sent to a landfill so more profitable trees can be planted. By demanding this lumber we can save otherwise good wood from making its way to the dump. As long as we can document that this lumber was destined for the landfill, we know that the net environmental effect will be positive.

We believe, by working with small mills and community-based suppliers, as well as knowing the land and the region from which the lumber is harvested, we will be able to closely monitor and document the forestry practices being implemented.

Carbon Footprint

Another major concern when considering forest product use is the net carbon footprint of taking trees out of the forest system. Trees, and forests, are major carbon sinks, meaning they absorb and store carbon that they take from the atmosphere in the form of CO2. In addition, for every pound of CO2 taken from the environment the average tree gives back to the atmosphere approximately 0.72 pounds of oxygen.iv To mitigate the effect of taking trees out of the forest system, ETS plans to sponsor replanting efforts both in the communities from which we harvest the wood, as well as our own community. Many recent estimates of the actual amount of net carbon sequestration have been called into question as unduly optimistic.v To counter these ambiguities in the measurements of carbon sequestration it is our intent to build in a safety factor of 5 to insure that we are indeed sequestering more CO2 with new trees than the amount being sequestered by the trees we are taking out of the system.

It is also important to note, that a tree that is cut down does not release its captured carbon into the environment. As long as the wood remains stable, not decaying or burned, it holds onto its carbon indefinitely. So the carbon captured by the trees used for our construction will remain onboard the ship throughout the life of the vessel.

To reach our goal of being sure that we have a positive net effect on carbon sequestration we have committed to reforestation projects to make sure that more trees are in the entire system, sequestering more carbon than we are taking out.

In a well managed forest, it is safe to say that 10% of all new trees planted will survive to maturity. (If plantings are closely managed and supervised this number can be much greater.)

So our replanting efforts will include the planting of 3,600 new Douglas Fir trees.

(72 trees required) / (10% survive rate to maturity) * (5 safety factor) = 3600 new trees planted

We are also sourcing all of our lumber products regionally, within 620 miles (1000 kilometers), in an attempt to reduce the amount of fuel needed to transport the lumber to our work site.

At this time we believe that the amount of Douglas Firs that we will be planting will more than offset the Oaks that we are utilizing. As explained above, these trees were destined for landfills, and the areas from which they were harvested will be replanted by the owners with more marketable, fast-growing, species that will more than offset their carbon sequestering potential.

It should also be noted that a young fir tree takes in much more carbon in the early stages of its growth, (the first twenty years), than a mature tree. Thusly, the trees we will be putting back into the system will be sequestering carbon at a faster rate than the trees we are taking out of the system.

Repurposing and Recycling

Where appropriate, ETS will also seek to use repurposed lumber. The market for repurposed lumber in the Bay Area is increasing every year, and re-used or repurposed lumber has many qualities that make it beneficial to our purposes. The obvious ecological benefit is that no existing trees are cut down to provide the lumber. The Bay Area has several outlets that provide lumber from deconstructed buildings for sale to the general public. This lumber is generally dry and stable and can make for great material for many aspects of the ship’s nonstructural elements.

In addition, ETS will endeavor to recycle and repurpose all of its wood-based materials that do not end up in the final vessel. Staging, work platforms, scaffolds and temporary structures will all require the use of lumber products. When properly constructed, with an intent to easily deconstruct, the lumber from these structures can be put back into the system when the construction phase is complete. By collecting and recycling the wood waste generated by cutting, shaping and “drops” it is also possible to minimize or even eliminate the amount of lumber products that end up in landfills or other waste streams.


While forestry is far from an exact science, and environmental impacts are always hard to calculate, we believe that we have made every effort to make sure that ETS will have a positive environmental impact. While we do not expect that every effort to build a tall ship will follow the extensive measures that we are taking, we do hope that future builds can use ETS as a model for true sustainability. By doing much of the legwork on this project we hope to make it easier for others to follow our commitment to building the most environmentally friendly vessels possible.


i USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 2009, “Managing Douglas-Fir Forests for Diversity”,Science Daily.
ii US Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1984,”Douglas-Fir the American Wood”,1984, pg.4.
iii Johnson, Nels., 1993, “Defining Sustainable Forestry”, island Press, page 11
ivCitation needed
v Oren, R; Ellsworth, DS; Johnsen, KH; Phillips, N; Ewers, BE; Maier, C; Schafer, KVR; McCarthy, H; Hendrey, G; McNulty, SG; Katul, GG. (2001) “Soil fertility limits carbon sequestration by forest ecosystems in a CO2-enriched atmosphere.” Nature 411(6836): 469-472.


For More Information Contact:

Matt Suddaby

Educational Tall Ship

2330 Marinship Way, Suite #150

Sausalito, CA 94965