Forest Atlas Of The United States

Wood Products in Everyday Life

Nothing can better illustrate our nation's dependence on wood than examining how often wood is used for a surprising number of purposes. From firewood, to paper, to building materials, to energy utilities, to furniture, even televisions and food flavorings and fragrances, Americans use a lot of wood in their daily routines.

Collectively, Americans use 10 to 15 billion cubic feet (more than 100 million tons) of wood each year in the form of wood and paper products as well as wood for energy. With more than 313 million people in the US, that translates to roughly 640 pounds of wood per person each year, or 1.75 pounds of wood per person each day. This would be a cube of wood roughly 6.5 inches on each side, every single day.

On average, we have been building more than one million new single-family homes each year for more than 40 years. However, the last 10 years have been a very dynamic period for wood use in the US. With the Great Recession of 2007–2009 and collapse of new home building, the number of homes built and consequently the total use of wood in the US decreased dramatically. The ensuing economic recovery has seen wood products markets recovering at a slow but steady pace.

Since neither people nor forests are evenly distributed across the country, the patterns of wood production (where timber is harvested) and wood consumption (where people live and use wood and paper products) vary. This means that some states are net exporters of wood while others are net importers.

Wood is a major input in construction, and this is especially the case with residential homes, which are commonly framed with dimensional lumber and have many wood finishes throughout their interior. Wood products used in construction are a product of harvesting timber and managing our forests. To put this in perspective, it takes trees from roughly two to three acres of forest to build a typical single-family house in the US However, construction applications are just the beginning of the myriad ways we use wood.

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PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION, IMPORTS AND EXPORTS OF WOOD PRODUCTS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL. Domestic production and consumption of wood products are linked directly to imports and exports of wood products. When consumption exceeds production, imports must exceed exports. The margin between imports and exports grew from 1990 until the housing market collapse and the Great Recession of 2007–2009, which brought US consumption much closer to the level of US production.
Consumption as a Percentage of Harvest > 300% 151 - 300% 67 - 150% 34 - 66% < 33%

PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION, IMPORTS AND EXPORTS OF WOOD PRODUCTS AT THE STATE LEVEL. Based on US per capita wood products consumption, it is clear that many states produce (harvest) more wood than they consume, while others consume significantly more wood than they produce. Nationwide, the US as a whole is a net consumer of wood products, with nearly two billion cubic feet of the wood and paper we use annually coming from outside the country.