Wood is one of the most used materials in the world, with a history of use going back to the beginnings of human history. The US harvests and processes 12 billion cubic feet of wood each year, out of 750 million acres of forested land.
Wood is used in obvious and visible ways, such as in construction for framing a house, fences, or wooden siding. It is also used for furniture, toys, musical instruments, sports equipment, and many other durable goods.
People have always been burning wood, with fire used for cooking or warmth and comfort. Recent developments in biomass have upgraded wood burning to a more efficient way of producing heat from waste material. The scrap wood is ground up and thoroughly dried before pressed into pellets for combustion, letting it burn hotter and cleaner. Wood heated at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen produces charcoal.
Yet, wood has a wide range of uses that are not as obvious and are more hidden. These cause the average American to use seven trees worth of wood every single year, without realizing it most of the time.
The key to these wood materials is the cellulose found in wood pulp. Cellulose and wood pulp are used in making paper, and without the pulp it produces cellophane and rayon. Used as a stabilizer, inks and paints contain cellulose to keep them gelled and thick enough. Even though it is not digestible by people, many foods use cellulose as an additive. It is primarily used for thickening foods like ice cream, or anti-caking for cheeses and spices.