Doesn’t everyone enjoy the thrill of a great race–what’s your favorite–Formula 1, the Kentucky Derby, or the America’s Cup? While some provide entertainment for spectators, these events also may present life and death challenges for competitors.
Outside the world of sports, as individuals and as industries, we’re engaged in other races. The kind that affect our wellbeing and that of the generations that follow ours.
The forest products industry is racing to establish a sustainable future, which will protect valuable resources and promote the benefits of wood. Using the Kentucky Derby, as an example, we’re in a race against False Messaging, Plastics Better, and Lady Laminate.
And, they’re all coming up the back stretch fast and hard.
What’s at stake?
Every race has a prize, and in this race the stakes are high because the “prize” is the overall health of our forests, people, industry, and planet.
What’s the goal?
Specifically the wood products industry needs to reach current and future generations with factual information and a compelling story to help guide their decisions as consumers and as workers making career choices.
Actions we take as consumers and as members of the forest products industry have repercussions that affect us all. When consumers choose wood, and demand for real wood products is maintained, forested land remains more valuable as a working forest than as land to be co-opted for other purposes that don’t offer the same carbon-reducing benefits that trees provide.
Where are we now?
The race is underway, and right now, the cheerleaders for using manmade materials are LOUD and extremely effective in getting their message out. Composites and products that blend synthetic substances with wood are popular for many goods, such as decking materials, flooring, and furniture.
In place of wood, many of these products depend on other limited resources such as petroleum products. With the addition of these substances, the biodegradability of the finished item is reduced, as well as the amount of carbon stored.
A detailed discussion of the pros and cons for these products is a topic for another day. What we need to understand is how effective is the message about sustainable forestry and why choosing wood products is best that people of all ages are seeing, hearing and acting upon.
What’s the strategy?
Cheerleaders play an important role; if two teams show up at an event and only one brings a cheer squad, the imbalance is easy to see.
That’s why it’s so important now for the forest products industry to turn up the volume and become more effective at communicating the important roles that trees and wood products play in our world.
The tactics for accomplishing this task include getting an accurate message about trees out to people of all ages; providing critical education to young people; and strengthening the pool of talented individuals entering the industry workforce.
•Get the message out and repeat it. Spreading the truth about trees and wood is the key point to convey, and repetition is important in getting any message across.
The old saw in marketing says that customers need seven to 12 touches before they take action, and children learning to expand their range of acceptable foods may need to be exposed to the new food 15 times before they cultivate a taste for it. Changing hearts and minds for wood – for good – takes a strategy, creativity, and repetition.
•Educate effectively. Effective education begins at an early age in order to reach a wide range of people. Our signature Truth About Trees kit for K-3 classrooms (provided at no charge) brings the message about trees to kids built upon science-based facts and creative visuals. Kids have an opportunity to learn about trees, and grow in understanding their significance. At the same time, adults around them hear the message and learn something new.
A new junior high version, in a gamified app, is also on the horizon. Not only does the app reinforce the message kids should have heard in early elementary, but it builds upon that concept with age-appropriate information and introduction to careers in the field.
•Close the skills gap in the forest and forest products industry. The forest products industry needs smart, curious, enthusiastic workers in all types of jobs. As a career field it’s wide open–with something for everyone from art to math, science to accounting and more.
The career message is critical. Between ages five and seven children often start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. Making forestry careers as visible to them as other careers plants a seed that allows their interest to develop.
Around sixth grade or junior high is the time when kids begin taking a more realistic interest in careers; once again, having resources available to them to help satisfy their curiosity is an important advantage in building greater interest in the industry and closing the skills gap for good.
We’re in this race to win it – and the health of future generations and our planet depends on it.
The North American Forest Foundation is dedicated to supporting the forest products industry and helping future generations learn the truth about trees; we are cheerleaders as well for attracting more people to the field for satisfying careers.
And, we can’t win the race without you.
Send a message to Allison DeFord at firstname.lastname@example.org and say I’M IN! Or visit our website, northamericanforestfoundation.org, to learn more about how to become a sponsor of the Truth About Trees app or an annual or one-time donor.
Together we keep the industry thriving for generations. Let’s bet on exTREEmelysmart for the win!