Natural Carbon Capture
The Role of Wood in a Sustainable Future with Rachael Jamison of the American Wood Council
May 24, 2023
Join host Terry Phelan as she takes a ”virtual walk in the woods” with guest Rachael Jamison. Rachael serves as Vice President of the American Wood Council, which represents 86 percent of structural wood products in the United States. Terry and Rachael discuss building with wood as a sustainable carbon “win-win” solution, as well as carbon sequestration and diversity within the timber industry.
Learn More About Rachael Jamison
Rachael Jamison currently serves as Vice President of the American Wood Council (AWC). The American Wood Council represents and advocates for 86 percent of structural wood products in the United States. With over two decades of experience, Rachael has worked in various sectors of sustainability — from climate change policy to green building. Outside of her professional life, Rachael lives on an organic farm where she raises bees, fruit trees, and flowers. She loves spending time outdoors, appreciating the beauty she works to protect.
Terry Phelan: Welcome to the Living Shelter Podcast, where we explore ways to create healthy, energy efficient and joyful places to live. I’m your host Terry Phelan, a Pacific Northwest native and an architect with over 30 years experience designing with a focus on sustainable options. I am delighted to be presenting this podcast series as the Director of Sustainable Practice at Board & Vellum, an integrated design firm based in Seattle. Living Shelter’s goal is to help you expand your green knowledge toolkit, so together we can help build a resilient future that includes comfortable and sustainable places for everyone to live. Our guests share their years of experience in one or more of the many facets of the green and natural building industries. With topics like material choices for health and wellness, energy efficiency and carbon reduction, regenerative site design, waterway health, and other big picture ideas from thought leaders we think you’ll find inspiring.
In this episode of The Living Shelter Podcast, we’re going to take a virtual walk in the woods to explore timber resources and their role in creating a sustainable future. Our Pacific Northwest region is rich in these resources, and trees provide food and shelter both in their natural habitat and in their use as a harvested material. As carbon sequestration has become a hot topic, trees are being touted as a carbon storage solution and in some applications, even a replacement for steel and concrete. You see, when wood is milled and laminated with the grain running in opposite directions on each layer, it becomes very strong while keeping its natural appearance and warmth. “Cross-laminated” or “mass timber” is a term given to this material. It is either glue- or dowel-laminated into huge blocks, and then cut into beams, columns, and slabs for use as structural frames, and even floors and walls. I’m excited to introduce my friend and guest today, Rachael Jamison. She’s a sustainability and climate change professional, currently the VP of Markets and Sustainability at the American Woods Council. She’s also an avid runner, hobby farmer, and jewelry smith, working with stones and silver. Hi Rachael, and welcome to the program.
Rachael Jamison: Hi, Terry, it is so good to be here. Thank you for having me.
Terry Phelan: Now, you and I met when we were both on the board of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. And you were the Green Building Program Manager at the Washington Department of Ecology. That was about 15 years ago. How far do you think we’ve come in this industry since then?
Rachael Jamison: Well, I’m going to start with the answer everyone hates. I think we’ve come a long way and not nearly far enough. We’ve seen some really significant strides in energy codes. A lot of what we were talking about back then is now in energy code and is the law of the land. So we’ve seen the institutionalization of a lot of the efficiency efforts that we really worked hard on 15 years ago — it seems like two days ago. That being said, you know, back then we were working, I remember, a lot of work with University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and they were running models, “If we don’t do this, by this date, in 2020,” — remember, that was the year we were always aiming for, 2020 — “We’re going to see…” essentially, to the T, everything that we’re seeing now: severe storm events, significant increase in wildfire globally, you know, starting to see some of the climate refugee issues where people are no longer able to live in certain places. So, while I think we have made some significant strides, and we should commend ourselves for every success that we have achieved, we still have a long, long way to go to address the worsening climate crisis that remains, unfortunately, in front of us. I had hoped back then that you and I might be having different conversations in 2023 than the one that we’re having today. Always great to see you, but, you know, I’m not delighted that we’re still tackling climate with the same level, if not more, urgency.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, at least there are more people on—board now, and there’s more awareness of what the issues are and I think there are conversations happening that were taboo back then. People actually experiencing these climate change events has made a big difference there. And yeah, we keep working towards this, this big goal. And it keeps moving out. I mean, Architecture 2030 is now this platform for reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. It’s only seven years away. And when it was first created, probably 20 years ago, when it was first envisioned, I think, it seemed much more in the future. And now it’s just around the corner. So we have more tools at our disposal than we had then. But we have less time. So creating win—win situations, I think, is a great way of trying to approach that. And when you and I had some introductory conversations around today’s interview, that was one of the things that rose to the surface, was how to create win—win solutions. And it sounds like the Woods Council is focused on that. So I’d like to dive in a little bit to the importance of wood in the climate solutions that we need. And I know that wood provides both carbon storage and sequestration. And you’re talking about the difference between those two, and I still have trouble remembering that. So let’s start there, if you could explain what the differences are between the two.
Rachael Jamison: Indeed, and I might actually back up just a little bit to give kind of a two-second overview of what we do at American Wood Council, just so that listeners have an idea of who we are. We represent 86%, by volume, of wood products manufacturers in the United States. That includes everybody from very large companies that, you know, a lot of us recognize their names to one-mill operations in very, very rural parts of the country. So we really have the gift of perspective from both ends of the manufacturing spectrum at American Wood Council. We are absolutely moving forward with the full support of our members. And I think that that’s a point that I can’t emphasize enough, that wood products companies recognize the climate imperative in front of us. And they recognize that their work is, in many ways, a key — one of the many keys — that will be needed to unlock solutions for the future.
So when we talk about wood products and climate, there are several ways that we at American Wood Council, and the industry at large, really think about it. One is forests. Forests, as we all know, are the lungs of the world. When we think about wood products, we’re not talking about wood that comes from all forests. So I think that that’s some of the nuance that folks don’t necessarily understand. There are working forests, which mean forests that are managed for the production of wood. So when I’m talking for the rest of our conversation about, “Let’s talk about the impacts of wood products in a building”, I’m talking about wood products that come from working forests in the US. I’m not talking about wood that comes from national parks, lands in conservation, all of the places that I hold near and dear to my own spirit that we don’t harvest wood from. I’m talking, working forests.
So, there is the aspect that working forests and forests at large, again, provide us all with places and spaces that are beautiful, that are important, I think, you know, from the biophilic standpoint, for the human spirit. And, that provide us with little things like clean water, clean air.
Terry Phelan:: little things!
Rachael Jamison: Little things, you know, stuff that we kind of take for granted, but that we can really drive back to sustainably-managed forests in the US. Wood, as it grows, sequesters carbon, so that is carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere through all of the different ways that carbon is emitted through the atmosphere. We all talk about coal a lot, so I’m going to use it as the example. When coal is burned for energy, it emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Trees, as they grow, sequester, pull that carbon that was emitted by coal into their own flesh, and it’s the carbon that essentially — the carbon sequestration, the carbon that the tree pulls from the atmosphere actively — and packs on through the rings that we all know. That’s how a tree essentially grows girth and height, is by pulling that carbon out. So when folks talk about, “Let’s talk about innovative things that we can do to pull carbon out of the atmosphere,” I always chuckle a little, because I’m like, “Well, gosh, you know, trees have been doing that since before we were here. It’s their job, and how they grow by pulling that carbon out of the atmosphere.” Once it’s been pulled from the atmosphere, that carbon then is stored in the body of the tree, in the wood. When that wood is harvested, when that tree is harvested, that carbon remains stored for as long as that wood product is alive. So you know, I have a love of vintage, I have a lot of vintage wood stuff from the ’50s. That’s, you know, carbon in wood products that’s been stored now, gulped for, you know, roughly 75 years. Think about some of the old buildings, all of that was carbon that was pulled out of the atmosphere and then put in the bank, that is essentially a building – a carbon bank. So sequestration is the action (the verb) of pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. And after it’s been actively pulled, then it’s stored in the wood product.
Terry Phelan: So, trees that are growing in, say, the first 20 years of their life, actually pull more carbon from the air than older trees, I think. Isn’t that true?
Rachael Jamison: Absolutely. So when I tell folks, and again, I say this, I do not want to see a harvest, and there are no plans for harvest in national parks, for example. But from the standpoint of carbon performance, you know, Mount Rainier did most of its work a long, long time ago. And from the standpoint of addressing climate today, it’s not the best performer. When you look at who, as if these forests are entities, which forests are the most, kind of,the workhorses for climate now, it’s the working forests, because you’re essentially saying, “Grow, grow, grow, fast, fast, fast,” at the point of diminishing return from the standpoint of carbon sequestration, which also happens to equal the point of diminishing return for growth. So, funny little math there. The trees are harvested, the wood is then stored, and more trees are planted. And in the US, the data says, we’re actually growing our forest stocks. So, our forest stocks have been increasing per USDA FIA data over the last 60 years. I can only speak to what’s going on in the US, none of us want to see deforestation, and there are deforestation activities happening in other parts of the world. But in the US, our forest stocks are actually increasing through reforestation efforts and more active management. So from a carbon standpoint, the best performer is that working forest because it’s, “Grow fast, grow fast, get big, get big, go get stored in a wood product,” and then we’re going to plant more in so you can pull more out of the atmosphere. It’s pretty elegant and pretty simple.
Terry Phelan: Yeah. And again, that win—win, the idea of being as active in the carbon storage as possible and providing material that’s in demand. I mean, the building industry is going to continue using wood products, as are, you know, furniture, industries and many other places that wood is used.
Terry Phelan: You’re listening to the Living Shelter Podcast. I’m your host Terry Phelan, and I’m talking with Rachael Jamison about the role of wood and wood products in creating a more sustainable future. We’re talking about carbon storage and sequestration, the working US forests, are they all held by private companies?
Rachael Jamison: No. And I think that that’s a myth too. So, when we look at wood products that are grown and manufactured in the US, the big companies are the ones that have the capital to invest in infrastructure: mills, CLT plants, glulam plants, engineered wood plants, etc. But roughly 50% of their supply is coming from small, family forest landowners. And I think that that can sometimes get lost, that this sector is in many ways keeping these family forest owners in business because they can’t afford to build a mill for a once every 50 or 60 year harvest. Right? So they harvest, send it to the larger company. In many instances, the larger company actually gives them seedlings to replant to ensure that the land is, in fact, replanted after the harvest. So really working together with that family and providing, you know, a pulse of income for these families that send kids to school, really are transformative and keep that, you know, as we were talking about earlier, that perpetual carbon cycle, forest carbon cycle moving forward into the future. So, you know, the US is made up of public lands, some of which is working, some of which is not; private lands, some of which is working, some of which is not; some of which is owned by large industrial landowners; a lot of which is owned by small, family forest landowners. And a point that I always — it shocks me every time I see it, I’m a data person — only 2% of working forests in the US are harvested a year. 2%.
Terry Phelan:: Wow.
Rachael Jamison: 100% of that is replanted, plus some. So, when you talk about sustainability and our need for a quilt, if you will, of different land owner types, different forest management objectives, the impact on the act on the ground from the working forests, that part of that quilt is still pretty tiny and being replanted, plus some. Thus the USDA FIA’s data saying our forests are have been increasing and forest stock for 60 years, which is significant to me.
Terry Phelan: Really, really. So it’s been increasing, even though, I mean, flying over the Cascades or the Rockies and we see this patchwork quilt of clear cut or very deeply cut forests, you would think that our forests are disappearing.
Rachael Jamison: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a really good point you make and I think that it’s one that has created, unfortunately, quite a bit of confusion out in the world. A clear cut forest in the Rockies is still a working forest. A clear cut is not deforestation, it is not changing what that land is intended for. It’s a working forest that was harvested by way of a clear cut. That’s a harvest mechanism that allows the next generation of the species to get the sun it needs. So there has been this myth that well, “We’re going to selectively harvest,” well, you’re never going to grow new trees because Doug Fir, for instance, in our neck of the woods, needs a lot of sun to thrive. So the way that you’re going to get a Doug fir forest, get a volume of wood, and then a new Doug Fir forest to grow is through a clear cut. A clear cut isn’t deforestation. And so when you fly over and see clear cuts in the US, those forests are being replanted, and the next generation of trees is growing. And as they are growing, they’re sequestering carbon, because that’s how they grow.
Terry Phelan: Right. There’s the other lives that depend on that, the wildlife, and that’s another conversation that is, you know, as part of sustainability, too, is keeping our species from disappearing. So it all have to be addressed in a balanced way.
Rachael Jamison: Agreed. And I think, again, I always want to come back to the US, we have the Endangered Species Act. Many states have forest practice rules and there is quite a bit of research showing that clear cuts actually benefit habitat. Why? Because clear cuts are made to mimic natural disturbance, AKA a wildfire. So wildlife, you know, to say it’s a different conversation, Terry, sometime I’d love to bring you out to a forest, you know, when you want a real geek, go out to any forest manager from the biggest companies in the US to the tiniest landowners, and they are keyed in to making sure that their operations are enhancing and maintaining habitat for all the species that do rely on that land. And we talk a lot about carbon. I also personally wish we talked more about ecosystem services. Forests provide water, forests provide clean air, working forests provide all of those. What doesn’t provide clean water is a development.
Terry Phelan: Right. Right, and if working forests aren’t able to maintain an income, make sense in the economy, they’re going to go away. And it’s going to be, in many areas, developed, as we see around the Puget Sound region. So that’s a really good thing to keep in mind. Something that I’d like to understand more about is, you know, how wood is presented to the industry and how people can research what is a better choice than others? What are Environmental Product Declarations? And how are you using those?
Rachael Jamison: Yeah, so an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document defined by ISO 21930. Lots of numbers and letters, no one needs to know it, but it’s an international standard for, essentially, building material manufacturers, to, with math and quantitative data, transparently articulate the environmental impacts of the materials that they’re producing. So an EPD provides information not only on emissions, but every emission for wood products, we start when that seedling is planted. So if there is an herbicide application, that’s included in the emissions. All of the emissions associated with harvests are included, all of the emissions associated with bringing logs to the mill are included, all of the emissions at the mill are included. And we’ve even gone farther than a lot of EPDs and are talking about the emissions associated from the mill to the construction site. The approach that we’ve been taking in general, we’ve kind of called it “radical transparency,” we have a really good story to tell about US wood products. And the best way that we can tell it is through empirical data. So American Wood Council, we’ve recently created a database where wood products manufacturers are entering all of the EPD data, in addition to emissions — water impacts, air impacts, sources on-site renewable energy or not, impacts. I mean, it’s a broad spectrum of environmental impacts. We focus, and policy folks focus, a lot on the carbon impacts that an EPD describes. But they’re much broader than that.
Terry Phelan: So they’re really lifecycle impacts, both from carbon and other environmental support systems.
Rachael Jamison: That’s exactly right. It’s a product lifecycle. So an Environmental Product Declaration essentially talks about and makes transparent the environmental impacts of a building material, so that when you specify CLT, you know what the impacts of that CLT are. What we don’t even include in our EPD is the math in the emissions, for example, and the carbon math in an EPD doesn’t actually include the stored carbon. It’s just the emissions, it’s just in and out. So we talk about biogenic carbon, but it’s not included in the final numbers. So when you really, kind of, look at it, “OK, if I’m getting my product from a US manufacturer, I know based on USDA data that those forests are being replanted.” So, it’s a net positive from the standpoint of storage. And that’s not even considering the fact that our EPDs demonstrate through empirical numbers, very, very low carbon and environmental footprints in general. So we have low embodied energy in the US. I think, 75% — give or take a couple of based on the year — of energy is produced on—site through residual biomass. It’s a zero—waste process.
Terry Phelan: That’s impressive. If that can only happen in all manufacturing, right?
Rachael Jamison: Yes, ma’am. And other manufacturers end up looking to wood products manufacturers, “Do you have any extra hog fuel or biomass?” you know, from shavings and stuff from your milling process so that we can use it and they end up using wood products to bring their own footprints down.
Terry Phelan: Right. So you’re really talking about the reuse of the trash, the waste that’s created there. There’s also reclamation of old wood, you know. It’s been storing carbon for a century sometimes or more. And that is being remanufactured into usable products, both structural and visual products and moving us towards a circular economy. How does that come into the picture of the Wood Council?
Rachael Jamison: Also front and center. So, American Wood Council manages a resource hub for up-cycling and recycling wood products to the extent that we can provide a platform for folks to buy already-manufactured or reuse existing wood products. We are doing everything in our power to do that. We can’t force people to do it. But we can create a place where the information on how to procure those materials is centralized. So that is one of the ways that we’re working there. We’ve also really been working with the A&E community in general, you know, there are some real innovators. And with the advent of mass timber and the allowance for tall, mass timber buildings, the ability to design for deconstruction is a big one. So in Seattle, for example, Susan Jones, a really innovative, forward-thinking — someone you might want to get on your show one time— she’s working on an affordable housing project made of mass timber that can be deconstructed at the end of life and put to different use. So it was designed like Legos, essentially, let’s put it together and take it apart and put it back together in a different format. When this iteration is done.
Terry Phelan: Let’s take a minute to explain what mass timber is. Some of our listeners are not industry professionals, so CLT and mass timber are terms that are new to them. So CLT is cross—laminated timber, so it’s almost like giant plywood. They’re often glued together like plywood, but some are doweled together with no glue. So it’s taking smaller pieces of wood and creating large timbers that can be used in structural systems and actually replace a lot of much higher-embodied materials such as concrete for columns and beams. So yeah, mass timber is all the different types of laminated timber and how it is put together and then used for construction projects. And CLT is probably the one, besides plywood and glulam beams, that’s been the most talked about in recent years. But I just learned about DLT, the dowel—laminated timber, so very exciting stuff. And yes, Susan Jones is a very inspirational architect from the Seattle area. I believe she built her own house out of CLT, maybe 10 years ago, as a way to explore the material and the process, and has been the big advocate of it and really pushing policy around it ever since.
Rachael Jamison: Indeed, indeed. I mean, and I think, you know, it’s easy to go down the path of embodied carbon, and we need to, store carbon, and we need to… all environmental impacts necessary, and what mass timber is providing, but I am particularly, I mean, smitten with, for lack of a better word, is the biophilic attributes. There is empirical research coming out, peer—reviewed, of universities and think tanks, that is showing that folks who work in buildings where wood is exposed, folks who live in buildings where wood is exposed, as you think about affordable housing, if kids can see wood: higher test scores, lower absenteeism, and greater senses of overall well-being, to name just three. So in addition to low embodied carbon, you’re creating spaces that are, you know, innately healing and innately human and necessary for human beings.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, I love that. And that really leads into another question that I’ve got. And that is, how women in the industry are bringing this healing energy into the construction and creation of buildings, and the expanding role of women in the timber industry. And I know that you spoke to this at a conference recently and it really caught my eye on how the energies of healing apply to wood products and wood in general, how all the different elements come together, and that how women are the forefront of making this visible.
Rachael Jamison: Yeah. Well, this last year, in October of 2022, the inaugural Women’s Forest Congress was held in Minneapolis. It brought together over 400 women working in different aspects of the sector, from NGOs, to large corporations, to associations like mine, to forest landowners and women who are who are managing their forests. And to say it was a profound, I mean, I’m getting goosebumps talking about it, to say it was a profound experience is just an understatement. You know, we have large companies with women who are leading the sustainability effort, we had workshops on how to use chainsaws, which is just awesome to me! And I think that as we look to the future of forestry, and I think this actually applies to a lot of men in the sector, too, we’re seeing that our sector, holistically, is sort of the heart and soul, or should be, of the greater healing of the planet, can be a part of healing communities through healthier buildings, and, you know, to have a congress of folks, of women, come together with that same intent and spirit was just powerful. You know, we spent some time really working, learning about the native communities in the Minneapolis area, which was eye opening for me. I’m embarrassed to say, you know, I know some about the native cultures in our neighborhood, but, you know, a lot, lot, lot still left to learn. And so there was a real emphasis there, and an emphasis on not just women, but on diversity. There is a tremendous nonprofit in the South. You know, when slavery ended, African American folks were often given land and, you know, how to keep what is left of that land in the hands of generations and generations and generations and generations down of the folks of those families. And so there’s a woman who is the Executive Director of the Black Family Land Trust, I believe it’s called, and I can get a better reference. But it was remarkable to hear, you know, the stories of the land and how our sector — there are few people who are not touched by our sector, and it’s a huge responsibility. And it’s also really inspiring.
Terry Phelan: Diversity and representation is so important. And I’d like to back up for just a second, I’m talking about women in the industry, but it’s really the female energy in the industry, because we have a diverse representation of that female energy in both men and women. And in, like you said, the native peoples and the black communities, and really being able to build bridges across these different communities, is one of the things that diversification allows, it creates those places that people can find in common to be able to work together.
Rachael Jamison: Yes, Terry! Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I think, you know, that’s an important point. I work with a lot of really, really good men who are as interested in biophilia, who are as interested and committed to climate change, who are as interested and committed to making sure that what we’re doing is being done in a way that is mathematically robust and accurate — honest is, you know, another way of putting it. I feel lucky every single day that I get to work in this sector. You know, I see what’s going on on the ground, and I have yet to meet — yet to meet — a person who is a mill worker, someone out planting seeds, or someone out harvesting trees that isn’t committed to the sector. I always say, you don’t end up here by accident. You end up here because you love nature. And there’s something about forests and about trees and about wilderness that puts your soul at ease. It’s a whole sector of folks that, for me, are very kindred. Men and women, increasing numbers of people of color… Hopefully that continues.
Terry Phelan: You’re listening to the Living Shelter Podcast. I’m your host Terry Phelan, and I’m talking with Rachael Jamison about the timber industry, and the expanding role of a diverse population in the natural resources sector of industry. I love the idea of a “both-and” approach, rather than adversarial, and back to that win-win conversation, I remember years ago one of my mentors, David Eisenberg, taught me that you get a lot more open doors if you go in with, you know, a partnership proposal, with like a building official, say, and really looking at how we can do things together. What are some of the ways that you are seeing we could do this better?
Rachael Jamison: Yeah. You know, I think that, you know, in the spirit of radical transparency, the forest sector has evolved and changed significantly over the past 60 years. I would be lying if I said our practices 60, 70 years ago were good; they weren’t. But they are markedly different now. And so I hope that we can come together in more effective, constructive, like, “Link arms, let’s do this for the climate,” kind of ways with NGOs that have previously taken adversarial approaches to forestry. A lot of which, when those roles and those positions were taken, were valid, but things have evolved significantly since the roots of many of those organizations were planted.
Terry Phelan: Can you give us some examples?
Rachael Jamison: Yeah, I mean, I think that… I don’t want to name any entities, because, again, I am a bridge builder. But I think we touched on it a little bit that there is a conflation between clear cut and deforestation. No one in the US forest sector, I promise you, is a proponent of deforestation. Hard stop. We see what’s going on in other parts of the world and we are just as horrified. That’s not going on here. So how can we nuance, we, collectively, our perspective of forestry to recognize that we have to have different lenses depending on where we’re looking? You know, in some areas, maybe, “Hey, it’s okay if it’s in the US.” Or, “Hey, if it’s in a different country, or over here, we may need to take a different approach,” because they don’t have a Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, forest practice rules, etc, etc, etc.
Terry Phelan: Now, FSC-certified lumber is one of those places that, you know, the sustainability community has rallied around as being important. And I know you and I talked a little bit before recording about how FSC-certified, you feel, isn’t as important in the United States. How do you frame that to an organization that has a specification written around FSC being required?
Rachael Jamison: I mean, I think that — I’m hoping that we as a building sector are evolving beyond certification as the only proxy for verification of sustainability. Certification plays a really important role, particularly when you’re dealing with imports that are coming from countries that don’t have a robust legal framework. Using FSC as an example, however, you have, you know, different FSC standards for different parts of the world. And FSC standards are based on being better than what’s in place. If what you have in place is an A, then to be FSC—certified, you have to be an A+. If what is in place is a G, then you have to be an E, but the E is still not as good as the A, before certification. And so how do we nuance our view and say, “Oh, in this particular instance, this is appropriate. I want to get certified wood because it’s coming from an area where there’s high risk of deforestation, there’s high risk of bad practices.” So it isn’t then this kind of one-size-fits-all, click a box. It’s, “Oh, is my wood coming from a CLT manufacturer in the US? Okay. I feel confident there.” Is it coming from other parts, you know, and again, I don’t want to name other countries, but is it coming from other parts of the world where there isn’t, you know, the same regulatory baseline that wouldn’t even meet certification thresholds in other parts of the world, then, you know, certification is helpful.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, I have very passionate guests coming up that I know, you know, they have a line in the sand on FSC certification. And how do we create a checklist, per se? Or, you know, where can people go to learn — what is a good practice that we can be using here? What are our best choices here? — knowing that we have these different regions that have different laws around growing practices.
Yeah, I would suggest I mean, I think that — hard, hard conversations actually make me excited, because it’s through hard conversations that we actually get to the bridges. And I think that there’s been so much of, kind of, shooting arrows over the bow at folks, instead of, “Let’s all sit down.” Maybe it’s a panel discussion. And we say, “Let’s sit down. Let’s have that really honest, transparent conversation.” Because again, even in places in the US, there are regional differences for sure. But I don’t care where in the US you are, you will comply with the Endangered Species Act. Hard stop. Not all countries have endangered species acts. And when you look at endangered species, it’s not about the animal, it’s about maintaining habitat, i.e. a landscape where that particular species can thrive. So, it isn’t just, “don’t cut where that one thing is,” it’s land dedicated to maintaining. I’d love a conversation and to find where we could build bridges, that would be a gift.
Terry Phelan: It really would, it really would, I’d relish being part of that. And, you know, whether moderating or being, you know, just in the audience because I know enough to bring the topic up, but I don’t know enough to argue the points on either side.
Rachael Jamison: I think that everybody right now, as we look to the constrained climate ahead of us, unfortunately, we all need to be willing to change our minds, myself included. We all need to be willing to nuance our perspectives on all sorts of things, because that’s a real critical thinker versus kind of an ideological or an ideologue, right? Here for the idea, versus, I’m actually here to make a positive impact on the planet. We’re going to have to all evolve, we’re going to have to all change, and we’re going to all have to say and see things in ways that we may not have 20 years ago.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah. And it can be a bit uncomfortable for people. I mean, they get their system set up, they have all their ideas kind of in a row, and they know how to pluck those out and present them. But yeah, I mean, science changes. The research shows new things as more research is done. And yeah, being open, I think is such an important aspect.
Rachael Jamison: You know, we avoid that discomfort at all costs, in our culture. But you know, you mentioned earlier, I’m a runner, and I can tell you, mile 24 in a marathon is never comfortable. It’s through that discomfort in my mind that we grow, and that we actually come to deeper recognition and realization of what we’re capable of. As opposed to saying I’ll never run more than three miles because after that, it gets uncomfortable.
Terry Phelan: What a great thought. Bringing up, you know, some of your personal hobbies. I have to say that, you know, you’ve been an inspiration to me for a long time. I love your artwork, your jewelry making. What inspires you? I mean, I’m sure nature inspires you. But what do you do to stay inspired?
Rachael Jamison: I spend as much time in the company of trees as I possibly can. And I say that with earnestness. Wildflowers at Mount Rainier in August. The waterfalls and the North Cascades. Our planet is so precious and so breathtaking. You know, when I am not working — you know, I have chickens and bees and a big garden — we’re out in the back country. Because again, I think that the human spirit, you know, not to sound… Well, I’m just going to be me today, you know. The human spirit: we’re part of that web. We’re part of that larger story. And if we’re essentially not putting ourselves in those chapters, we’re missing out, I think, on parts of our own hearts, minds, and souls that were available to us when we were born, right? So what inspires me? It’s really simple. It is time outside in nature. I love it. I went snowshoeing last weekend, in the Gifford Pinchot with some girlfriends and it’s just to take in those moments of pause where the sun is coming through the trees, and you can just kind of, you know, like my cat, find a sunspot and just, you know, soak it up. It’s so human and so necessary. And it is definitely a position of privilege. And I recognize that, that I can go and be in those places.
Terry Phelan: Yeah. Love it. I love it. Thank you for sharing. Another question. With climate change affecting so many elements of nature that we rely on for life, we all have things that we can do. Is there something, one or two things you might suggest people do to become more resilient around these changes, changes they can make?
Rachael Jamison: What are changes that people can make? One is very practical. As we’re seeing, you know, wildfires decimate communities: armor your home, you know, no trees right up on your house, make sure that you have safe space, so that, you know, if you are in one of those areas, your space is protected to the greatest extent it can be. And the other one is a little less, but I think, you know, there is a low level of stress that we’re all feeling. You know, I’ve been in Washington for almost 30 years and it’s only been the last few years, right? 2020? We missed all of our climate goals. And here we are living the consequences. It’s only been the last few years that the smoke has been just horrendous. And so to me, it’s, you know, the second thing I would say is to show one another grace, that, you know, we’re all living in unprecedented times together. And we’re all, whether we admit it, whether it’s conscious or not, are under a particular amount of stress most seasons, right? Oh my gosh, the floods are coming. Oh my gosh, the fires, you know, what’s happening? The storms? How can we extend kindness as often as we can, as deeply and as, you know, intentionally as we can to one another? I think, you know, we get as a culture kind of caught up in the to do list and I’m guilty of that. Or the math list. Also guilty. But what are we doing? You know, I used to ask my daughter when she would bring her report cards home, “Did you do your best?” “Yep.” If someone says yes, you can’t really ask much more. And did you do something every single day to make somebody else’s life better? Right?
Terry Phelan: Yeah.
Rachael Jamison: If you say yes to those two things, what are we doing day—to—day to help one another out. So that would be my second.
Terry Phelan: I love it. I love it. I love that you have the perspective that is something practical and then something really human, really supportive. We are a community; we’re here to support each other. And really, the only way we’re going to find our way to the other side of this is with each other. So, I love that. I’d like to give you an opportunity to tell people where they can find more information. Websites or whatever you’d like to share here.
Rachael Jamison: So I would say go to www.awc.org and you can learn all about what we’re doing at American Wood Council. There’s a whole page on sustainability. We’re going to be launching a fiber sourcing website here in the next couple of months, which I’m really excited about, as well as access to all of our EPDs. If you look up — and you had it, I wonder if you could put it in show notes, Terry, there’s a great visualisation.
Terry Phelan: Yeah. The forest carbon…
Rachael Jamison: forestcarbondatavis.org
Terry Phelan: Yes.
Rachael Jamison: Yeah. It is full of research studies, facts, data coming from universities, coming from folks that are, you know, companies but that are really neutral, third—party research organizations that, in pictures and story, with all of the other data and reports, if that is your jam, telling the story of forestry and wood products in the US. It’s compelling and eye opening.
Terry Phelan: Great. Thank you so much. And yeah, it’s been such a pleasure having you here today and catching up with you a little bit and hearing your perspective on things. I really appreciate your time and what you’re doing in the community.
Rachael Jamison: Aw, Terry it’s such a treat. I always feel so lucky when our paths cross. So thank you for the opportunity.
Terry Phelan: That was Rachael Jamison of The American Wood Council, helping us understand how the timber industry is working towards win—win carbon solutions. I also want to thank everyone listening in and hope you’ll tune in again for more great content and inspirational guests from the world of sustainable design.
The Living Shelter Podcast is a project of Board & Vellum, a multidisciplinary design firm practicing architecture, interior design and landscape architecture for residential, commercial and civic projects. From our studio in Seattle, I’m your host Terry Phelan. Take care and we’ll talk again soon.