FAQ: Forests & fiber sourcing

Forests and Fiber Sourcing | Wood pellet demand in Europe | FAQ Home

Where does Enviva get the wood it uses to make wood pellets?

We source wood from forests in the southeastern US, including Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia.

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Why do you use wood from forests in the southeastern US?

The southeastern US is home to vast and growing forests in which trees are growing faster than they are being harvested.[1]  The region also has a long history of strong forest markets and sustainable forest management. In addition, our plants are located in rural communities that have been hit hard by the recession and where the good jobs we provide are greatly needed.

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What kinds of wood/parts of trees does Enviva use?

Our raw materials consist of:

  • Low-grade wood fiber: Wood that is unsuitable for or rejected by the sawmilling and lumber industries because of small size, defects (e.g. crooked, knotty, etc.), disease, or pest-infestation
  • Tops and limbs: The parts of trees that cannot be processed into lumber;
  • Commercial thinnings: Harvests that promote the growth of higher value timber by removing weaker or deformed trees to reduce competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight; and
  • Mill residues: Chips, sawdust, and other wood industry by-products.

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Do you use the same parts of trees that are used for housing and furniture?

No. The wood we use is not suitable for sawmilling. We use low-grade wood that cannot be refined into lumber (byproducts, diseased or damaged wood, etc.). For decades, the pulp and paper industry has consumed many of the same categories of wood, but because of the decline in demand for paper and widespread closures of pulp and paper plants in the Southeast, the market for this wood has greatly diminished and, in many places, disappeared. As a result, much of this wood would be left in the forest to decompose if it were not used for biomass.

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Does Enviva source wood from wetlands?

In regions where forests are located in wet areas for one or more seasons of the year, including permanent wetlands, Enviva suppliers take extra care by using specialized harvesting equipment and techniques that minimize environmental impacts and protect soil and water quality. We are unconditionally committed to ensuring that our activities do not negatively impact water quality or sensitive habitats.

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From where do you source wood? Is there anything that is off-limits?

Yes, there are sites that are off limits. We do not source from any site undergoing conversion to a non-forest use, or from any area that is protected by law such as a national park or preserve. We also do not source wood that could be used for solid wood products such as lumber or furniture and will arrange to redistribute any such log to a sawmill.

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Do you source wood from forests that have been clear cut?

While some images of clear-cut forests can be unsettling, this practice is entirely consistent with, and in many cases essential to, sustainable forest management.[2] For shade intolerant species, like pines, poplars, gums, and others, clear cutting is the preferred method of forest management. As cited in multiple academic and scientific reports on best forestry practices for the environment, clear cuts are often the best way to ensure the healthy regeneration of ecosystems, particularly where unsustainable logging practices have been employed. In southeastern wetland forests, a study from North Carolina State University showed that clear cutting often results in greater biodiversity after regeneration than existed before harvest.

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Does Enviva use whole trees?

The only whole trees that Enviva uses are either young commercial softwood thinnings, which are cut to ensure healthy growth of high-value timber, or in some cases small, diseased or deformed trees that do not meet specifications for sawlogs. In many places, there is no other market for this wood. Often, what may appear to be a whole tree is actually the top of a tree, which cannot be used to make the high-value wood products for which the trunks have been harvested.

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Do you use wood from old-growth forests?

Few primary forests exist in the continental United States. By 1981, most of the Eastern Deciduous forests, which include the hardwood forests that Enviva sources from, had been harvested at least once, and many several times over. Given that few, if any, old-growth forests exist, if a private landowner elects to harvest her land, it is unlikely that any of it is old-growth.

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Do you use hardwood trees?

Yes. Hardwoods have been used by the wood products industries for decades. Sustainable forest management practices help to ensure productivity and health in hardwood forests, as they do in other types of forest stands.

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Could the future growth of your business lead to deforestation?

No, the sustainability of our business is non-negotiable. We do not and will not contribute to deforestation.

American forests are thriving. The total forest area in the US is within one percent of what it was 100 years ago.[4] During the last 60 years, forest resources have increased by more than 50% in the US and 94% in the Southeast, where Enviva’s operations are located. [1]

Even when demand for wood has been greatest, American forest inventories have continued to increase. According to the US Forest Service, forest volumes have increased for the past 60 years.[1] The reason is simple, and supported by the data: the more robust the markets for forest products, the more trees landowners grow, replant, and re-grow. There is sound statistical evidence showing that healthy forest markets encourage healthy and thriving forests.

It is also important to understand that the wood pellet industry represents a small fraction of forest product demand in the US. This is true even when taking into consideration recent declines in traditional forest products markets and the significant growth projections for our industry. In 2017, total US wood consumption related to European wood pellet demand is projected to represent approximately 3% of total tons harvested in 2012 for all forest products industries.[3]

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How do you know that the forests you source from are sustainably managed?

All of our forestry operations are certified on an ongoing basis for sustainability by the top international forestry organizations, which require no-less-than-annual 3rd party audits of our supply chain, on top of our own rigorous quarterly audits of our supplier operations. Sustainability is an essential, non-negotiable part of our business.

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