Types of recycled, reclaimed, and reused wood

Includes products with pre- or post-consumer recycled content; wood reclaimed from old buildings and other structures; adaptive reuse of wood buildings; as well as wood salvaged from urban forests, orchards, or similar sources.[1]

Why This is Climate Smart

Recycling, reclaiming and reusing wood has multiple carbon-related benefits:

  • It extends the life of material that would otherwise be burned or decompose, releasing its stored carbon into the atmosphere.
  • It avoids emissions that occur whenever virgin timber is harvested: logging causes a release of carbon stored in forest soils and understory plants as well as the release of much of the carbon stored in living trees through on-site decomposition of logging slash (branches, leaves and needles) and root wads, as well as slash burning.
  • It avoids much or all of the emissions associated with wood product manufacturing: a fraction[1] of the original carbon in a tree is carried through to the end of the processing chain if it is cut and converted to products – unless it is recycled, the rest is downfall that rots or is burned as an energy source, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere in the short term,
  • Finally, it avoids fossil fuel emissions from logging operations and log transportation.


Traceability and transparency may apply only on a limited basis or not at all to recycled/reclaimed/reused products, but it is more important for salvaged wood depending on the source. Project teams may want to consider asking for third party validation of claims for these products, such as:

Pros / Cons of Recycled, Reclaimed, or Reused Wood


  • Climate Benefits: This option provides the clearest climate benefits, per the above.
  • Possible Cost Reductions: Adaptive reuse of wood structures can be cost-competitive when compared to using virgin material.
  • Cultural Preservation: Can support the reuse of historic structures instead of demolishing and discarding existing buildings and rebuilding with virgin materials.


  • Limited Supply: In many instances there is not a well-developed or large supply of recycled, reclaimed, or salvaged wood, which means project teams must expend additional effort to seek out these sources of wood.
  • Possible Cost Increases: In many cases, recycled/reclaimed/salvaged wood costs more than virgin wood
  • Quality Control and Material Consistency: May vary widely, which could pose challenges for project teams.
  • Additional Testing and Processing: May require additional processing, testing, grading, or treatment in order to meet project requirements.
  • Red Tape: There may be jurisdictional barriers to utilizing these types of material sources. Project teams will need to check with their local building departments in order to understand what is allowed by code.
  • Precision: The exact amount of carbon savings (and avoided burden) is hard to quantify based on lack of data for different re-processing emissions pathways depending on specific reuse case.
  • Lack of Influence on CSF: Fails to influence or reward the practices of forest owners.

[1] Salvage logging after fires, insect infestation, and other natural disturbances is sometimes controversial and should not automatically be considered “climate smart.” Salvage logging after fires, insect infestation, and other natural disturbances is a case by case consideration. Only salvage logging within ecologically restorative forest management plans that are attempting to maintain the restorative values associated with that stand should be considered climate smart.